Yes, you got that right. Nursery rhymes are not as harmless as we would like to think. All of us grew up with these being recited to us and many of us still recall singing 3 Blind Mice and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary among many popular others. Sure, we think that by singing and teaching them to youngsters, we teach them language and incorporate some moral values. Yet not many of us have sat down to contemplate what message we are sending through those seemingly innocent rhymes.
True, you must be wondering why the sudden shift into nursery rhymes? Well, I was just thinking about the countless essays I've written about the cause of society's ills known in Bahasa Melayu as 'gejala sosial'. I'm sure we are all very familiar with it (especially school going students). First on the list are the parents, followed by the school, than wagging the finger at the media, peers and of course the individual's lack of moral fibre. It's such a common topic that many of us would just roll our eyes and tend to write it out without paying much attention to what we're penning down. Well, I was pursuing the line of thought that a good deal of who we are has been molded since childhood. And what are we fed daily when we were them icky little boo boos?
After rereading my Big Book of Nursery Rhymes, I have concluded that nursery rhymes are highly violent and totally unsuitable for those under the age of 13. Here are some well-known examples.
Firstly, the famous lullaby.
Hush a bye baby, on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
Just imagine the scene, this baby was sleeping peacefully on top of a tree ( it was the practice of some Native Americans to place a baby in the branches of a tree allowing the wind to gently rock the child to sleep). And then suddenly, what happens? The baby falls?! The vivid image of a gruesome death lingers in my mind.
What else? How about Humpty Dumpty (who incidentally was not an egg as assumed by the general public but was actually a cannon)?
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!
Are we saying to the child then that if you make a mistake, it's too bad for you? And that no one, not even the King himself will get you out of that mess? What utter rubbish.
How about this one?
Hush, little baby, don't say a word
Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird
If that mockingbird don't sing
Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring
What a way to raise a spoilt child. Wail and scream, you might just get a diamond ring.
If you think these are bad, wait until I post up these few examples I found. As I did some more in depth research, I was appalled by the fact that many nursery rhymes are seeped with bloodshed and gore.
*Source from http://www.rhymes.org.uk/index.htm