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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day Three of the Truth Behind the Nursery Rhymes: Little Bo Peep/ Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater/ Itsy Bitsy Spider/ This Little Piggy

Nursery Rhymes were created for several different reasons. In past posts we learned that some were created to mark a certain gruesome period of in history or to commemorate something that has survived for years. Now, we see them being created to act as warnings to young children and women, or as educational tools for children...

Little Bo peep has lost her sheep
And doesn't know where to find them.
Leave them alone and they'll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.

Little Bo peep fell fast asleep
And dreamt she heard them bleating,
But when she awoke, she found it a joke,
For they were all still fleeting.

Then up she took her little crook
Determined for to find them.
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,
For they left their tails behind them.

It happened one day, as Bo peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by,
There she espied their tails side by side
All hung on a tree to dry.

She heaved a sigh, and wiped her eye,
And over the hillocks went rambling,
And tried what she could,
As a shepherdess should,
To tack again each to its lambkin.

The Little Bo Peep rhyme builds the picture of a young shepherdess and the advice given to her by someone more experienced! It is interesting that the name of Little Bo Peep was derived from the derivative of the words bleat and sheep! There is no specific relevance to events in history for the origins of the Little Bo Peep rhyme. The morale of the words in the song are that one must take responsibility of falling asleep or face the consequences... The words of Little Bo Peep are quite interesting as they contain words that are an almost forgotten part of the English language. Words such as espied, hillocks and lambkin can all be found in the story of Little Bo Peep

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

This nursery rhyme also has its roots in America, unlike most that started in England. It was a different time back then for women, and for views on divorce, too, which is why this rhyme served to warn young girls about infidelity. Peter's wife was supposedly a harlot, and Peter's remedy for the situation was to kill her and hide her body in a giant pumpkin shell.

Itsy Bitsy spider climbing up the spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
Now Itsy Bitsy spider went up the spout again!

The lyric to the song "Itsy Bitsy Spider" create a finger rhyme for children. All children love trying to mimic the actions of Itsy Bitsy Spider song. The movements and actions of Itsy Bitsy Spider help children to improve their manual dexterity whilst repeating the words of the song. The name of the spider seems to vary but 'Itsy Bitsy spider' is believed to be the most popular version although in England Itsy Bitsy Spider is known as Incy Wincy spider! The history and origin of the Itsy Bitsy spider rhyme cannot be traced, it is believed just to be a fun finger rhyme that has survived the test of time.

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

The words for "This little piggy" nursery rhyme are used to point out each one of the child's toes! The last line in "This little piggy" is used to accompany the child being tickled by the narrator of the poem! This rhyme is extremely popular which ensures that it will be passed from generation to generation. The first publication date for the words and lyrics for this nursery rhyme was in 1728.

Original information and images can be found at...
http://www.rhymes.org.uk/, and Bing images.


  1. I'm happy that 'Insy Wincy Spider' wasn't muderous and horrific! I was very surprised about Peter, Peter, pumkin eater - who ever thought of that rhyme must have been a little crazy!

  2. I didn't know Little Bo Peep had more than 2 verses:) My kids loved This little Piffie when they were little and I had to do it millions of times for each:) I miss those days.

    Do you have a email subscription, would love to get your post via email. I didn't see one

    Keep up the great posts!

  3. I meant This little Piggie sorry about the typo

  4. You meant to say "moral" and not "morale" regarding Bo Peep.

    I think the Little Piggies is still accurate in meaning today. Whenever I see it "performed," it's usually associated with someone's toes (just watch some Bugs Bunny cartoons).

  5. dtwilight...That's what I was thinking. At least there were some nursery rhymes that weren't all doom and gloom. And, yes, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-eater is shocking!

    The Adventurer...I noticed that too. This websites has so many more lines on certain nursery rhymes than I ever thought.

    Yes, I do have a subscription gadget. It's located at the top of the left hand sidebar. Just drag your cursor over the gadget and a big box pops up. Then, you can choose email. :)

    Matt...Yeah, I see that. This is all actually copy and pasted directly off of one of those websites. That's why I posted the link at the bottom. Anyway, I looked it up and according to some of the "Morale" definitions, such as, "moral principles, teachings, or conduct," the word is used correctly.

    Yes, I would completely agree with the original meaning of Little Piggies is still relevent today. Probably why it has survived for so long.

  6. Is it, now? You learn something new.

  7. Stopping by via the Wednesday Hops to say hello.
    Come on by if you are able to.

  8. Matt...I know. I didn't know that either. It's fun to learn new things.

    msposhb...Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I love etymology. I'm considering studying a bit of linguistics, especially the nature of words and their histories.

  10. This was soo neat i loved it!!! Nursery rhymes are so interesting!! Thanks for stopping by and reminding me, you exist... hopefully our feeds with iron themselves out cause I have the same problem :)

  11. this is honestly the most interesting blog post I have ever read. Thanks!!

  12. I just read all three of your nursery rhyme posts and I am wondering if I will ever teach another nursery rhyme again! I knew one or two were bad, but I had no idea how many were about death, dismemberment, and adultery! Yikes! Yay for the little spider!


  13. Matt...I had a few classes that covered some of that content. It certainly is interesting.

    Eschelle...lol. No problem. Yeah, the dashboard is being a little bit of a brat. There are at least 3 blogs I have found that it does not tell me what is happening! I don't like it.

    Sarah...AWESOME! I'll take it. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

    Carla...I know. Scary, huh? And I was like, "These are for children?" It's crazy.

  14. Nursery rhymes are really interesting. It took me some time to realize that the melody from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is the same melody from A,B,C,D,E,F,G... LOL!! When I tell people that they are baffled because they never realized it. Back to your post I love that you shared all the versus, I never knew those existed!!!

    You're the bomb diggity Aubrie ;)


  15. Katie...OH MY! I didn't realize that either! How funny is that!? I'm going to have to tell some people that and see how many knew it. I'm flabbergasted!

  16. I think I had realized that some time ago, too.

    But then again, as a child I discerned that the wedding theme sounded like a faster version of the funeral elegy.

  17. Matt...Is that really true? If so, that's terribly morbid.

  18. Play the first three bars of each in your head. They're not really the same song, but have a similar opening.

  19. I have always known about some of the nursery rhymes and their origins. I even think many of the tales we read as kids like the Brother Grimm tales were originally horror stories( you should try and check out the original graphics/ illustrations of the earlier books).

    We have our own version (native tongue) for many of the rhymes now and fortunately all of them are kid friendly with similar tune to the original.

  20. I believe that the little piggie rhyme is actually about pig farmers fattening pigs up to slaughter them.

  21. I'm very flattered that you chose to use my Little Piggies photoshop picture for your blog. I worked on it quite a bit, expecting nothing more than a thank you if someone used it. If anyone is interested, they can find the original picture here: http://www.pxleyes.com/photoshop-picture/4a3c7f1f0afd7/This-Little-Piggy---.html

    IDt8r (Cheryl Hill) Under Appreciated Artist

  22. Wen I was in Denmark 40 years ago I picked up a book of local poems. One of them was "to the tune of Lille Peder Adderkopf," also known as the itsy bitsy spider. This becomes even more interesting when you consider that Tolkein's Bilbo Baggins insults the giant spiders by calling them Adderkop as he makes his escape from them while rescuing his companions.


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