Ring Around the Creepy: 5 Disturbing Origins of Your Kids' Favorite Nursery Rhymes

5 nursery rhymes that will give you nightmares5 nursery rhymes that will give you nightmaresIf you assumed nursery rhymes were for kids, you're not alone. That's what I always thought, too. And I know a thing or two about nursery rhymes because they're huge at my house. Or at least they were. I guess the triplets, at five (and a half, as they'd correct) are getting a bit too big for them. But we read them to our baby. And it won't be long till he finds himself right in the very center of the nursery rhyme demographic. Which, for what it's worth, I estimate to be around three-ish.

And I gotta tell you, despite the fact that the triplets loved the nursery rhymes, I did not. Well, at first they were fine, but my goodness did they ever start to bother me. I mean, a fella can only recite Humpty Dumpty so many times, you know what I mean?

But thanks to a little Internet research I recently conducted by visiting the site Nursery Rhymes Lyrics, Origins & History, I'm happy to report that nursery rhymes no longer bother me.

They disturb me.

Why, you might ask? Because they're not these sing-songy, kid-friendly deals that you and I have long assumed. Nope. Many of these simple rhymes allude to sophisticated stories that are anything but child's play.

Don't believe me? Then check out these five nursery rhymes and what their true meanings are. Because, yeah, they're disturbing. But they're also fascinating! Hope you enjoy.

1. Georgie Porgie
Georgie Porgie, Puddin' and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away.


Georgie Porgie has always conjured up an image of a little boy who preferred chasing the girlies over hanging with the boys. BUT, the real Georgie Porgie was a guy named George Villiers and it turns out he liked hanging with the boys just fine. Or so I'd assume given that he was the longtime lover of England's King James I. Turns Georgie Porgie liked the ladies, too, as evidenced by his affair with Anne of Austria, who was the Queen of France, wife of the French King Louis XIII. So, yeah, turns out Georgie Porgie was the bisexual, multi-cultural, royal-adulterous type. With some pretty kick ass facial hair to boot.

Related: 7 things you should NEVER say to a parent of triplets

2. Ring Around the Rosy
Ring-a-round a rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.


So, this isn't some lyrical ditty about kids holding hands and skipping in a circle around a flower like I'd always thought. It's about the Bubonic Plague (pictured above) and the inevitable death therefrom. (Ashes, ashes.) I think I like my version better!

3. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Here I was thinking this was a shout out to some garden enthusiast named Mary, when it turns out it's about Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII. Her nickname was Bloody Mary, and I'm afraid it wasn't inspired by the drink. You see, Mary was a staunch Catholic and earned her nickname by having throngs of Protestants executed and the garden in the rhyme is actually a graveyard.

4. Three Blind Mice

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?


You know you're a bad woman if you appear on this list twice. Which is exactly what Mary Tudor does. The farmer's wife in the Three Blind Mice turns out to be ol' Bloody Mary, again. And the three blind mice? Protestant Noblemen. But don't worry. She didn't really dismember them like the rhyme suggests. She just tied 'em to a stake and had 'em burned to death was all. Man, I bet that girl was ZERO fun at parties.

5. Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.


You know how Jack fell down and lost his crown? Well, he didn't really fall down. Because this thing isn't about a boy and a girl going up a hill. It's about the beheading of French King Louis XVI (Jack) and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette (Jill). At least that explains the whole "lost his crown" part. And, yeah, I dare say she did come tumbling after.

- By John Cave Osborne

For 15 more disturbing origins of your kids' favorite nursery rhymes, visit Babble!

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John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months thanks to marrying a single mom then quickly conceiving triplets. Since then, he and his wife have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. They all live chaotically in Knoxville, TN.

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