The Dark Truth of Nursery Rhymesーみんなが知ってるナーサリィライムに隠れた暗〜い真実

The Dark Truth of Nursery Rhymesーみんなが知ってるナーサリィライムに隠れた暗〜い真実

Hi guys, Freya here!

I hope you all had an enjoyable July. The weather is getting incredibly hot here in England. Luckily, I work at a school so we are now on our 6 week break, so I plan on soaking up the the for as long as I can!

Now, these are ones that I have grown up with a sang from a young age, but they have become much more fascinating to me as I have old older learn to the truth about the meanings!

What is a nursery rhyme?ーナーサリィライムって何?

A personal definition of a nursery rhyme is a simple song or poem that is to young children. I personally associate them with being short and fun to say, usually sungs with friends Even, there are many games that have been created to record parts of history because that is the norm in centuries gone by.


Sometimes I am concerned about learning the origins of learning of some of the nursery rhymes I have of said as an child child. Sometimes, the meaning is harmless; I have chosen a select few to discuss in this blog.

幼稚園児だれもが知ってる”Ring a Ring o Roses”

A pocket full of posies
Atishoo, atishoo
We all fall down

This is the most known verse of this nursery rhyme, and the one sung most by children. At face value, it seems to me like lots of flowers and falling down from sneezing. However, the truth is a bit more sinister. It is thought that this nursery rhyme is about the Great Plague of London in the 1660s. The ‘rosie’ is thought to refer to a foul smelling rash that comes up on the skin of plague victims, which then was masked by ‘a pocket full of posies’ – which are flowers. The ‘we all fall down’ therefore comes from lots of people falling down dead from the plague.

こちらも定番”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

Again, this is the common verse that is usually repeated by children. Even reading it, it seems strange that this is a catchy rhyme that children repeat! There are multiple ideas about where this nursery rhyme comes from, but I have chosen the one that I have personally known for years. When I was 15, a Native American family came to my school and taught us lots of interesting things about their culture. The discussion of this nursery rhyme has stuck in my head for years! It was suggested that it dated back to the 17th century and is the observation of the way Native American women rocked their babies in bark-made cradles, which were strung up in the trees so that the movement from the wind would rock the baby to sleep. It makes the last line seem horribly eerie, don’t you think?

こちらも有名”Mary, Mary Quite Contrary””

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.
When first looking at this poem, you probably imagine a lovely woman taking pride in her beautiful garden, displaying all of her flowers. Nevertheless, the main interpretations that I have seen for this nursery rhyme are predominantly to do with Mary Tudor (first born daughter of Henry VIII). Some are nicer interpretations than others. One is simply to do with her reign: “how does your garden grow” refers to her reign over England; “silver bells” represents the Catholic cathedral bells; “pretty maids all in a row” then refer to her ladies-in-waiting.
Not too bad, right?
However, some people have taken a more sinister approach when trying to decipher its origin.  Mary Tudor was also known as “Bloody Mary”. She was a very devote Catholic and was renowned for torturing Protestants.  Thus, “silver bells” and “cockleshells” are thought to be a nickname for a torture devices. “How does your garden grow” is thought to refer to the cemetery – all of the deaths she caused grew her “garden”. This could then mean that the “pretty maids” were the people lining up to be executed. What a terrible interpretation! And yet, children sing this all the time!

Today’s final thoughts and lesson: 

In my modern world, I find it funny still tell these nursery rhymes, where many hold a dark theme, to such a young audiences. and poems to pass down the truth of terrible times!
Is this the same for other countries and cultures too, I wonder? Let me know if you find any other interesting ones!


フルーツフルイングリッシュで英語表現の楽しさ感じてください 。初めての方には英作文添削チケット2回分をプレゼント。



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I live and work in the UK and have a degree in English Language and Literature. When I am not on Fruitful, I work as a teaching assistant at a school. I am passionate about the environment and love to travel and read.