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Depressing, Violent, and Tragic Nursery Rhymes

When we are little children, we know that most all the classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales are horrible stories (at least before they've been Disneyfied). Then we get over it and forget the awful imagery, until we become parents and see the fear they invoke in our children. For those of you between those two realizations, here’s 10 Popular Nursery Rhymes That are Incredibly Depressing, Terrifyingly Violent and Disturbingly Tragic for Children. Link -via J-Walk Blog

neatorama, i am surprised at you. the blurbs that you post are usually so full of actual, neato information. sadly, this link is quite poor; written, so far as i can tell, by someone who has no actual knowledge of the history behind nursery rhymes. many nursery rhymes were actually ways to communicate information to specific parties via code (for example, 'sing a song of sixpence' was actually a secret recruitment call for Blackbeard the pirate), and taking them at face value just to opine on them with a 21st century mind does a great injustice.
i hang my head in sorrow.
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i thought the same as Miss C... and Josh is completely correct with Ring Around, these songs hold a much deeper reference than just being depressing or violent.

Plus Disney isn't all that great, do you realize that there are no mothers in any classic Disney films, even some of the newer ones too.
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Oh come on, it's obviously just a lighthearted thing. Lighten up. It's FUN.
It's quite interesting how everyone knows these songs and sings them to children and doesn't really notice what they're about. I remember one nursery rhyme I used to sing called "Cockles and Mussels" or something similar about a girl called Molly Malone who died of a fever, and then haunted the streets of Dublin selling cockles and mussels. I got really upset by that (also because my sister is called Molly and I thought that SHE would die) and also I was kind of afraid of the ghost...
But if you want weird children's rhymes try the feature on global schoolyard rhymes from the Sneeze. Really funny! ^_^
sneeze.com/mt-archives/cat_global_schoolyard_rhymes.php
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I think only adults tend to find these "disturbingly violent." As Petra (#1) correctly says, many of these were secret messages in rhyming slang (many nonsensical rock / rap lyrics today are full of similar phrases that have hidden meaning only to those "in-the-know"). To kids, they're just fun little songs. By the time they're old enough to start analyzing them, they're already too old to find them all that enjoyable.

And some were indeed cautionary tales about various hazards, or satirical ditties about dysfunctional people or political scandals.

"Yankee Doodle," a song known to all U.S.-born children, is actually a very raunchy song, originally sung by British soldiers to mock the Continental army and its leaders. Keeping that in mind, its "hidden meanings" become pretty obvious to adults. But apparently enough people in early America figured out that the kids who parroted this coarse soldiers' song had absolutely no idea what it meant, that it was not suppressed. It didn't take long before adults came to think of it as a children's song, and to this day there are people who grow old without ever giving "Yankee Doodle" a second thought.
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josh - there's no record of ring a ring of roses prior to about 1860 (thereabouts, not sure of the exact date):-) some nursey rhymes refer to actual historical events, some are parables, some derived from old folk songs, especially the tunes. with reference to the psychology of rhymes and fairy tales, i think bruno bettelheim has stuff to say on this in 'the uses of enchantment'. mostly the tales, though i suspect there's a big overlap.
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I've always wondered about Humpty Dumpty, no where in the nursery rhyme is it implied that he is an egg, yet all the illustrations portray him as one. Does anyone have input on this?
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Ally, I think you'll find humpty dumpty was actualy a gun or cannon that fell from a wall or building (sorry a bit vague on the details), and like twinkle twinkle little star and old king cole, it has its origins in Colchester, Essex, UK.
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Ally, I think you'll find humpty dumpty was actualy a gun or cannon that fell from a wall or building, sorry a bit vague on the details, and like twinkle twinkle little star and old king cole, it has its origins in Colchester, Essex, UK.
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Not a very in-depth article. How simple an audience was that intended for?

Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch that's a tv show where they explain how to do all sorts of complicated things like achieve world peace and build box-girder bridges.
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About that mother thing:

Rescuers Down Under
The Lion King 1 AND 2
Sleeping Beauty
Bambi (for a short while, but still)
Toy Story
Princess and the Frog
Dumbo
Peter Pan (which discusses the importance of mothers)
Lady and the Tramp 1 and 2
101 Dalmations
The Aristocats
Hercules
Mulan
Tarzan
Dinosaur
Emperors New Groove
Tresure Planet
and Bolt

Don't tell me there's no mothers in Disney movies... >.<
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