5 Nursery Rhymes With Surprisingly Dark Origins

By Michael Vincent on January 16, 2023

Nursery rhymes have been a part of our childhood for generations, but did you know that many of these innocent-sounding rhymes have dark and twisted origins?

From plagues to execution, these rhymes were not always meant to be sung to children. Let’s take a look at five nursery rhymes with dark origins that may surprise you.

  1. “Ring Around the Rosie” – This nursery rhyme originated as a song about the bubonic plague, with the “ring around the rosie” representing the rash that appeared on the skin of those infected and the “ashes, ashes” indicating the funeral pyres that burned the bodies of the dead.
  2. “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” – This nursery rhyme is a reference to Mary I of England, who was known as “Bloody Mary” for her persecution of Protestants during her reign.
  3. “Rock-a-bye Baby” – This nursery rhyme originated as a song about a baby dying, with the “cradle” representing a coffin and the “boughs” referring to a tree from which a baby’s cradle-coffin would be hung.
  4. “Humpty Dumpty” – This nursery rhyme is about King Richard III, who was killed in battle and his body left unburied for several days.
  5. “Jack and Jill” – This nursery rhyme is thought to be a reference to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were both executed during the French Revolution.

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