A Not So Turkish Life

Why are nursery rhymes so sad?

M’s proving himself to be my son through and through right now and left to his own devices you’ll find him either with his head in a book or his nose in the fridge and when he’s done with reading himself, he wants to sit and read with Mum. Consequently, we probably spend a minimum of two hours every day reading everything from The Grumpalump to Goodnight Moon and in-between those two are a hundred and one nursery rhymes. Have you ever noticed how so many nursery rhymes talk of people dying, hurting, getting lost or simply being sad? It’s crazy!

When we were little, my Mum used to read to us from a nursery rhyme book she’d had as a child. The first purchase I wanted to make when pregnant with M was a book tor replicate the magic I’d found inside this. It proved to be a lot harder than I thought – good nursery rhyme books are hard to find..recommendations, anyone? – but I eventually settled on The Puffin Baby and Toddler Treasury. It’s a lovely book, not quite as magical as the one I was after, a bit too modern perhaps, but has a nice mixture of short stories – Spot’s adventures, Tom Kitten, Billy Goats Gruff – short poems by A.A Milne et al and a wide selection of traditional nursery rhymes. The illustrations in the book are as varied as the content and I think it’s this variety which draws M back to the anthology again and again.

When you’ve read a book from cover to cover more times than you can count, and know off by heart the words which you recite, you start to actually listen to the words when you stop hearing the rhyme. In total, the book probably contains a minimum of ten rhymes of which the words talk of dying, falling, getting lost, being lonely. And there was me thinking nursery rhymes were meant to be sweetness and light! Take M’s current favourite, for example:

Humpty Dumpty

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the kings horses and all the kings men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Albeit Humpty is a personified egg, he’s still the character of this rhyme..and he falls down, cracks his head and dies. In “Ring a Ring O’ Roses”, all the kids fall down and die. In Jack and Jill, ok, Jack doesn’t die, but he still manages to “fall down and break his crown” or when it’s raining and the old man can’t get up in the morning…Little Miss Moffet is arachnophobic and Georgie Porgie has no friends at all!

I bet, were nursery rhymes made into movies, very few would be given a U rating, yet we read them over and over again to our babies as we sing them to sleep. Ah parenthood – a constant stream of never ending irony!

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This entry was published on 02/27/2012 at 10:23. It’s filed under Externalise and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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