Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nursery Rhymes


Our childhood memories are filled with nursery rhymes. Kids grow up with their favorite characters like Jack & Jill and Humpty Dumpty. The rhymes have been passed on from generations to generations for over hundreds of years. The sweet melody of the nursery rhymes still rings in our ears as adults. One of my favorite is the ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’. A sweet rhyme that makes the innocent mind of a child wonder. But then, are all rhymes innocent?


BBC reports that a British Royal Hospital for Children team found out that the frequency of nursery rhyme violence was more than 10 times greater than in pre-9pm programmes. And we blame the television for children becoming violent. In fact they aren’t, they are just getting smarter. The world today is much more peaceful than the war ridden last century. Children were in contact with violence through nursery rhymes much before television was invented. Most of which they do not understand, I didn't. What kind of violence you might ask?

Jack with a broken crown, a shattered Humpty Dumpty, a baby falling from a tree top with ‘cradle and all’, a falling London Bridge, an old woman living in a shoe and whipping her children, throwing an old man down the stairs for not saying his prayers, putting one’s wife inside a pumpkin, throwing a pussy cat in the well, and then you have the murdered cock named Robin. I wonder how so much violence found a place in children’s books.

Some of the rhymes are very old, and it is hard to trace back their origin. Most of them are satires with a hidden message of protest against the authorities, or written to remember some of the sad moments of history. ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ is supposed to be a protest against the two third medieval wool tax. Many have linked the rhyme ‘Goosey Goosey Gander’ to the propaganda against the Catholic Church. Humpty Dumpty is supposed to be a canyon from English civil war that fell down from the wall and broke. ‘Ring a Ring o’ roses’ is supposed to be referring either to the black death of 1348 or the great plague of 1665. There are Indian examples as well like the Bengali one that displayed the fear of the Borgis who came from south riding on horses and looted the villages of the East. There are violent ones as well like the one in which Shyamla has gone for shopping leaving behind her crying sons. The narrator threatened to harm the child if he did not stop crying. I am sure there are some in other regional languages as well. Amazingly, none of these rhymes were meant for the kids, neither is the one written below.


Hicrory Dickory Dock
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down.
In front of him was a cat,
So the mouse hid under a mat.
But the cat was wet and gloomy.
‘He won’t do harm to me’
Rat went to him with worry
And asked, ‘What’s your story?
Pussy cat, where have you been?’
‘I have been to London to see the Queen’.
‘Oh how is the London city?
Is the Queen very pretty?’
‘Could not see her, it was hell,
The London Bridge fell,
Humpty Dumpty sat on its wall,
He also had a great fall.
If you thought that was bad
The next part is more sad.
I was coming back thinking about Queen,
On my way I met Little Johnny Green.
A naughty boy was that,
He likes to drown pussy cat.
I did not do him any harm,
I killed all mouse in the farmer’s barn’.
The last part made the rat weary,
Cat’s can be very scary.
Ignorant of the rat
Continued the cat,
‘Then came up the hill
Little Jack and Jill.
It was Jack who pulled me out,
He was very stout.
Helping me I did not knew
So I screamed mewww.
Jack then fell down.
Might have broken his crown.
I ran down the hill and up the stair,
Till finally I came here.
But now I am very angry,
As my stomach is hungry.
Beg, borrow  or steal
But I need a good meal.
You look juicy and fat,
Come closer to me little rat.”
But the rat was very smart
And before he was hurt
He said, ‘Oh great cat, halt!
You forgot pepper and salt.
In my house I have few
I will bring it only for you.’
Before the cat realized the plan
The rat took deep breath and ran.
Mistake, realized the cat
He then ran after the rat.
Now that was the true story
How Tom met Jerry.


OK, now do not make that face. Yes, yes, I am bad with rhymes!

You React:

90 comments:

  1. hahaha cute ryhme 
    You look juicy and fat
    come closer to me little rat..lolz 
    well this is something that I neve thought about,but you got a point here...and that point is worth some serious thinking..nice read:-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. LOL Subhrashis...Nice rhyme, who is feeding these thoughts in your mind? From quantum physics to rhyme, quite a journey...BTW I loved your post. I don't need my husband's assistance in this one...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually a lot of the nursery rhymes do come from dark origins. Ring Around the Rosy was about the bubonic plague. They had to carry flowers in their pockets to cover up the smell of decaying bodies. "Ashes, ashes they all fall down."

    ReplyDelete
  4. :)...Great post...pretty interesting perspective of nursery rhymes which are perceived as sweet...innocent...and we blame the influence...of the idiot box,cartoons on the lil ones...Food for thought !

    ReplyDelete
  5. he he. i dono what to say here. loved the poem below.
    but yeah it was a great post and narration of this post seems very creative. why don't u become an editor of a news paper. even children will also start reading that news paper :)
     cheers !

    ReplyDelete
  6. he he. i dono what to say here. loved the poem below.
    but yeah it was a great post and narration of this post seems very creative. why don't u become an editor of a news paper. even children will also start reading that news paper :)
     cheers !

    ReplyDelete
  7. good post. & research into the topic.
    as far as its effect goes, little tots are too busy enjoying the sing-song feel of the rhymes to know/understand what the rhyme actually means. as adults whn we discover the hidden meaning, it startles us "is this what we've been singing about" is how we suddenly feel. by then we r too old to care

    loved reading abt the origins of each of the rhyme u mentioned. very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  8. An interesting topic and very well narrated....
    btw Do you think that the children analyze these rhymes same way as British Royal Hospital did? well, personally i don't feel so.....i think they simply enjoy the flow of these as we did during our nursery period....moreover the main purpose of teaching these rhymes during nursery is to enhance their reading skills than anything else.....
    BTW a thought provoking post and you made it an interesting read.....

    ReplyDelete
  9. oohhh.. I have grown up admiring these rhymes... but I never actually noticed the violence...!!!

    It was nice reading your post.. it always makes a good reading when you get to see things from someone else's point of view and then you realize that every coin has a flip side..!!I enjoyed my time spent on your blog and hope to remain connected to you on blogges (its always good to connect to people like you with a whole different way of seeing things ^_^ )Do give a visit to my blog at http://madhulikaspeaks.blogspot.com/and I am following you for sure :) :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. CONGRATULATIONS! You've won an Award!!


    check out the link


    http://sujathasathya.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rhymes are evolved into poetry, that's what I think. 
    Next update from you will be a Nano Poetry then? :O

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow... great post. To think of it in this way, you are a great thinker and writer. :)
    And there is an old phrase, "it doesn' matter if it doesn't rhyme, as long as it's true".

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bharathiraja RamachandraboseAugust 12, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Oooh... Believe me... I have been thinking about this for the last one year... Most of the rhymes that my daughter sings make me visualize one or the other kind of violent scene. I have been wondering why the educationists have not thought about the consequences of teaching such rhymes. I am sure there would have been at least one Little Johnny thin who took inspiration from that rhyme to put a cat inside well... :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. i think children do not understand most of the rhymes...and sure there are few we can do without...thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. hey thanks a lot Sujatha :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. thanks a lot Madhulika...glad you liked it :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. no i don't...but some of the rhymes can be bad...but most aren't...thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. yea, i agree...:)
    thanks a lot

    ReplyDelete
  19. lol..i will think of that :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. true Alissa...thanks for the visit :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. lol Saru...thanks a lot...glad u liked it :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Bharathiraja RamachandraboseAugust 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    No Sub. We have videos showing Little Johnny thin throwing the cat inside and Little Tommy stout saving it responsibly. My daughter did ask me why Little Johnny did like that. I said he was naughty. She asked me what naughty means. I explained her with an example from her circle. Not sure if I taught her a wrong thing. :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. i meant satires like baa baa black sheep....:)

    ReplyDelete
  24. ha ha i have only one id.actually at that time i was also trying plugged in this disqus on my blog page.it asked to sing up . so this comment has been posted in this way. :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. The best thing about your posts are that they send my brain for a quick jog....even when you are discussing innocuous  rhymes. We hardly delve in the deeper meaning as long as the child mugs the rhyme and sweetly tells it verbatim. You should have been a teacher SUB....we need teachers like you.

    ReplyDelete
  26. lol..I believe there are no teachers...we are all learners....we learn because we WANT to learn...i have no control over others WANT :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. OMG!! you are really a genius aren't you :) this was an amazing post Sub. I don't think this would have ever struck me...

    ReplyDelete
  28. again you misspelt it...it's ginnyass....:p

    Glad u liked it :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. This post is an eye opener. never thought that nursery rhymes can turn so vicious. u are a genius dude. bravo:)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Krishnapriya LathikaAugust 13, 2011 at 1:07 AM

    Aw.. see I didnt know that! thanks and ur rhyme.. he he funny!

    ReplyDelete
  31. the article above 'your' rhyme (it  can make a good jingle though :D) , was enriching!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great post!! Thank you very much for your comment on my blog!

    ReplyDelete
  33. thanks for your comments .....
    my pleasure...

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sub: That was superb write up. Actually right, the kids who are exposed the vast media and not to forget the mention of the violence are getting smarter each day. Why blame the idiot box. Have we ever discussed the mythological stories however which are presented in its new colours drifting so away from the real-grand ma tales? I have always wanted to write, but I think you can write better. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  35. Sub: That was superb write up. Actually right, the kids who are exposed the vast media and not to forget the mention of the violence are getting smarter each day. Why blame the idiot box. Have we ever discussed the mythological stories however which are presented in its new colours drifting so away from the real-grand ma tales? I have always wanted to write, but I think you can write better. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Sub: That was superb write up. Actually right, the kids who are exposed the vast media and not to forget the mention of the violence are getting smarter each day. Why blame the idiot box. Have we ever discussed the mythological stories however which are presented in its new colours drifting so away from the real-grand ma tales? I have always wanted to write, but I think you can write better. :-)Like
    Reply

    ReplyDelete
  37. thanks Sush...I am sure you can do better than me :)

    ReplyDelete
  38. After this brilliant and interesting analysis, how about looking at some Indian children's poems? :)

    ReplyDelete
  39. good idea...they aren't that bad though...barring few :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Good one Sub, this is a part of many urban legends how the Nursery Rhymes evolved. Even Fairy tales seemed to be violent like Hansel and Gretel. Great post...

    ReplyDelete
  41. Great post SUB. ANd I'm here , thinking all those nursery rhymes were a fun way to learn, After reading your analysis, dealing with the way they evolved, I wonder how the kids after reading all this, can keep calm. And luved your rhyme :)
    Awesome :)

    ReplyDelete
  42. good thing is that kids don't understand it ....:)
    u liked that? really??? i am so glad :D

    ReplyDelete
  43. thank you for visiting my blog and promoting it on indiblogger. you have great blog there. i shall read more in leisure. Nice one on rhymes from you.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thanks a lot Dr.Supriya :)
    do come back :)

    ReplyDelete
  45. I don't recall where but I had read about the hidden meaning in the rhymes somewhere earlier too. BTW I realized about the violence in the rhymes when my son ended weeping over the three blind mice whose tails were cut off by the farmers wife. My daughter was not happy when the black birds plucked off the maids nose. 
    Finally I made up my own silly ones for them or found only those that would not make them feel bad. 

    ReplyDelete
  46. earlier kids never understood the meanings, but these days kids are smart enough...we have to be careful while choosing which one to tell them...and making own's silly ones is a great idea...maybe I can borrow some from you once i have kids :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. enjoyed reading it.. yeah and kids are getting smarter.. like Jack n Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.. and my nephew was like.. kyu unke ghar mein paani nahi atta kya ?? ... so i think rhymes need to be modified now :D :D :D 

    ReplyDelete
  48. Loved this post! Never looked at nursery rhymes this way. :)

    ReplyDelete
  49. ROFL...that was awesome...smart kid :)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Such a cool stuff SUB. Thought provoking :D 

    ReplyDelete
  51. That's a nice take on rhymes. To add, there are some racist ones doing their rounds, not in the West, right here in contemporary India. I read a hilarious post on it a while ago. If I could fetch it, would share it with you.

    Oh! by the way, I'm listening to Mary Mary So Contrary (performed by Can) - a take on Mary Mary Quite Contrary...

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thanks Ahimaaz....plz do share that once you get it :)

    ReplyDelete
  53. When
    originality is all that matters to this star, it is not surprising
    that his future is being paved with the prints of originality. Rajni
    talks about how originality is above all else and will make a
    difference in one's success. Click here to learn more http://bit.ly/n9GwsR

    ReplyDelete
  54. Sub, it's here: http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/2011/06/if-i-were-man-id-be-in-boys-club-i.html

    ReplyDelete
  55. Check out my blog at http://eshank.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/is-the-govt-way-too-smart-or-are-we-all-dumbasses-3/

    ReplyDelete
  56. n they all borrowed their music from famous musicians. For eg. Twinkle Twinkle & Happy Birthday are actually symphonies by Mozart

    ReplyDelete
  57. yea...but then they were much much later :)
    thanks for your comments :D

    ReplyDelete
  58. hahahaha... :D You not bad with rhymes.. :)

    ReplyDelete
  59.  think so? :D
    thanks so much Namrata :)

    ReplyDelete
  60. Quite an interesting post...nice take on nursery rhymes.. n even u r good wih rhymes.. :D

    ReplyDelete
  61.  great efforts

    ReplyDelete
  62. Quite good. Reminded me of "Politically correct Fairy Tales" :) 

    ReplyDelete
  63. Never thought from this perspective....Thank you for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  64. Hehe good one!!! Indeed such is the case with Cartoon network too

    ReplyDelete
  65. Language is a powerful tool. What lies behind the innocent looking words is sometimes, unimaginable truths. Great post! And you're not as bad with rhymes as you think. Rather, I quite liked the compilation. :D

    ReplyDelete
  66. I have never taken the nursery rhymes so serious, but after reading your this post, my mind changed complete, thanks a billion to share this valuable document.

    Pooja

    ReplyDelete

Leave a piece of you mind here...