What If We Re-Wrote Nursery Rhymes?

Mother Goose
Mother Goose | Source

Most nursery rhymes as we know them (at least here in America) were actually written to reflect events in history. Fiction writing at its best? For example, Ring Around the Rosy...a charming nursery rhyme that little kids love to act out so they can all fall down at the end of the rhyme. In London, however, Ring around the rosy was the red rash with a ring around it that presented when one had the plague. The posies were sweet smelling herbs carried in pockets to mute the smell of decay. Ashes referred to the cremation of the dead bodies - all fall down, dead. Great NURSERY rhyme!

Let's try another shall we? How about Little Bo Peep? Seems this was from the early 1800s and was probably used to teach a lesson... if you don't pay attention to what you're supposed to be doing there could be consequences. Let's try to re-write Little Bo Peep as it might be today:

Little Bo Peep has lost her Jeep
And can't tell where to find it
She parked it alone on her way home
Leaving the keys behind it.


Jack and Jill have a rather sordid history. It is said that Jack was Louis the XVI who was beheaded (lost his crown, not broke) and Jill was Marie Antoinette (who came tumbling after.) It's fair to say this was changed a little when Jack and Jill became a "Mother Goose" nursery rhyme. So today perhaps it would go something like this:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to get to know each other
Jack fell down and hit the ground
And Jill called up her brother.

Little Miss Muffett is harder to pin down. Some say it was written by a Dr. Jack Muffett about his daughter, others relate it to Mary Queen of Scotts...go figure. If there was a Miss Muffett today things would probably be a little different:

Little Miss Muffett was eating her tuffet
On a dark and dreary day
When along came a spider who crawled up beside 'er
And she ended his life that day.

Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe | Source

Who doesn't remember the old woman who lived in a shoe? Here again it seems the origins are from England but there are conflicting reports as to what the exact origin is. Some say it was Queen Caroline who had eight children. Others say it was King George who was referred to as an old woman and the children represent members of Parliament. Well we don't have Queens or Kings in America but the poem might be updated:

There was an old woman whose house was a zoo
She had so many children she didn't know what to do
She applied for State Aid and was promptly paid
Enough to buy more than a stew!

London Bridge is very well known and has a diverse history. The first London Bridge was built of wood by the Romans. When that wooden bridge was destroyed the Romans built a new bridge and walled town. At one point in time London Bridge had a drawbridge on it, at another time there were shops and houses on the bridge. The history of London Bridge is a little too detailed and varied to go into here since the nursery rhyme is what we're after, but it is important to note that the 1831 London Bridge now resides in Lake Havasu in Arizona. It was brought here stone by stone and reconstructed. How would our modern day rhyme go:

London Bridge is all moved out
All moved out, All moved out
London Bridge is all moved out
That's the story.

London Bridge is in Arizona
Arizona, Arizona
London Bridge is in Arizona
That's the story.

Diddle, Diddle Dumpling is an example of a nonsense nursery rhyme with no real history except perhaps a mother trying to lull her baby boy. What would she say to him today:

Diddle Diddle Dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with all his clothes on
One drink finished, one drink gone
Diddle Diddle Dumpling, my son John.

Rock a Bye Baby could be from England or it could be from America. Some say it was written by a boy watching American Indians suspend their babies between two trees, either way it would certainly be different today:

Rock a bye baby on the tree top
When the neighbors know
They will call a cop
When the cop comes
The cradle he'll take
And mommy and daddy will not get a break.

Obviously I have just been having fun with this. There are so many nursery rhymes I could go on for hours and hours and pages and pages but I think I've made my point, or at least hope I have. Things are very different now than they were when nursery rhymes were originally written. Maybe that's why there are no "new" nursery rhymes!

Copyright Tillsontitan

Nursery rhymes have been around a long time do you think

  • We should stop reading/reciting them
  • We should keep reading/reciting them
  • They are a part of history and need to be preserved
See results without voting

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Comments 34 comments

Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 5 years ago from Euroland

I like those nursery rhyme ideas, good fun.


GClark profile image

GClark 5 years ago from United States

Enjoyed the article. Reminds me of what I found years ago when thinking about turning Grimes Fairy Tales into a play or musical. Tracked the history of fairy tales in other countries and found many similar versions. Turns out the history of intent for those stories and others was to teach some kind of lesson, moral or otherwise; i.e. children who misbehaved came to bad ends. Step mothers were always very bad. One of Grimes Tales has a small child killed by step mother who then prepared him as part of a dinner she then fed to her husband! Talk about giving one nightmares!! GC


mikeq107 5 years ago

Mary:0) 10 Glen Millers up !!!!

Remember this guy….. LOL

“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the Kings horse`s and all the Kings Men

Could not Put Humpty together again!!!”

Story……..In 1648, the town of Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. An enormous cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was placed on the wall. A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall, but because the cannon was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again….

“So Mary how do we re-write this One????

“John Doe Public invested in Goldmansachs

2008 John Doe Public got the sack

All the Con- men of Gold- men- with-sacks!!

Raked in their gold and Money pile back .

And poor old John Doe went to live in a shack!!!!””

That was fun Mary: 0))))…great hub loved it… Thanks for the Inspiration and morning entertainment!!!!!!!

Mike :0))))))))


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed.

GClark, glad you enjoyed too. Yes, good old nursery rhymes and fairy tales have lots of bizarre history for sure.

Mike, sometimes I think your comments are better than my hubs!


mikeq107 5 years ago

Mary:0)

Heaven forbid that's not my intention LOL....good writers inspire each other...thanks for the inspirations!!!!

Mike :0)


rlaha profile image

rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

Interesting! I am glad you added some history on each nursery rhyme. It made it more enjoyable to remember each one again!


diogenes 5 years ago

I enjoyed this...what a temptation for a poet!

"Sing a song of billions, a pocket full of lye,

Four and twenty bankers make a lovely pie!"

Voted up, more humor say I...did you read my last hub about "wanking" and "banking?" Bob


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

This was a fun hub. You could go on forever with these old nurdery rhymes.

I liked the way you attached the history of each.

Great hub


Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 5 years ago

Entertaining hub, well done!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I really like the history behind the rhymes! Interesting how dark and dreary facts were transformed into sing-song entertainment for children! Brings to mind the "Lizzie Borden" limerick.....Wooooooooooo-BOO!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

I thought the history would help and am glad it brought back the memories I was trying to inspire! Thanks guys for your comments and support!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I was going to say Humpty Dumpty! lol! yes you are so right, there are so many of them, and if we look at them closely, most of them are based on someone getting their head chopped off, or being struck down because they are kings! I love your versions best though! lol!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Nell. So glad you enjoyed my versions. The originals are pretty dire.


Soljie profile image

Soljie 5 years ago from Barbados

Lol a good lyricist you are! Great stuff!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Soljie so glad you stopped by and enjoyed.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

This was a brilliant hub, TILL. I'm reading this in my school library and I had to keep my guffaws down. I'd love to see more!

I also find the history of nursery rhymes to be most interesting!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

I am truly honored that you found this so much fun! At your suggestion I guess I'll have to try some more. Thanks PDX.


stessily 5 years ago

This journey through the history of seemingly mindless or mysterious nursery rhymes was a great reminder to me of a time when I uncovered those facts, which are fascinating and really enhance the effect of the rhymes. It's fun as an adult to recall the enchantment of childhood and yet also to admire the actual history and thought behind children's tales and rhymes.

Your "Diddle Diddle Dumpling" evoked quite a few guffaws in me: I can think of some adults who fit the description!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Glad you enjoyed stessily. We sometimes forget how things get started. I too know people who fit my "Diddle Diddle Dumpling."


GClark profile image

GClark 5 years ago from United States

My favorite of these was "Rock a bye baby." Made me laugh out loud. GClark


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

So glad I made you laugh GC!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Let me know when you try more!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I did Part Deux...let me know how you like it.


rlaha profile image

rlaha 4 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

I will have to check it out :).


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

The Jack and Jill one reminded me of Andrew Dice Clay's version.. but yours was cleaner LOL and I loved this one:

Little Bo Peep has lost her Jeep

And can't tell where to find it

She parked it alone on her way home

Leaving the keys behind it.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Frank. Glad you liked it. I'm definitely no Andrew Dice Clay ;)


Melovy profile image

Melovy 4 years ago from UK

Fun hub.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Melovy.


PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 4 years ago from Centreville Michigan

Outrageous I say, you will keep me laughing all night and day!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

So glad I made you laugh Paddyboy!


Specialist5 4 years ago

Great hub. Loved the history. I always wondered what was behind such craziness. I guess as children we accept so much as written. Thumbs up.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

How true Specialist, I never would've dreamed when I was a kid, they all seemed so innocent!


nanadolls profile image

nanadolls 4 years ago from Stratford

Great Hub, giggled while I read most of them. I had no idea about the origin of some nursey rhymes.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I had an idea about most of them but researched to be sure. Glad you enjoyed Nanadolls.

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