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

Nursery Rhymes

As a child, you probably learned all of the nursery rhymes. As a parent, you probably teach them to your children. What you may not understand is that there is history behind these rhymes, and they aren’t as innocent as you may think. Here are the weird origins of 12 beloved nursery rhymes have many rethinking their childhood.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

When you hear this nursery rhyme, you think of a sweet gardener tending to her roses. The real Mary in this rhyme was far more sinister. Mary I of England was known as Bloody Mary due to her frequent persecution of her subjects. The cockleshells and silver bells in the rhyme were her instruments of torture. This song isn’t as sweet and innocent as you think. Any song made up about a blood-thirsty tyrant is not meant for children’s ears.

Three Blind Mice

Queen Mary was so horrible and bloodthirsty that she inspired several nursery rhymes. The farmer’s wife in the story who was yielding a cleaver was Mary. This dangerous woman brought out fear in many. The farmer’s wife in the story wasn’t cutting off the tails of mice with a carving knife. It was actually Queen Mary beheading her subjects for practically no reason at all.

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Children skip in circles singing this song not knowing that it was actually made up by the female inmates of England’s Wakefield Prison. In the yard at the prison, there was a mulberry bush, and the women sang while skipping around it. Over time, the song took off, and it became the nursery rhyme that we know today. The bush is there to this day. Is it really appropriate to teach a child songs that were made up by a bunch of woman convicts?

Pop Goes the Weasel

The tune to Mulberry Bush and Pop goes the weasel are the same. In this nursery rhyme, a dad is pawning his suit to pay for food, and then Pop goes the weasel. It doesn’t make much sense, but it does have a catchy tune. This is why it is the song that is played when you wind up a Jack-In-The-Box.


In the 18-century, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers were shameful. They visited peepshows and bathhouses. Why these people got their own song is a mystery. They weren’t exactly the best role models.

Goosey Goosey Gander

This rhyme is awful. The lyrics tell the story of a moral enforcer who busts into women’s room and tosses their unmarried, sinful partners down the staircase. In the 16the century, Protestants were rewarded for Catholic Priests’ heads. They rhyme actually details the execution method used for a clergyman. It really isn’t kid-friendly.


This sweet lullaby stems from the family drama surrounding King James II’s oldest son. Rumor has it that the King and his second wife, Mary of Modena, planned to take in someone else’s baby and calling him their own. Kidnapping isn’t a child-friendly story.

Jack and Jill

This isn’t a nursery rhyme about clumsy siblings. When Jack fell down and broke his crown, it was really France’s King Louis XVI’s death by guillotine. Jill, his wife, Marie Antoinette, died the same way as her tumbling down after was really her beheading.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

In medieval England, the wool taxes were very high, which meant that poor children were forced to be cold. Where it says, “None for the little boy that cries in the lane, is a snub to the poor children who couldn’t afford the tax.

Georgie Porgie

This nursery rhyme poked fun at the fact that George IV of England’s weight. He stepped out on his marriage and fathered many illegitimate children. This and his weight issues made him the inspiration for this rhyme.

London Bridge Is Falling Down

This rhyme was traced back to the Norse text, Heimskringla. There was a text about Viking King Olaf II leading a brutal attack on the famous bridge in 1009 or 1014. The story was never corroborated, but the legend says that this is where it came from.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty wasn’t an egg. He was King Richard III, nicknamed The Hunchback King. The rhyme was also about his English Civil War cannon. It’s not as sweet as you think.


The next time you think about buying a nursery rhyme book or your child, or if you plan to recite one from memory, just try to remember that nursery rhymes aren’t as sweet as you are led to believe. Most of them are not kid-friendly. In fact, some of them are downright frightening.

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