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Monday, January 31, 2011

Day One of the Truth Behind the Nursery Rhyme Week: Humpty Dumpty/ Ring Around the Rosy

We have all seen or heard a nursery rhyme before, and, perhaps, we have recited one ourselves out of joy, at night before going to bed, or with our friends on the playground. But, did we really understood what it meant? Here's the history of some of the most famous nursery rhymes in all the world...

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the King's Horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This has given rise to various, but inaccurate, theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the 'Alice through the looking glass' novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme!

Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon!  It was used during the English Civil War (1642 - 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 - 27 Aug 1648). Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid to siege by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). In 1648 the town of Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. Standing immediately adjacent the city wall, was St Mary's Church. A huge cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St Mary's Church. The historical events detailing the siege of Colchester are well documented - references to the cannon ( Humpty Dumpty) are as follows:
  • June 15th 1648 - St Mary's Church is fortified and a large cannon is placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson'
  • July 14th / July 15th 1648 - The Royalist fort within the walls at St Mary's church is blown to pieces and their main cannon battery  ( Humpty Dumpty) is destroyed.
  • August 28th 1648 - The Royalists lay down their arms, open the gates of Colchester and surrender to the Parliamentarians
A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. However, because the cannon, or Humpty Dumpty, was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!' This had a drastic consequence for the Royalists as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks. Earliest traceable publication 1810.

Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes"
We all fall down!


This rhyme dates back to the Great Plague of London in 1665. The symptoms of bubonic plague included a rosy red ring-shaped rash, which inspired the first line. It was believed that the disease was carried by bad smells, so people frequently carried pockets full of fresh herbs, or "posies." The "ashes, ashes" line is believed to refer to the cremation of the bodies of those who died from the plague.

Original information and images can be found at...

62 comments:

  1. I knew about "Ring Around the Roses," but certainly not about "Humpty Dumpty." Good find!

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  2. This is fascinating, thank you for posting this information! I am following you from Mailbox Monday, and will enjoy reading more from you!

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  3. I knew about them both, but still I find it very fascinating. I heard about this last year in class and boy was I surprised! I never knew people could make well known Nursery Rhymes and yet they're based on actual events - I honestly thought that they were made up on the spot. My teachers daughter actually did a debate on Nursery Rhymes. I forgot what side she was on, but some people thought it was alright to have them, because kids don't know anything about it!
    The past is a very fascinating and canon filled place!

    -p.s. I didn't know that Humpty Dumpty smoked cigars!

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  4. I didn't know this about Humpty Dumpty. It is always great to learn more history. Thanks for sharing!
    Mira

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  5. Eeew! I didnt find out about Ring Around the Rosy until I was a mom for about 3 years or so and I was horrified! There I was, hosting playdates and teaching these things to my kids & my friends' kids. Sheesh! That was when I also learned the story behind Eeny Meeny Miny Mo - truly shocking!

    BTW, I love when you post these types of things! I love learning it and it is something very unique to your blog! :)

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  6. I think the most surprising one is "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary."

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  7. Matt...Do not give anything away! I am doing Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary tomorrow! Also, I knew about Ring Around the Rosy before as well, but not Humpty Dumpty. I feel like I am learning so much this week!

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  8. Some of those rhymes I'd never heard before. Speaking of "rhymes," I've always wanted to do a film adaptation of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

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  9. Jules...Thank you. I am happy that you found it so interesting. I like strange things like this, and a good dive into history so I figured it might be interesting for others as well. also, thank you for following!

    dtwilight...Yes, it is crazy how long some of these rhymes have survived. Like Humpty Dumpty is 200 years old!!! It's crazy! PS. I didn't know he smoked either. lol. This si the pic they had on the website where I found the information.

    Mira...No problem. I'll be doing this all this week. :)

    Sofia...I know! It's almost creepy to see little kids singing these things now, but I figure it is ok because they don't know the real history behind it. PLUS! Tons of nursury rhymes are actually warnings to children. I'll post more throught this whole week and you will see. :)

    Matt...Are you on the original websites or something? There is a short film of the Mariner on YouTube, but as far as I know there is no full length feature. It could be interesting.

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  10. i live in the UK and knew about the Ring around the Posie song but not Humpty Dumpty. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing I love knowing little interesting tidbits of life:)

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  11. Oh that is pretty cool. The history nerd in me loves this stuff!

    I am a new follower from Mommy Monday. I hope you will have a moment to visit me at
    http://socialstudiesmomma.blogspot.com/

    Have a blessed week!

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  12. Who knew Humpty was so sinister haha! What a fun post- I'm glad to have found your blog, it kept me interested which is quite a task with my attention deficits :)
    Cheers!
    Meri
    merigoesround.blogspot.com

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  13. wow, this is actually kind of sad.. I never knew this and it really puts these songs in to perspective for me!! Though I will just keep this info to myself and not share it with any of the children in my family! Good post! stopped over via FTLOB.. Happy Blogging!

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  14. I love history so this is so interesting to me, thanks so much for posting it! I love your blog and will definitely be back!

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  15. Last year I read the Oxford Encyclopedia of Nursery Rhymes thinking it would be interesting. It was so boring and I'd never heard most of the rhymes. Thanks for this much more interesting information!

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  16. Fascinating! I didn't know anything about the first rhyme, but actually did know about the second. Cool!

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  17. I love this thanks for sharing! I can't wait to read what else you have for the week. I recite these to my daughter but i never actually knew the meaning behind them. It's actually pretty morbid lol

    http://myadventures-in-mommyland.blogspot.com/

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  18. The Adventurer...No problem. I like the little tid bits too. Almost more than knowing the big stuff.

    Matt...Oh, okay.

    Social Studies...I've got a history nerd in me too. Finding this stuff is like finding $20 in my pocket! Also, thanks for finding me and for following!

    Meri...I am happy it has caught your eye and I look forward to having you around. There will be more tomorrow!

    CityGirlChic...Yes, definately not something to tell the little ones, at least not while they still enjoy them. It might ruin it for them too early. Thanks for following!

    Shalyn...Thank you and I look forward to having you back. It's always nice to have new input from interesting people.

    Michelle...I can see how that would sound interesting. I wonder why they wouldn't have the histories in it as well. Oh well, at least you can read about it here. I'm glad you find it interesting.

    Jo...Yes, I think the second one is more common knowledge so I wanted to get it out there first so you can really enjoy the others that are hopefully a bit more obscure. I love informing people of strange things that they have never heard of before!

    Mommy...Yes, definately very morbid and there is more morbidity to come I am afraid (Just check out tomorrow's post. I think it is the WORST!) More to come all this week!

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  19. heya i am currently doing a project on nursery rhymes any websites or information would be helpful at all if you could please email me at

    MissRNursery@hotmail.co.uk

    many thanks Miss R

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  20. Anonymous/Miss R...I'm sending you an email with a bit of information. Good luck on your project.

    Also, the links to all the websites I used for pictures and research are located at the end of each of these posts about the truth behind the nursery rhymes.

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  21. There are *so* many things and people debunking the Ring Around The Rosie story... Maybe reading more then one website would unearth these?

    http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/rosie.asp

    ReplyDelete
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  55. It's not that ppl believed bad smells carried disease so they carried bouquets...ppl did not bathe as we do and so they smelled. If you look the Victorians created ornate metal poses holders they could attach to their clothing, close to their faces, for the purpose of masking unpleasant body odors. Before this ppl used flowers the same way for the same reasoning but with a difference as rotting bodies reek! Flowers or poseys (posies?) masked the sickly sweet smell of rotting corpses as they could not bury or cremate them in a timely manner as there were so many victims.

    ReplyDelete
  56. It's not that ppl believed bad smells carried disease so they carried bouquets...ppl did not bathe as we do and so they smelled. If you look the Victorians created ornate metal poses holders they could attach to their clothing, close to their faces, for the purpose of masking unpleasant body odors. Before this ppl used flowers the same way for the same reasoning but with a difference as rotting bodies reek! Flowers or poseys (posies?) masked the sickly sweet smell of rotting corpses as they could not bury or cremate them in a timely manner as there were so many victims.

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