Monday, October 8, 2012

Nursery Rhymes & Folklore

Hey Diddle Diddle

Nursery rhymes with their sing-songey style are easy to remember. Maybe that’s why they’ve been so popular with children. They are catchy because the words and the melodies create a cadence that is pleasing. 

An oral tradition, most nursery rhymes were not written down until the 18th century, when the publishing of children's books began to be more commonplace.

Simple in nature, these folk poems have been an ideal way to convey information and can generally be identified as either a lullabye or game song, In all cases, the information varies from historical events to folk beliefs about love and marriage, and death.

For example,"Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" is believed to reference the slave trade. "London Bridge is Falling Down" recalls the burial of children in London. "Mama Zamanha Gaya" is an Egyptian rhyme about a child's mother coming home.

Lullabies are those used to help children go to sleep were lullabies. “Rock a Bye Baby” is a well-known example.

They are the  oldest children's songs and exist in every human culture. It is believed that the Roman nurses' lullaby, 'Lalla, Lalla, Lalla, aut dormi, aut lacte', may be the oldest to survive. 

Game songs are connected to particular games, including  clapping games like 'Miss Susie', and 'Mpeewa' played in parts of Africa. Unlike lullabyes, they are often sung by children and can have an educational element to them. Many traditional Maori children's games, such as hand movement, stick and string games, were accompanied by particular songs.

Some have suggested that skipping games and their related nursery rhymes could have been important in the formation of hip hop and rap music. 

Here are a few examples of nursery rhymes based upon history:

  • “Jack and Jill”: Louix XVI and Marie Antionette of France
  • “Mary,Mary Quite Contrary”: Mary, Queen of Scots
  • “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”:  14th century Black Death

1 comment:

  1. There’s a neat site for information on children’s songs. It has reviews, articles and other resources. Here’s the web address: