Violet has this big book of nursery rhymes that is at the top of her favorite book rotation.
This means that at least once or twice a week I read her rhymes and songs featured in the book.
It’s this book, by the way, and I highly recommend it despite the questionably R-rated contents. I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek, of course, because nursery rhymes are nursery rhymes regardless of what book you find them in.
But there’s the thing… Have you ever actually thought about some of these rhymes and songs we’ve been repeating since the time we were toddlers ourselves? Sometimes I’ll be reading a little ditty to Violet and what I’m joyfully sing-songing suddenly strikes my brain and I’m all, What in the hell am I singing to my kid? A falling baby? Cutting off mice tails? Domestic abuse?
According to Book Dirt, there was actually a movement for nursery rhyme reform in the fifties. Mother Goose rhymes have been sanitized in recent years but original versions were filled with violence.
Domestic violence is one of the more common themes in old nursery rhymes, with wives and daughters bearing the brunt of the abuse, ranging from beating with a stick to flat-out murder. The early Victorians no doubt thought these rhymes were instructive to their daughters, who would learn to be obedient, dutiful wives.
But much like parents today, outraged over violence in video games and music, moms and dads in the fifties weren’t all that thrilled with nursery rhymes. So much so that a man named Geoffrey Handley-Taylor was charged with the task of surveying 200 popular rhymes and listing in detail the inappropriate content. Handley-Taylor’s list reads like the outline of a horror film including:
- 8 allusions to murder (unclassified)
- 2 cases of choking to death
- 1 case of cutting a person in half
- 1 case of death by devouring
- 15 allusions to maimed human beings or animals
- 23 cases of physical violence (unclassified)
You can read the full list here. But, despite the apparent sanitization of Ma Goose, nursery rhymes are still pretty out there. Take a look at 15 popular nursery rhymes chock full of violence, fear and death and read about their origins. Plus, find out which historical figure was so horrifying she’s the star of two popular nursery rhymes you grew up chanting.
Read more from Monica on Toddler Times:
- Henry Wuz Here: Photographic Evidence of Life With a Toddler
- Falling Into Fall: Hayride, Ahoy!
- What Were They Thinking?! The Most Age-Inappropriate Toddler Gear
- 20 Everyday Items My Toddler Finds Fascinating
Top Photo Credit: Flickr.com
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