5 Nursery Rhymes That Are Actually Terrifying

Family Matters on 07.28.11
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This past Christmas, my daughter received a CD player for her room along with several CDs of children's music. She got everything from Ziggy Marley's Family Time and the Beatles' All You Need is Love to the Sesame Street soundtrack. As great as all of the CDs are (we listen to all of them more than is really humane), I felt something was missing: the classic nursery rhymes that have been around for generations! So, I set out on a quest to find what I was looking for.

I didn't have to look far. My local Target had a double-disc featuring 30 of the most popular nursery rhymes that were made a little bit different by the beats they used. While all the lyrics were still the same, these traditional rhymes were paired with hip-hop, techno, country and classical beats. Every genre is covered to spread her musical wings.

I saved the CD for a long road trip we had planned, and when we piled in the car, dog and all, I put the discs in and settled back for a few hours of catchy tunes I could sing along with. When the music started, I was surprised by three things: one, how after all these years, I could still remember the words to every single song; two, these songs really take on a different meaning when you listen to them again as an adult; and three, some of these nursery rhymes for children are downright scary.

In no particular order, here are the top five songs that sent a chill up my spine.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater


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 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!

I wonder what his wife did to offend him so. Did she run up the credit card bill by shopping too much? Or maybe she asked him to load the dishwasher one too many times? Maybe being a professional pumpkin eater didn't allow him the means to support a wife!

Lesson to the kids: When times get hard or your wife makes you angry, just get rid of her!

Billy Boy

holding hands

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Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been, Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she's the joy of my whole life
But she's a young thing and cannot leave her mother

On the outset, this might not seem like a terribly scary song, but it is. Anyone looking for a wife, should not be looking for a young girl that is not yet ready to leave her mother. Compound that with the fact that the male voice singing this song on our CD is very much a grown man, and the creep factor is through the roof.

Lesson to the kids: Pedophilia is A-OK as long as you marry the girl.

Three Blind Mice


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Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

This rhyme is inspired by the blood bath Queen Mary produced in her quest to rid England of all the Protestants. The visual alone of mice chasing me, blind or not, is enough to make me think I might reach for a carving knife myself. But maybe not the best story for a young child.

Lesson to the kids: Go ahead and take a whack at anything that is different than you are.

Georgie Porgie

kids kissing

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

George, George, George. Why do you have to make all the girls cry? It's just not nice. But to force yourself on them to boot? Tsk, tsk! They obviously don't want to have a make-out session with you, so back off.

Lesson to the kids: You can take advantage of a woman all you want, just be ready to run when someone your own size comes along.

Sing a Song of Sixpence


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Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

In the olden days, there was a common joke that the kings and queens of Europe spent their days counting their money and eating themselves silly, hence the rhyme in this song. But this little ditty goes on to include animal cruelty and abusing the help.

Lesson to the kids: When someone has more than you do, you should punish them for it, because it's just not fair.

Now, I don't really think that these are the lessons that children are taking away from the nursery rhymes. That's the beauty of children. They have an innocence about them that doesn't lend to the violence displayed in these nursery rhymes. They're simply fun songs to sing and dance to. Take Jack and Jill, for instance. When I was a child, I thought Jack really broke a plastic crown he was wearing on his head. I didn't realize until much later that he actually busted his head open. So, we will still get our groove on to the catchy tunes on our nursery rhymes CD, scary parts and all!

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