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Nursery rhymes. We have all heard them as children, and we liked them because they are so catchy. Though if our much-younger selves knew the meanings behind nursery rhymes, then they would have scared the living shit out of us. It is best that we were sheltered from the origins of nursery rhymes. Let’s now unravel the meanings behind five gruesome nursery rhymes!

Ring Around The Rosey

Of course, this one would be on top of the list. That refers to the bubonic plague in the 1660s in London. The rash that developed on the skin from the disease appeared like a rose and caused a nasty stench. Because of that, sufferers had to carry around pockets of flowers to cover it up, which was the ‘pocket full of posies.’ Towards the end of the nursery rhyme, they sneezed twice (atchoo atchoo), and then they fell – in other words, they died.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Here’s another one that kids like to recite. What is the dark meaning behind this one, though? King Henry VIII’s daughter, Bloody Mary, was a strict Catholic and mercilessly killed Protestants. The garden in the nursery rhyme referred to the yard full of corpses of the Protestants. She tortured the males with cockleshells and thumbscrews, which were the silver bells in the nursery rhyme. I don’t need to say another thing because you already got the picture. 

Ladybird, Ladybird 

Here is another nursery rhyme about religious clashing. Protestant England in the 1700s was not welcoming towards Catholics. Therefore, they burned priests to the stakes. And that is what this song is all about. 

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty does not refer to a person but a large siege cannon that the Royalist forces used in the English Civil War hence, the king’s men. In the mid-1600s, the king’s men had gotten the siege cannon to sit on top of St Mary-at-the-Walls church tower. Therefore, the cannon that ‘sat on the wall’ blasted the Parliamentarian Roundhead troops for 11 weeks. They did it for the sake of the defense of the town. 

Jack and Jill

You may or may not know how disturbing this nursery rhyme derived from the French Revolution. Jack represented France’s Louis XVI, and Jill represented his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were both accused and convicted of treason. Therefore, both of them suffered a beheading. Jack lost his ‘crown,’ and then Jill’s was tumbling soon after. Go and picture that. 

Peter Pumpkin Eater

Alright. This one is super gruesome. This one originated in America, and it was about a man named Peter who was married to a prostitute. He could not allow her to sleep around with other men (open marriages were not a thing back then). He killed her and then stuffed her corpse into a giant pumpkin. Isn’t that pretty? (Ewww, I am envisioning a massive maggot feast here). 

There you go. Are you creeped out now after knowing the origins behind these creepy nursery rhymes? A childhood killer. Don’t tell these nursery rhymes to your kids right before bedtime, or the meanings behind them anyway. 


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