Nursery Crimes: 7 Horrifying Reasons You Don't Know Mother Goose
In 1941, the British Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform (yes, you read that right) damned 100 of the 200 most common nursery rhymes of the day, including Humpty Dumpty and Three Blind Mice, for "harboring unsavory elements." The long list of sins included referencing poverty, scorning prayer, and ridiculing the blind. Hardly Michael Meyers. But it also included: 21 cases of death (notably choking, decapitation, hanging, devouring, shriveling, and "squeezing"); 12 cases of torment to animals; and 1 case each of consuming human flesh, body snatching, and "the desire to have one's own limb severed." Move over Hitchcock. Here's kindly old Mother Goose:
"I charge my daughters every one To keep good house while I am gone, You and you and especially you, Or else I'll beat you black and blue."
We tend to think that over-exposing kids to gore and violence is a modern phenomenon, but actually Quentin Tarantino has nothing on Madame Gander. Although do-gooding censors and bowdlerizers have watered down our nursery rhymes over time, and shouldered many others right out of public knowledge, the gruesome originals are still kicking around.
Click through for 7 reasons you don't know Mother Goose!
-By Max Minckler, @maxminckler
Blanche Fisher Wright
Mother Goose covers everything from the Black Plague to royal incest. Here's one called "A Little Man": "There was a little man, and he had a little gun, / And his bullets were made of lead, lead, lead; He went to the brook, and saw a little duck, / And shot it right through the head, head, head."
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Gammer Gurton's Garland Or The Nursery Parnassus: A Choice Collection Of Pretty Songs And Verses (1866)
A lady, "All skin and bone" comes to a church: "On looking up, on looking down, / She saw a dead man on the ground ; / And from his nose unto his chin, / The worms crawl'd out, the worms crawl'd in. // Then she unto the parson said, / Shall I be so when I am dead : / O yes ! O yes, the parson said, / You will be so when you are dead."
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Eulalie Osgood Grover
In the 19th Century, "Goosey goosey gander," a charming nursery rhyme today, included a more gruesome verse: "Old father Long-Legs / Can’t say his prayers: / Take him by the left leg, / And throw him down the stairs. / And when he’s at the bottom, / Before he long has lain, / Take him by the right leg, / And throw him up again."
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"Baby, baby, naughty baby, / Hush, you squalling thing, I say. / Peace this moment, peace, or maybe / Bonaparte will pass this way. / Baby, baby, if he hears you / As he gallops past the house, // Limb from limb at once he'll tear you, / Just as pussy tears a mouse. / And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you, / And he'll beat you into pap, / And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you, / Every morsel snap, snap, snap.
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G. F. Northall
Pig-pie sellers used to advertise their wares with little jingles, some of which became nursery rhymes. Here's a juicy one: "A long tail’d pig, or a short tail’d pig, / Or a pig without any tail, / A sow-pig, or a boar-pig, / Or a pig with a curling tail. / / Take hold of his tail, / And eat off his head, /And then you will be sure /The pig-hog is dead."
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James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips
"There was an old woman, / Her name it was Peg; / Her head was of wood and / She wore a cork leg. / The neighbours all pitch’d / Her into the water, / Her leg was drowned first, / And her head followed after." (1790)
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Jessie Willcox Smith
A couple more gems from early collections of Mother Goose: "Die, pussy, die, / Shut your little eye: / When you wake, / Find a cake, / Die, pussy, die." And this darling little little lullaby: "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, / Here comes a chopper to chop off your head."
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