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    17 Childhood Stories And Rhymes Are That Are Surprisingly Really Dark

    Why are nursery rhymes so full of death?

    1. "Jack and Jill"

    "Jack fell down and broke his crown,
    And Jill came tumbling after."

    At face value, this is about two kids who get into an accident while doing their chores, which isn't great nursery rhyme material. But if that isn't dark enough for you, people have interpreted this rhyme as being based on King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were beheaded during the French Revolution.

    2. "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary"

    Macmillan / The Book Palace

    "How does your garden grow?
    With silver bells and cockle shells
    And pretty maids all in a row."

    Cute, right? Well, no — this rhyme is based on Bloody Mary, who was notorious for torturing Protestants in the 16th Century. Silver bells, cockle shells, and pretty maids aren't garden ornaments, they're said to be torture tools.

    3. "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"

    Classic Books / Amazon

    "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
    I don't know why she swallowed a fly — perhaps she'll die!
    There was an old lady who swallowed a horse...
    She's dead, of course!"

    Okay, there's no creepy backstory to this one, but it's still pretty dark. If you remember — the old lady swallows a spider to catch a fly, then goes down a slippery slope, ultimately swallowing a horse, and then dying. WTF?!

    4. "It’s Raining, It’s Pouring"

    Rob Gilbert / Charlesbridge / Amazon

    Remember this cute little rhyme about an old man who had a little snooze in the rain?

    "He bumped his head and went to bed
    and couldn't get up in the morning."

    He couldn't get up in the morning because he died.

    Warner Bros. Television / HBO

    5. "Three Blind Mice"

    Dreamworks Pictures

    Shrek might have fooled us into thinking these blind mice got off easily, but don't forget these lines:

    "They all ran after the farmer's wife,
    Who cut off their tails with a carving knife."


    6. "Hansel And Gretel"

    A story about a witch who likes to cook abandoned children in her oven sounds more like the plot of a horror movie than a fairytale for 5-year-olds. There's a happy ending, but did it need to get so dark?

    7. "Rock-a-Bye, Baby"

    Florence Choate / Walmart

    "When the bough breaks,
    the cradle will fall.
    Down will come baby,
    Cradle and all."

    I bet someone sang this to you at least once, but I don't think a lullaby that ends with the baby falling out of a tree is that relaxing.

    8. "This Little Piggy Went to Market"

    "This little piggy went to market,
    This little piggy stayed home,
    This little piggy had roast beef,
    This little piggy had none,
    And this little piggy cried 'wee wee wee' all the way home."

    As fun as this rhyme is, I don't think the little pig went to market to do a bit of shopping — I think it was more of a meat market situation...

    9. "The Little Match Girl"

    Puffin Books / Amazon

    This is a tale about a little girl who sells matches in the heart of winter. Every time she lights a match she has a dream about warm clothes and tasty food. Sounds heartwarming, right? You might not remember the ending where she lights her final match and then DIES.


    10. "Oranges and Lemons"

    Agnes Rose Bouvier /

    You probably played along to this catchy rhyme back in primary school, and most of it is pretty lighthearted. Apart from the last couple of lines:

    "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, and here comes a chopper to chop off your head."


    11. "Little Red Riding Hood"

    Where do I start with this one? First, a big bad wolf eats Red's sick granny, then he eats her, and then an axeman slices said wolf open to rescue them. Why were we told this story as kids?!

    12. "The Pied Piper Of Hamelin"

    A creepy mysterious man who lures kids away from their families — who thought this was a good idea for a kid's story?

    The CW

    13. "Sing a Song of Sixpence"

    This rhyme seems to be all fun and games — a cute little story about baking a pie. That is, until the very end:

    "The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
    When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose."


    14. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier"

    Sophie Allsopp / Templar / Post Script

    This story is classed as a fairy tale, but the ending is more of a tragedy. To summarize: a one-legged toy soldier and a ballerina doll fall in love, but they're met with jealous sabotage from all the other toys. Do they manage to overcome it? Nope, they both end up falling into a fire.

    15. "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son"

    Frederick Richardson / The Philadelphia Print Shop

    "Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
    Stole a pig, and away he run,
    The pig was eat,
    And Tom was beat,
    And Tom ran crying down the street."

    There isn't a grim backstory, and no one dies in this one, but I still think it's unnecessarily violent for kid's rhyme...

    16. "The Gingerbread Man"


    Another story that starts out so promising — the little gingerbread man manages to escape the clutches of everyone he runs from, that is until he meets his demise at the hands of a fox. Dark stuff.

    17. "Jack and the Beanstalk"

    Ladybird Books / Amazon

    Finally, a story with a happy ending...for some. You know it well — poor Jack swaps his cow for beans and grows a beanstalk. He climbs it and finds a bunch of treasures, narrowly avoiding being crushed by a giant and his wife. I suppose it's a nice story... If you ignore the fact that Jack's a thief and a giant killer.

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