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The Creepy Origins of The Worlds Most Popular Nursery Rhymes!

The Creepy Origins of The Worlds Most Popular Nursery Rhymes!

Remember singing nursery rhymes as a child? Or maybe you sing them to your children now. The origin of these old nursery rhymes will most definitely surprise you!

Nursery rhymes were originally meant to teach children about complex scenarios in a fun way they could understand. The problem is, over time we’ve lost the original meaning to these songs. Even the world’s most popular nursery rhyme has a creepy backstory.

Jack and Jill origin

Jack and Jill has to be the that first comes to mind when you think of children’s nursery rhymes. Jack and Jill skipped up a hill to get a pail of water. Innocent enough, right? Wrong, the origins of this nursery rhyme are a little more sinister than you think.

Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down
And broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up got Jack, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper
He went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.

When Jill came in
How she did grin
To see Jack’s paper plaster;
Mother vexed
Did whip her next
For causing Jack’s disaster.

In a small town in Somerset called Kilmersdon, there is an actual hill, now called “Jack and Jill Hill,” that locals believe inspired the nursery rhyme. Their story involves a young couple–Jill, a local spinster, and Jack, her mysterious lover. 

In  this version of events, Jill becomes pregnant by Jack and the couple is overjoyed. But when Jack goes up the hill to collect some water, he is tragically killed by a dislodged boulder. Jill then dies of a broken heart shortly after, and the small town of Kilmersdon banned together to raise Jack and Jill’s son together. Today, there are six stone markers that line the hill, each with one verse from the poem. At the top of the hill, there is a well and a plaque dedicated to Jack and Jill as well as two tombstones. 

In this Old Norse Myth, the moon, referred to as Mâni, steals two children, Hjuki and Bill, from Earth. The kidnapping happens as the two children are collecting water from a well. It is believed that the story was told to young children to try and prevent them from going out alone after dark. It is hypothesized that, over time and many reiderations of the tale, Hjuki became Jack and Bill became Jill. 

While this is one possible origin of the nursery rhyme, it doesn’t account for the verse in which the children come tumbling down. Furthermore, others hypothesize that the old Norse myth actually refers to the waxing and waning cycles of the moon and its impact on the tides. 

Hjuki and Bill

One popular interpretation of the rhyme is that it tells the story of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.


King Louis XVI was beheaded (lost his crown) during the Reign of Terror. Shortly after, Marie Antoinette was also beheaded (came tumbling after). Although the story seems to fit quite well, some have pointed out that the earliest known printing of the rhyme actually predates the events of the Reign of Terror, casting doubt on this interpretation. 

A painting of Marie Antoinette the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill May really be about

The truth is that no one knows for sure what the origins of the famous nursery rhyme truly are. And we may never know where the story of Jack and Jill originates. 

However, one thing is for sure, the seemingly benign and cheerful nursery rhyme seems to refer to events that are quite a bit darker then you would expect for a children’s story. This may be fitting as nursery rhymes were a way for adults to keep their children informed and aware of the darker realities of the world in a way that they could understand. So, Jack & Jill was a cautionary tale meant to teach young children an important lesson. However, exactly what lesson remains a mystery to this day. Which is much the same as this next nursery rhyme.

The origin of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is down right freaky. Most people trace this rhyme back to the cells of Wakefield prison in England. Though the exact date can’t be determined, the prison is over 400 years old and housed exclusively women prisoners during its duration. The song is a reference to the execution grounds in the prison being located by a Mulberry bush.

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning

This is the way we wash our face
Wash our face
Wash our face
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning

This is the way we brush our teeth
Brush our teeth
Brush our teeth
This is the way we brush our teeth
On a cold and frosty morning

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning

This is the way we comb our hair
Comb our hair
Comb our hair
This is the way we comb our hair
On a cold and frosty morning

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning

This is the way we put on our clothes
Put on our clothes
Put on our clothes
This is the way we put on our clothes
On a cold and frosty morning

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
The mulberry bush
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning

Inmates would sing this song on their way to execution. This is one hell of a sick song for little children to sing. What’s wrong with us? Actually, that’s nothing compared to…..

Ring Around the Rosie

When you think of sinister nursery rhymes, this is probably the one that comes to mind for most people. This song, sung while holding hands and dancing in a circle, seems a little weird out of context, but in context, it’s downright dark.

Ring-a-ring-a-rosies
A pocket full of posies
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down
The king has sent his daughter
To fetch a pail of water
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down
The robin on the steeple
Is singing to the people
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down
The wedding bells are ringing
The boys and girls are singing
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down

What is that context? Well, most academics agree, that the song refers to the symptoms of bubonic plague otherwise known as the Black Death, which arrived in England in 1348, and is estimated to have killed more than 7 million people. The song verses refer to the rashes, the smell of decay, and ultimately “we all fall down.” Pretty dark stuff.

Ring Around the Rosie

That’s all for now. Hopefully you enjoyed learning the origins of these famous nursery rhymes. I know the next time I hear one I won’t feel the same way as before. There’s some things it may be better not knowing.

Thoughts?