Friday, January 28, 2011

Ringa Ring-O Roses, Pocket Full of Whaaaat???

No I don't think they are nonsense blabberings!!!

As much as we like to think that Nursery rhymes are written just for the heck of it, or to keep naughty little children occupied- I believe that there is more to nursery rhymes than 'innocence' and 'consonance'. Today, I am attempting to contribute my 'little anecdotes' to unraveling the mysteries behind the real meaning and nature of many nursery rhymes: which have made me hack my brain-cells more often than not. I think they served a very special purpose, an almost-secret history is attached to each of them and that they were written for more reasons than just plain child's play.

First of all, camouflaging them as childish rhymes, helped writers guise the true nature of their thoughts and at the same time helped them voice their opinions. In fact, many historical events, political mind-games and monarchical satires have been portrayed through nursery rhymes. Also, by reading them in accordance with their year of origin, you can actually see trails of the evolution of society and how social settings and surroundings changed with the ushering of each era!

[Disclaimer : While reading this post, you may think that I am either mad, deranged or sadistic- all of which might be true though. But if you have read this post so far, then it doesn't make sense to leave the page right now...]

So here goes my list of Rhyming puzzles (no, not as interesting as the Da Vinci code) which holds taboos and *beep* ideas of the yesteryears!!

Three men in a tub,
And how do you think they got there?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick-maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
'Twas enough to make a man stare."

This one reminds me of the earliest demonstration of homosexual escapades. The era of 1700s was not exactly gay-friendly and but that does not necessarily mean that it did not exist. Straight guys have always been super anxious of gay men. They were probably ten times more homophobic- than they are now; somehow the reference to 'rotten potato' and 'make a man stare' throws light to the real meaning behind this otherwise mindless childish rhyme! Also, its sad to see that from the 1700s to the year 2011, we haven't really come a long way!

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

Well, well, this one's my favorite. Many speculations about its historical connections have been made with Queen Mary I of England, who was believed to have blinded three protestant bishops. Not that I disagree with the historical connections of 'Bloody Mary' but still, I have a couple of things about this rhyme myself, which I can't seem to put out of my mind. The most conspicuous event which hold connection to the rhyme could be the peasant revolt. Not only are the peasants portrayed as 'direction-less' and 'tortured' but at the same time they are symbolic of a revolution-- a forthright depiction of collective uprising, which the rhyme describes as never seen before. Truly, it was one of the first such collective peasant efforts of Medieval England, and one that marked the beginning of a series of efforts which led to the vanquishing serfdom/bonded slaves in England.

Ding dong bell
Pussy's in the well
Who put her in?
Little Johnny Flynn
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout
What a naughty boy was that
Try to drown poor Pussycat,
Who ne'er did any harm
But killed all the mice
In the Farmer's barn!

Written in the early 1500s, this one reeks of 'witchcraft' and consequent punishments. Not only is the cat depicted purposely as a female, but the author is also silently voicing a protest against cruelty towards these women. A little known fact is that prior to the famous punishments of the 'witch-burning', a small practice called Ducking/Cucking prevailed in England. This was a time when women accused of being witches or accused of sexual crimes (read: Prostitution) were tied to a wooden stool and thrown into the water. This later on paved the path for more heinous punishment and cruelty towards women in the early 1600s. This one is an amazing example of revolutionary thinkers of those dark times, who still had a sane mind to pull the cat out of the water!!

------------------ That's all I have for now, but I leave with one parting question.... what's your favorite nursery rhyme? :P :P


  1. THIS IS AMAZING!! Awesome take on the why and what of nursery rhymes. Love this one.

  2. This is really awesome! Really interesting insight!

  3. good one...very interesting indeed...would look forward for further anecdotes....