Monday, November 28, 2011

Nursery Rhymes or Nightmare Rhymes?

Travelling in the car with my little nephew, my sister popped one of his cd's into the player. It was a choir of children (or rather adults singing in what they thought to be cute children's voices but instead sounded like something out of children of the corn) some much loved children's classics. It started with (for those of you old enough to remember the strange little blue hound dog with the southern drawl) Huckleberry Hound's old favourite "Clementine". You know the one - "Oh my darlin', oh my darlin' oh my daaaaarlin' Clementine".

As I listened it struck me that, apart from "oh my darlin", I had never really listened to the lyrics and had no idea what the song was about. Turns out the song is about a reclusive miner who lived, in a cavern, in a canyon, with his daughters, where he would while about his days excavating the rocks daily, trying to strike it rich. Somehow the travelling gentleman singing the song happens to find one of his daughters - the lovely Clementine. Instead of saving her from this pointless existence, he seems to fall under the same crazy spell as the father and they stay on in the same cavern (did I mention it's located within a canyon?). I guess one cannot expect too much from a drifter who happens across a family living in a hole in the wall of a canyon. Soon after tragedy strikes.

Despite apparently living near a large body of water all her life, with which she developed a strong affinity whilst playing with the ducks, the miner never took the time out from his gruelling schedule of chipping away at rocks, to teach his daughter to swim. When playing with her ducks one day, she "slipped", fell in and drowned. The husband (who is singing the song) is very shaken up about it, as a matter of fact he is "awful sorry". Thankfully he pulled through and got over it rather quickly as he went on to "kiss her little sister".

To sum things up this poor Clementine was raised in an obscure cavern in a canyon in what one can only assume was a Fritzel-esque existence until, despite the odds being stacked against her, she meets and falls in love with her knight in shining armour (who was really a drifter in dirty anorak however she didn't know any better). He then turns around and stays in the rock and, I suspect, pushed her into the water where she met her maker, all so he could get it on with her little sister.

Hardly a story for children now is it? It got me thinking about what other insidious lessons we are subconsciously teaching our children in the guise of nursery rhymes. I was horrified with the results:

"As I was going to St.Ives"

As I was going to St. Ives I met a man
with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks, each sack
had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits: kits, cats,
sacks and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?

This is a particularly nasty piece is about an oppresive bigamist who seems to take strange delight in torturing and killing cats. The traveler should count himself lucky he survived to write about this strange encounter.

"Georgie Porgie"

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away

About a rapist, with an obvious weight problem, who gets away with his crimes by fleeing the state.

"Goosie Goosie Gander"

Goosey goosey gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs

A homicidal maniac breaks into a home at night, looking for the lady of the house, instead he finds a lovely old christian gentleman with some sort of speech impediment, attempting to say his nightly prayers. This finding sends him into such a rage he hurls the gentleman down the stairs by his left leg. His left leg?? Really, who throws a leg?

"Hey Diddle Diddle"

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

Now here's a real fun one, obviously created in the 60's where drugs and revolution were in the air however it's not something I think should be raised with children - a cow tripping on acid while his stoned canine companion watches on, set against the backdrop of an inter-racial couple eloping as they can no longer take the abuse and vilification their love conjures in their small hometown .

"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater"

Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

A fellow named Peter who's penchant for pumpkins has finally sent his wife over the edge. When she understandably requests a divorce, he locks her away in a pumpkin shell, of all places. If you have ever smelt a decaying pumpkin days after Halloween, you will know this would not have been a pleasant existence whatsoever.

"Rock-A-Bye Baby"

Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Ok, this is a tricky one. Who's to blame? The mentally imbalanced parents who placed their baby on top of a tree in the first place, or the system that allowed these parents to keep their child. Surely this was not their first indiscretion, yet DOCS have made no effort to place the child in foster care. Shame on you DOCS, shame.

"The Grand Old Duke Of York"

The grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down

Whilst he may have been a brilliant military strategist in his prime, the poor old Duke appears to have lost control of his mental faculties. He takes his whole battalion out of the city and then can't even remember where he is going, resulting in pointless marches up and down the same mountain. His men are just as stupid though for so blindly following his directions. Surely someone could have pointed out they were running out of food, their legs were tired, that they had been on the same mountain now for 2 weeks and no one knew whether they were at the top, bottom or in the middle. In the meantime, with his city's entire battalion out on this training exercise, they were raided and the city burned.

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