Rock them away


I’ve had the fortune of spending time with a almost-4-year old. I say fortune because it has taught me many things about myself.. especially patience and that sometimes our requests are very strange.. even to children. And answering the perennial ‘why’ can be quite a challenge.

Spending time with a lil one has allowed me to revisit nursery rhymes. I briefly encountered them with her and her children but it was never enough time. Here, one of my childhood friends puts her son to sleep by singing nursery rhymes (whatever works I say).

I, of course, land up humming them all of the next day (especially since I have realised that I hadn’t heard them in the first place) and there are even days when I fall asleep to them (instead of the said son). But that apart.. I think these nursery rhymes are bloody morbid..

Some one is perpetually falling, cracking their crown, breaking into little pieces, or running down piggies without caring. Aren’t rhymes supposed to be with lessons? Like fables or good ol’ Panchatantra Tales? But the lessons here.. are what? Wiki has an interesting take on it..which halfway convinced me that nursery rhymes (like most things we learn in playschool) are hand-me-downs from Christianity.. which wouldn’t be bad at all were it not for the fact that they are down right depressing.

For instance,

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

1, 2
One, two, buckle my shoe;
3, 4
Three, four, knock at the door;
5, 6
Five, six, pick up sticks;
7, 8
Seven, eight, lay them straight;
9, 10
Nine, ten, a good fat hen;
11, 12
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve;
13, 14
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting;
15, 16
Fifteen, sixteen, maids a-kissing;
17, 18
Seventeen, eighteen, maids a-waiting;
19, 20
Nineteen, twenty, I’ve had plenty.

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he ‘live, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

This little pig went to the market.
This little pig stayed home.
This little pig had roast beef.
This little pig had none.
This little pig cried “Wee, wee, wee, wee!”
All the way home.

Hush-a-bye, baby,
in the tree top.
When the wind blows,
the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
cradle and all.

Each of them seem to have some history. Like this last one . Or here where origin of most rhymes is listed.

But I cannot help think that these rhymes are just too violent. Are they actually suitable for little tots for whom this is probably the first impression of the world of knowledge.

6 responses »

  1. I wrote abt that too… why is the little mermaid such a sad story? why does a big bad wolf have to eat up the grandmother? why do hansel and gretel end up with the old witch? maybe kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. i’ve noticed they can be quite blood thirsty

  2. We never did actually stop and ponder on the words, did we? I’m sure the teachers didn’t either. Did you know Ringa-Ringa-Roses was actually a ‘poem’ for the plague? The ending line ‘All Fall Down’ is actually to depict people dying. Brrrr!

  3. Slightly non-violent ones, I suppose:

    “Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
    Eating her curds and whey;
    Along came a spider,
    Who sat down beside her
    And said, “Is this seat taken?”


    “Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
    Eating her curds and whey;
    Along came a spider,
    Who sat down beside her
    And said, “What’s in the bowl, honey?”

    There are, of course, more violent versions.

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