Let me be the first to admit that I am artfully dark. I love reading Poe, will watch or read anything related to the Salem Witch Trials, and find the biographies of Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison to be tragically interesting. Otherwise, I’m Emily Post and Donna Reed rolled into one. (I’m not really weird. Just a little artsy.)

And yet, there are lullabies and nursery rhymes that make me wonder why in the world we sing them to our children.

I’m sure many of you have wondered about “Rock-a-Bye, Baby.” A baby is sleeping in a tree , the wind blows, and the kid takes a frightening tumble to the ground. Does the baby get injured? Perhaps not, but it’s implied. What a scary story for a small child! There is some debate as to whether this one is an allusion to Native American tribes who used to put their babies in something like a sling and tie them in trees, or a famous war hero’s child who was killed when he fell out of a tree. Either way, ugh!

The song that gets me the most, though, is a lullabye called “All the Pretty Little Horses.” The first verse is benign enough, promising a team of pretty horses to a child if he or she will go to sleep. OK, fine. The second goes a little something like this:

Down in the meadow lies a poor little lambie

Bees and butterflies picking at its eyes

Poor little thing is crying, “Mammy!”

I don’t know about you, but I find that rather disturbing! This song is on one of Madeline’s lullabye cd’s. I know it hasn’t affected her sleep at all, but it sure kept me up one night. I was afraid to go to sleep because that is one scene I do not want hauting my dreams!

Nursery rhymes are just as creepy. The farmer’s wife severs the tails of three visually-impaired vermin with a carving knife. We all know about “Ring Around the Rosy.” An old woman who lives in a shoe refuses to give her children any bread and then beats them before they go to sleep. The pumpkin eater’s wife is reportedly an allusion to a cuckolded man forcing his wife to wear a chastity belt. How did that ever become appropriate for a children’s rhyme?? And, why exactly are those three men in one tub?

Am I overthinking this? Am I the only one who has wondered?

What about you, dear reader? Can you think of others?

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