Why are the old children's songs and lullabies so morbid and violent?

I have a CD that I play on the way to work. My daughter (3) loves it. There was an old woman who lived in a show. Rock a Bye Baby, the usuals. Well, listening to them, I saw that many of them had themes that were kind of morbid - beating children, not feeding children if they act naughty, baking blackbirds in pies, babies falling out of carriages.

Anyone know the history of any of these?

15 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    I actually wrote an abnormal psychology paper about this in college, wish I still had it for reference. According to a book that I used as my source, fairy tales were never meant to be soothing and fun for children. Fairy tales were created in order to teach children life lessons at an early age. Fairy tales were suppose to search as bedrock for the child's moral development, therefore they may come off as harsh to us today given the sheltered nature our society has created for children. My paper was about how these tales can actually have an adverse effect on the children, creating psychology problems instead of enriching the child's moral development. I've posted some book titles below for further reading on the topic. I only used the Intro. to the psy. of fairy tales for my paper but I can't find the other book that I used.

    Source(s): An introduction to the psychology of fairy tales / by Marie-Louise von Franz Fairy tales and children : the psychology of children revealed through four of Grimm's fairy tales / Carl-Heinz Mallet ; translated by Joachim Neugros Fairy tales and the art of subversion : the classical genre for children and the process of civilization / Jack Zipes Terrors of childhood in Grimms' fairy tales / W.G. Kudszus The hard facts of the Grimms' fairy tales / Maria Tatar
  • 3 years ago

    Childhood Lullabies

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    acutally ring around the rosies was about the black death

  • 1 decade ago

    Yeah, I heard "Ring around the rosies" was originated when Hitler burned thousands of Jews and threw their ashes into the air. Wierd.

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  • 1 decade ago

    they were made up to use as scare tactics to make kids do what they were told.

    if you google each lullabye, you could probably find out how each one came to be and why it was used.

  • 1 decade ago

    probably just like everything parents try to do to kids when they are young, try to scare them to do the right thing. Kids nowadays are smarter and dont fall for the same thing. Same reason the whole "dont take candy from strangers" thing died. They had to come up with a new way of doing things. No matter what age they are 3, 6 or 14, parents all ways had these scary stories. The only difference is before kids use to listen them to them all the way up to their teens, now teenagers dont listen to anything but the internet and tv.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Jack and Jill - The French (history) connection!

    The roots of the story, or poem, of Jack and Jill are in France. Jack and Jill referred to are said to be King Louis XVI - Jack -who was beheaded (lost his crown) followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette - Jill - (who came tumbling after). The words and lyrics to the Jack and Jill poem were made more acceptable as a story for children by providing a happy ending! The actual beheading occurred in during the Reign of Terror in 1793. The first publication date for the lyrics of Jack and Jill rhyme is 1795 - which ties-in with the history and origins. The Jack and Jill poem is also known as Jack and Gill - the misspelling of Gill is not uncommon in nursery rhymes as they are usually passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    That is a very good question! I read this about the Rock a Bye lullaby:

    "Originally titled 'Hushabye Baby', this nursery rhyme was said to be the first poem written on American soil. Although there is no evidence as to when the lyrics were written, it may date from the seventeenth century and have been written by an English immigrant who observed the way native-American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep."

    And I know that "Ring Around the Rosie" was about the black plague. But I don't really know much more than that...Sorry.

  • 1 decade ago

    I agree that they can be pretty morbid. Here is a site that lists nursery rhymes, lyrics, history and origin. It's pretty interesting!


  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    there's history behind all of those morbid songs.

    rock-a-bye baby - This song is related to a Native American tradition. A long time ago Native Americans put their babies in a papoose (kind of like a backpack today), and hung them a nearby tree while they worked. They could see, hear and tend to the baby as needed. They hung them in the tree to keep them off the ground and away from animals. If the bough were to break, down would come baby.

    ring around the rosies - was about the bubonic plague.

    People used to carry posies in their pockets, thinking it would ward off the disease. 'Ashes ashes, we all fall down' refers to the mass burning of infected corpses and people dying.

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