Shall we sing a song of sixpence? Have you a pocket full of rye?
No matter, there are four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
Yes, somebody put 24 birds in a freaking pie. And despite the fact that they’ve been baked in said pie, what happens next? The pie is opened, and the birds begin to sing. The number 24 has already led us to a place of zombie thrushes.
Hypothesis: Nursery rhymes are macabre and insane. I have believed this for some time. Many people point to the original versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as gruesome and, well, grim. They’re not wrong, but my hypothesis is that nursery rhymes are even worse.
Blackbirds singing beyond the grave are exhibit #1. Let’s find some further evidence. There’s the poor old man who suffered from some sort of narcolepsy:
It’s raining, it’s pouring
The old man is snoring
He went to bed and he bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning
Poor guy. Guess he’s either comatose or dead.
Then there’s the animal neglect of Old Mother Hubbard:
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor little doggie had none
Starving dogs. Beautiful image for kids. Not to be outdone, there’s the full-on animal cruelty of the farmer’s wife:
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife.
Yes, yes. They’re just mice. It’s okay to mutilate them, right? Who made them blind in the first place? But we’re just getting started. Let’s move from animal abuse to the blatant child abuse of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe:
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth and a big slice of bread.
Then beat them all soundly and sent them to bed.
Nice Mom. But we’re just getting started in this path through the nursery rhyme forest. Let’s amble through “falling to our death” glade.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his freaking head.
Rock-a-Bye Baby in a very safe place for a baby, the top of an obviously weak tree.
When the wind blows, we won’t notice anything is amiss.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall and kill the baby.
Yes, kill the freaking baby.
Goosey Goosey Gander takes it to another level. Not content to see someone fall, the narrator takes action himself:
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.
Bonus points for specifying which leg was used for the violence. But the best, the absolute best, is “Ladybug, Ladybug.” I present it below in its entirety, exactly as it appeared in my childhood book of nursery rhymes.
Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire, your children will burn.
I vividly remember that one from my childhood. Even as a preschooler, I knew there was something wrong with it. It doesn’t even rhyme. It doesn’t even come close to rhyming, AND IT’S ABOUT CHILD LADYBUGS BURNING TO DEATH.
Conclusion: Yes, nursery rhymes are macabre and insane.
Your house is on fire.
Your children will burn.