The Truth Behind Morbid Nursery Rhymes

By: RILEY PULT

Have you ever thought about those innocent nursery rhymes you used to chant as a child? Well, it turns out they have much more sinister meanings than what meets the eye. 

Ring Around The Rosie

“Ring around the rosie 

Pockets full of posie 

Ashes, Ashes 

We all fall down”

Ring Around the Rosie is one of the most infamous childhood rhymes with a grim meaning. This sing-song tune was supposedly started during the English Great Plague around 1665. 

The line “ring-around-the rosie” relates to how during the plague if you were affected with the disease, you may form a red rosy rash. “Pockets full of posie” is assumed to relate to the idea that diseases would spread through bad smells. During this time period nobody understood how diseases were spread, so they assumed it was through a gruesome smell. Many people would carry flowers in their pockets, in hopes that it would deter the plague. “Ashes, Ashes” is a line that is changed in many versions of the rhyme. Some people believe that it had to do with the burning bodies of people who had suffered at the hands of the disease. “We all fall down” is another line with a speculated meaning. The first conclusion is that it has to do with the city of London falling down due to the mass amounts of people that died. The second conclusion is that certain people infected with the plague became so sick that they were unable to carry their own weight, and therefore became incapable of standing. While we cannot prove that this rhyme originates from the Great Plague, these lyrics definitely help strengthen the conspiracy. 

Jack And Jill

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

Up got Jack, and home did trot

As fast as he could caper

He went to bed and bound his head

With vinegar and brown paper.”

Jack and Jill is another rhyme with a menacing meaning. This story’s lyrics have a particular medieval feeling. It is believed that this story has a French connection to King Louis XVI. “Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water” is equivalent to the King’s rise to power. In this scenario, Jill would have been King Louis’ wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. As he gained rule over the French kingdom, he “went up the hill” or gained a social status. The line “Jack fell down and broke his crown” is reminiscent of how the king was beheaded and “broke his crown”. His wife was beheaded following him, hence the line, “And Jill came tumbling after.” The rest of this rhyme concludes with a happy ending, so it is more acceptable for young children. While there may be a happy ending in this rhyme, there was no happy ending for the king and queen. 

Rock-A-Bye Baby

“Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

Rock-A-Bye Baby is a macabre tale, and even without a historical connection, it is already bone-chilling enough. Ultimately, this is about a newborn falling out of a tree when the branch breaks. It is not directly stated in this rhyme, but we can infer that the baby did not survive the fall. The origins of this story are very unclear. There are many interpretations of this nursery rhyme, but, one of the more popular one’s also dates back to medieval times. During the reign of King James II of England, many people did not agree with his ideals and choices; they wanted to overthrow him. Once the king had a son, this rhyme was born. It expresses the hope that the infant prince would die so that the king’s bloodline could end. There are other depictions of the story and many date back to medieval times. This elucidation makes the most sense in context of the lyrics. 

Next time you sing along to a nursery rhyme, you might want to pay attention to what you are really saying. These stories are not as wholesome as you might think. 

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