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The Gruesome Origin Stories Behind The Most Popular Nursery Rhymes

Everyone loves a good nursery rhyme. From Humpty Dumpty to Mary, Mary quite contrary, we have all been plagued with them from a young age, which is why their back story is so surprising. They are made to sound fun, whimsical and light hearted, but they are anything but.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

To most, this nursery rhyme is about a lovely woman called Mary, who has an amazing garden. During the poem she is asked ‘how does your garden grow?’ and goes on to list what seems like flowers. These are actually torture devices from the reign of Queen Mary I, who was known as Bloody Mary because of the hundreds upon hundreds of Protestants she put to death. And yes, that escalated very quickly. The gardens she refers to are actually the ever growing graveyards, as a result of her hatred towards Protestants.

Ring-a-round a Rosie

This nursery rhyme comes with a dance and everything, and don’t try and pretend you are not trying to remember it right now. Most people at this stage know that the nursery rhyme is the last thing you should make a song and a dance about. The Black Death is the theme of the rhyme and if you take a look at the lyrics, it explains why.

Ring-a-ring o’roses, A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo!A-tishoo! We all fall down

-British version

Ring-a-round a rosie a pocket full of posies Ashes!Ashes! We all fall down

-American version

There are differences in the words between the British and Amercian version but they each reference The Black Plague of London. At the time the smell of the dead bodies was so intense people would carry around posies to try and mask the smell. Ashes!Ashes! and A-tishoo! A-tishoo! refers to the ill. Atisho referring to the ill sneezing and the ashes are a different kettle of fish. During The Black Plague there were so many bodies lying around the ashes refers to the aftermath of the bodies being burned. So all in all, not really something we should be sharing with our kids and making up dances to.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

The Gruesome Origin Stories Behind The Most Popular Nursery Rhymes - Vaults Live To most, this nursery rhyme is about a lovely woman called Mary, who has an amazing garden. During the poem she is asked how does your garden grow? and goes on to list what seems like flowers. These are actually torture devices from the reign of Queen Mary I, who was known as bloody Mary because of the hundreds upon hundreds of Protestants she put to death. And yes, that escalated very quickly. The gardens she refers to are actually the ever growing graveyards, as a result of her hatred towards Protestants.

Three Blind Mice

Kids nowadays probably would know The Three Blind Mice more so from Shrek, as opposed to the nursery rhyme, either way, the backstory it gruesome.

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

The three blind mice actually refer to three Protestant loyalists, supposedly bishops, who were accused of treason, against Queen Mary. At this stage we can see there is a pattern with Queen Mary, or as she became known Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants. The bishops were found guilty they were burned at the stake, and it was falsely reported that they she had them dismembered and blinded.

To get an up close and personal account of the back story of Humpty Dumpty, make sure to view prices to visit and experience Vaults.Live. Vaults.Live is Dublin’s best tourist attraction, and offers an immersive live theatre experience full of humour and amazing Irish history. Book your tickets online today.

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