The Weird Origins Of 12 Beloved Nursery Rhymes Have Many Rethinking Their Childhood

By Liz Collins

Admit it, there is something a little creepy about a chorus of toddlers chanting a nonsensical nursery rhyme. Yet, every day, parents clap their hands encouraging their babies to memorize the seemingly silly tunes. But if you stop and examine the lyrics of these iconic ballads of the English lexicon, you'll notice the songs barely conceal their wickedness.

Behind most nursery rhymes, there's a hundred years of history that we routinely ignore. But finally, the veil of wholesomeness has been lifted, and you can think twice about humming these catchy tunes when you find out their dark origins.

1. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary: Vivid images of a sweet gardener pruning rose bushes swim in your mind when mulling over these lyrics. But the Mary in question was far more sinister than a horticulture enthusiast.
Mary I of England, otherwise known as "Bloody Mary,"  was given the gruesome nickname due to her ruthless persecution of Protestants. In the rhyme, the "cockleshells" and "silver bells" refer to instruments of torture. Not so kid friendly!
History
2. Three Blind Mice: Queen Mary was so bloodthirsty she inspired several nursery rhymes chronicling her behavior. The cleaver wielding "farmer's wife" mentioned in the story? Yeah, that's our deadly girl, Mary.
3. Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush: Kids on the playground skipping in circles to the rhythm of the rhyme usually don't know they're singing a tune coined by the female inmates of England's Wakefield Prison.
PRI
Circling laps around the mulberry bush was the daily exercise routine for prisoners. In fact, the bush in question still exists and can be spotted on the grounds of Wakefield. Running around it might not be the best idea if you're there for a visit.
Yorkshire Post
4. Pop Goes The Weasel: If you grew up in the U.S., this rhyme was lumped together with "Mulberry Bush," which makes sense. If you hum them both, they use the same musical tune. Across the pond, children were familiar with different lyrics...
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