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The Sphinx

The Student News Site of Carterville High School

The Sphinx

The Student News Site of Carterville High School

The Sphinx

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The Real Bedtime Story

The Dark Truth of Nursing Rhymes
Nevaeh McClellan
A father is reading nursery rhymes to his daughter. As he is reading to her, it is slowly revealing things that happened in our history. (Photo was created using Canva).

Whether in school or at home with parents/grandparents, many people had a nursery rhyme song to them as a child before closing their eyes and going to their dreamland. 

Once upon a time, the whimsical world of words and melodies is nestled between the folds of history and fantasy, exiting the charming kingdom of Nursery Rhymes. This enchanting realm, familiar to the ears of children and the hearts of adults, harbored secrets and stories deeper and darker than its harmonious surface suggested. So, dear reader, hold onto the feeling and questions by diving into the world where melodies meet mysteries, and nursery rhymes reveal their hidden depths. 

Many people have heard of London Bridge, right? Well, when asked if anyone had their parents sing them this nursing rhyme, Carterville High School (CHS) freshman Kade Waldron said, “Yes, my mother used to sing me the London Bridge nursing rhyme.”

Let’s go into more detail about the dark truth behind this specific nursery rhyme. This rhyme’s origin is thought to have historical ties to the frequent rebuilding and collapse of London Bridge throughout history. According to an article, “,” there were bodies of children buried under the bridge’s foundation as a superstitious ritual to keep it standing. The line “Build it up with silver and gold” may refer to the costly efforts to maintain the bridge. 

Another CHS student said, “My elementary teachers used to sing me the Muffin Man rhyme during our “nap times,” sophomore Sophia Rask.

The “Muffin Man”  refers to a man named Fredrick Thomas Linwood who lived on the Drury Line. According to a newspaper article, Medium, “was the first known serial killer in England. The Muffin Man would make his deliveries just like other bakers, but he would lure children away from their homes by playfully tying a string to, a muffin and pulling it away from the steps where the parcel lay.

The kids, likely thinking this was a fun game, would chase the muffins, which led to The Muffin Man’s bakery, where he would kill the children. But not before torturing them. The “Muffin Man” did not appreciate the fierce competition in his surrounding neighborhoods. So he murdered seven other bakers, or so the tales go.

Lastly, a favorite nursery rhyme by all is “Ring-Around the Rosie.” According to CHS junior Chen Zhang, “Ring Around the Rosie has always been one of my favorite nursery rhymes because it has such an interesting origin.”

One of the most popular theories suggests that “Ring Around the Rosie” is linked to the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666. According to this theory, the rhyme’s lyrics symbolize the symptoms and progression of the bubonic plague. The “Rosie” refers to the rosy rash that was a symptom of the plague, “pocket full of posies” refers to the practice of carrying herbs or flowers to ward off the smell of the disease, “ashes, ashes” symbolize the burning of infected bodies, and “we all fall” represents the high mortality rate during the plague. 

Overall, many different nursery rhymes have an exciting background, most are to remind the younger generation about our history.

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About the Contributor
Nevaeh McClellan
Nevaeh McClellan, Newspaper Editor-in-Chief
Nevaeh McClellan is a junior at Carterville High School and is doing the best she can to push herself. She loves to take walks in the park and play video games with her friends.  This is Nevaeh's third year in High School Publications and is now an editor for the class. Some of her hobbies are drawing, painting, and bothering those around her for fun. She is hoping to go to college and become a veterinarian.