Dark Origins – Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard is a popular nursery rhyme but the words are not very child friendly. It is rather long so I am only sharing the first three verses here:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
When she came back
The dog was dead!

She went to the undertaker’s
To buy him a coffin;
When she came back
The dog was laughing.

As with most nursery rhymes, it is not possible to peg down its exact origins but I am going to share with you two quite different proposed origins, one being much darker than the other.

Old Mother Hubbard is purported to refer to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and his failure to obtain an annulment from the Pope of King Henry VIII of England’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The cupboard represents the Catholic Church, the dog represents King Henry VIII, and the bone, the coveted annulment.

Thomas Wolsey (1475 to 1530) was a cardinal and a statesman, Henry VIII’s lord chancellor and one of the last clergymen to play a dominant role in English political life.

Henry was desperate for a male heir and Catherine produced a daughter, Mary. He argued that his marriage to Catherine was not lawful and requested that Wolsey use his influence in Rome to get a papal annulment so that he could remarry.

However, Catherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, dominated the Pope at the time and Wolsey failed in his mission. This failure led to him being arrested in November 1530 and accused of treason. He died on 29 November 1530 on his way south to face trial.

Thomas Wolsey at Tudor court
Thomas Wolsey significantly enhanced Henry’s already strong sense of his sovereignty. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The other popular belief is that Old Mother Hubbard from the nursery rhyme was a retired housekeeper called Miss Sarah Catherine Martin. Miss Martin wrote and illustrated the poem in 1804, but whether or not it was about her own life is unknown. She worked as a housekeeper at Kitley House, the estate of Sir Henry Bastard in Yealmpton, and when she retired she occupied a lovely thatched stone and cob cottage nearby. The area abounds with legends about Sarah and Prince William Henry, a friend of Sir Bastard and a visitor to his estate.

Old Mother Hubbard's Cottage in Yealmpton, Devon
Picture Credit: Old Mother Hubbard’s Cottage which is now a Chinese restaurant in Yealmpton. https://www.picturesofengland.com/England/Devon/Yealmpton/Old_Mother_Hubbard’s_Cottage

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Some technical issues

Writing to be Read’s wonderful host, Kaye Lynne Booth, is experiencing some technical issues. Please be patient, she will be back on-line soon. In the meantime, posts by guest bloggers will continue as normal.

Have a great day!


Dark Origins – The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Anderson

Have you read the story of the red shoes? This is the one fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson’s that I had a lot of trouble understanding as a young girl.

Overview

The Red Shoes - Hans Christian Andersen
Picture credit: https://www.voyaprenderingles.com/readings/stories/red-shoes

Karen is a little girl whose family is so poor, she has to wear thick wooden shoes during the winter that chaff her feet and make them red and raw. During the summer months, she goes barefooted. A kindly shoemaker makes Karen a pair of shoes from old scraps of red cloth. The first time Karen wears these shoes is on the day of her mother’s burial. An elderly woman driving past sees the little girl walking after the coffin and takes pity on her. She offers to take Karen into her own home and raise her.

Karen believes her good luck is attributable to the red shoes and develops a passion for shoes in this colour. The elderly lady, whose eyesight is failing, takes Karen to buy a new pair of shoes to wear for her confirmation. The shoemaker and Karen collude so that she can acquire a lovely pair of red dancing shoes. The shoes take over Karen’s thoughts and she wears them to her confirmation, dwelling on her beautiful shoes the entire time. When she comes out of the church, still wearing the red shoes that are the talk of the congregation, an old soldier puts a curse on her shoes.

The elderly lady starts to ail and is dying and relies on Karen for her care. One evening Karen abandons her and goes to a ball wearing the red shoes. Once she starts to dance, she cannot stop and on and on she dances for days and days. Eventually, in desperation, she begs the village executioner to cut off her feet. He obliges and makes a pair of wooden feet for her and a pair of crutches. Karen returns to the church but the red shoes appear and bar her from entry.

In the end, Karen dies and goes to Heaven where no-one cares about her red shoes.

My thoughts

This is a strange and scary story. When I was a girl I attended a convent and went to mass every Sunday. This story often used to plague my mind when it came to confession and I confessed all sorts of strange ‘sins’ to the Father because I was so worried that I’d been vain and made to much of my dresses. I was very fond of pretty dresses.

As I grew older, I wondered why Hans Christian Anderson wrote such a condemning story about a young girl who liked pretty shoes. Research has subsequently led me to understand that the author grew up in a stern and conservative society which condemned dancing, drinking, playing cards, and the wearing of bright colours that drew attention to the wearer. Karen’s sin is not just her vanity about the red shoes, it is also her succumbing to the sin and allowing it to undermine her ethics and morality. Karen choses to dance and ignore her responsibilities towards her benefactor thereby overruling her understanding of what is right and wrong. Having given in to sin, there is no turning back and returning to the way things were before, and her only redemption is in death.

Quite a heavy topic for a fairy story, but then most of the fairy stories are based on dark realities.

Origin

The origin of this story is not as dark as the theme of the story itself. Anderson named the little girl after his own half-sister, Karen Marie Anderson, who he despised. His half-sister was the illegitimated daughter of his mother. She was not raised with Hans but boarded out. It is believed that at one point Karen became a prostitute and Anderson feared throughout his life that she would re-appear and embarrass him in his new wealthier position in life.

The story was based on an incident the author witnessed as a young lad. His father, a shoemaker, was sent a piece of red silk by a wealthy woman to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. His father used some of his own valuable red leather along with the red silk to make a lovely pair of shoes. The woman rejected them, saying they were awful and he’d spoiled her silk. Anderson’s father replied “In that case, I may as well spoil my leather too,” and he cut up the shoes in front of her.

Original Painting, Book Artwork for the story "The Red Shoes" from Hans  Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen: Good | Andrew  Cox PBFA
Picture credit: https://www.abebooks.com/Original-Painting-Book-Artwork-story-Red/22561631855/bd

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – London Bridge is Falling Down

Picture credit: https://speak-and-play-english.com/london-bridge-is-falling-down-lyrics-activities

I grew up playing a children’s game to the tune and lyrics of London Bridge is Falling Down. The game I played was similar to the actions for Oranges and Lemons which involves two players holding hands and making an arch with their arms for a single file line of players to walk under. At the end of the song the arch is lowered to ‘catch’ a player.

There are two dark hypothesis for the origins of this nursery rhyme.

The first hypothesis is that the rhyme relates to the supposed destruction of London Bridge in 1014 by the Olaf II Haraldsson, later known as Saint Olaf, who was the King of Norway from 1015 to 1028.

This supposition is derived from the translation of the Norse saga, the Heimskringla, by Samuel Laing in 1844 which includes a verse which is reminiscent of the common version of the London Bridge is Falling Down nursery rhyme as follows:

London Bridge is broken down. —
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing —
Odin makes our Olaf win!

However, this one verse is not corroborated by any other information or accounts.

The single surviving page known as the Kringla leaf (Kringlublaðið) is kept in the National and University Library of Iceland in Reykjavík. Picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimskringla

The second hypothesis relates to the practice of entombing someone within a structure due to the ancient belief that a human blood sacrifice would ensure the stability of the structure. This centuries-old practice is called immurement.

In the context of this nursery rhyme, the immurement is believed to be about starving children who were ‘buried alive’ as the Old London Bridge was built in the 1200s.

 It is thought children were 'buried alive' in the foundations of the Old London Bridge
It is thought children were ‘buried alive’ in the foundations of the Old London BridgeCredit: HULTON ARCHIVE – GETTY

A final option, is that the nursery rhyme alludes to the pair of fires that London Bridge suffered in 1633 and 1666. The first fire, significantly damaged the structure and weakened it. The Great Fire of London was different in that the bridge acted more like a fire break and stopped the fire from travelling into the south of London. With its 19 narrow arches, the bridge impeded river traffic and flow and structural changes were undertaken to upgrade it. These changes were not that successful and the bridge needed continuous and expensive repairs. In 1831 the New London Bridge was open and survived until it was replaced in 1972. The bridge was transported and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Extract from Through the Nethergate

One of the ghosts in my supernatural fantasy novel, Through the Nethergate, is immured. Katherine ran away from her life as a novice in Bungay Priory in 1376. When she was recaptured, she was immured in the walls of the Abbey of Coldingham. This is the relevant extract:

“What happened to you after you escaped? You must have died badly if you are a ghost?”

“I was caught,” Katharine said simply. She didn’t seem surprised by the question.

“My escape became the subject of a denunciation by the Bishop of Norwich, Henry le Despenser, and a consequent order from King Henry II for my capture. Once caught, I was to be forcibly returned to the priory.”

“That didn’t happen, did it?” said Margaret.

“No, I was caught and, when it was discovered that I was with child, I was immured.”

Margaret didn’t recognise the word “immured” and stared at Katharine blankly.

“A small niche was carved out of the wall in the Abbey of Coldingham, where I had been taken. I was given some food and water and then my grave was sealed.”

“If you died in Coldingham, why is your ghost attached to the ruins of Bungay Priory?”

Katharine’s pretty mouth drooped at the corners and her eyes dimmed as if a veil had descended over them. “At the time of my death, I was visited by a great black dog with fiery red eyes. He encouraged me to turn away from the White Light that was waiting for me and remain here on earth. I didn’t know that by choosing to remain, I would become trapped in the Overworld, between Heaven and the Underworld, for all eternity. My choice to walk the path of promised revenge resulted in my becoming enslaved to the black dog of Bungay. The black dog is excellent at
recruiting ghosts who die elsewhere but have a link to Bungay, and placing them in his power. He likes us all to stay near to his home, Bungay Castle.

“I have told you enough about me,” said Katharine, changing the subject. “This meeting has a purpose other than me telling you my life story. “The priory was founded by Countess Gundreda, in honour of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Cross, for nuns of the Benedictine order. It was built on land granted to the countess on her marriage to Hugh Bigod, First Earl of Norfolk. After Hugh’s death, the land was confirmed to her, and her second husband, Roger de Glanville,
by King Henry II.”

Here it is. The link between Hugh Bigod and the priory. But what does it matter if his descendants established the priory?

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Peter Pan, Lost Boys who are murdered and mermaids who are Sirens.

Most of us know the Disney version of Peter Pan featuring Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys. Oh, and Tinkerbell, of course.

I am not sure how many people have read the original play called Peter Pan or the boy who wouldn’t grow up, written by J.M. Barrie in 1904, but it is a far cry from the innocent tale presented by Walt Disney.

We know from the Disney film that Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up, but no mention is made of the extreme lengths Peter Pan is prepared to go to fight it.

Consider this extract: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.

To put it bluntly, Peter Pan kills the lost boys to keep them from aging. While the film presents the view that Peter Pan is seeking eternal youth, he is, in fact, obsessed with death. This characteristic is believed to come from J.M. Barrie’s own childhood experience of losing his brother, David.

According to an article in The Herald, six-year old Jamie Barrie was hugely impacted by the death of his older brother, David, at the age of fourteen. David was said to have died the day before his birthday when he was accidently knocked over by a friend while skating, and fractured his skull on the ice. The article speculates that the ‘friend’ was in fact, young Jamie and that he was rejected by his mother as a result of the accident. You can read more about it here: https://www.heraldscotland.com/default_content/12469608.tragedy-behind-neverland-jm-barrie-cause-brothers-death/

And then there are the mermaids…

In the original Peter Pan story, the mermaids who inhabit Neverland all live in the lagoon. They enjoy the company of Peter Pan but are malevolent to everyone else. The are extraordinarily beautiful and have amazing singing voices, but they are vain and unfriendly.

The mermaids spend their days playing in the rock pools and ocean around Marooners’ Rock and they retire to their coral cave homes beneath the waves at night and during high tide.

The mermaids change when the moon is out and transform into darker creatures. They utter and wail strange calls in the moonlight. Captain Hook is terrified of the mermaids, calling them the ‘loreleis’ and saying that the lagoon is the most treacherous place in Neverland. A lorelei is a siren of Germanic legend whose singing lures Rhine River boatmen to destruction on a reef.

Picture credit: https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q5397781

If you are interested in the true story behind Peter Pan and the life of J.M. Barrie, you can read more here: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/12/78880/peter-pan-jm-barrie-true-story

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Bluebeard

The fairytale of Bluebeard was the most scary one I can recall hearing or reading as a child. This story is featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics.

It this version of the story, Bluebeard’s bride is a teenage peasant girl named Josephine. She has been raised by her brothers who are woodworkers. In this version, Bluebeard, a wealthy widower with a blue beard, choses Josephine as his wife because she is beautiful, naïve and desires to marry a prince. The character design for Bluebeard strongly resembles that of the English King, Henry VIII, who had six wives, two of whom he beheaded. After the wedding, Bluebeard gives Josephine a key ring with all the keys to all the doors of his castle. He tells her that she must never use the golden key to open one of the doors.

Of course, Josephine’s curiosity gets the better of her and one day when Bluebeard leaves the castle on business, she opens the forbidden door. Behind the door she discovers the blood splattered remains of the former wives of Bluebeard, all of whom he’s murdered. Josephine is saved by her brothers before she can suffer the same fate as Bluebeards previous wives.

Blue Beard in Tales of Mother Goose (Welsh).png
Picture from Wikipedia

There are two possible sources for the story of Bluebeard.

The first theory is that the story of Bluebeard was based on the life of 15th-century convicted Breton serial killer, Gilles de Rais.

Gilles de Rais was a knight and lord from Brittany, Anjou and Poitou. From 1427 to 1435, he was a commander of the French army and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434 or 1435, Gilles retired from military life and became a spendthrift, staging extravagant theatrical productions of his own composition. In June 1435 his family persuaded King Charles VII to proclaim a royal edit preventing him from selling his property and from entering into contracts with any French subject.

In 1438, Gilles became involved in alchemy and demon summoning.

According to his confession at his trial in October 1440, de Rais said he committed his first child assaults in 1432 and 1433. The first murders occurred at de Rais’ castle in Champtocé-sur-Loire. Murders of an unknown number of children took place after de Rais moved to Machecoul. de Rais was believed to have sexually assaulted the children before killing them. The bodies were burned in the fireplace in de Rais’ room. The number of de Rais’ victims is believed to be between 100 and 200 children aged between 6 to 18 years old and predominately male.

He was executed by hanging and burning on Wednesday, 26 October 1440 along with his two accomplices, Poitou and Henriet.

Picture of the execution of Gilles de Rais from Wikipedia

Another possible source for the story of Bluebeard is early Breton king, Conomor the Accursed, who was notorious for his cruelty. According to the biography of St Gildas, a 6th century British monk, Tréphine married Conomor after he threatened to invade her father’s lands and kill his people.

While Conomor was away, Tréphine found a secret room containing relics of his deceased wives. She prayed for their souls and their ghosts appeared and warned her that Conomor will kill her if she becomes pregnant due to a prophecy that states he will be killed by his own son.

According to legend, Tréphine fled when she discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to her son, Trémeur, in the forest. She hides her son but Conomor finds her and beheads her. St Gildas restores her to life and she and her son live lives of saintly retirement until Tréphine dies. After her death, Conomor finds Trémeur and kills him.

Both Tréphine and Trémeur are deemed saints in Brittany and there are many churches dedicated to them.

Copy of St Tréphine from Wikipedia

Based on these two stories, I was quite right to be scared of Bluebeard when I was a child.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Do you know the nursery rhyme Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush?

I remember it from when I was a girl. The girls used to hold hands and dance in a circle singing the lyrics and doing the actions.

These are the first two stanzas of the most modern version:

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

This is the way we wash our face,
Wash our face,
Wash our face.
This is the way we wash our face
On a cold and frosty morning.

The rhyme was first recorded by James Orchard Halliwell, an English Shakespearean scholar, antiquarian, and a collection of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales, as an English children’s game in the mid-nineteenth century.

The song and associated game are traditional in England and different versions are found in Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

R.S. Duncan, a prison governor at HM Prison Wakefield in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England suggested that the nursery rhyme was about female Victorian prisoners exercising in the yard at Wakefield. A mulberry tree grew in the yard and women inmates would dance around the tree with their children and sing the song. The tree died in May 2019.

About the Victorian prison system

The Victorian prison system was created by men for men. Accommodation for women was usually an after thought and the penal system designed for them as generally a modified version of the men’s prison.

Women convicts were considered to need saving twice, firstly from their criminality and secondly from their deviance from expected female behaviour.

To this end, instead of being subjected to hard labour, women progressed through several disciplinary stages intended to put them on the path to reform. The stages were separate confinement for four months (men had to endure nine months of separate confinement), associated labour and, finally, a transfer to a female-only institution.

Prison authorities had to deal with pregnant and postpartum women. Lying-in wards and nurseries had to be created and the regulations relating to exercise, communication, and dietary provision had to be modified for such women.

 The rhyme refers to Victorian female prisoners at HMP Wakefield who would exercise around a mulberry tree
Picture credit: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/8356830/historic-stories-behind-nursery-rhymes/

Another possible interpretation of the rhyme is that it references Britain’s struggle to produce silk. Silkworms eat mulberry leaves and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain tried to emulate the success of the Chinese silk production industry. Britain’s cold winters with frost proved to be to harsh for the mulberry trees to thrive and this hampered the development of a successful silk production industry.

The lyrics: “Here we go round the mulberry bush / On a cold and frosty morning” are thought to be a joke about the difficulties experienced by the industry.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000. 

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins: The Sleeper, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe and my reading

1849 "Annie" daguerreotype of Poe
Picture of Edgar Allan Poe – Picture credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe

The Sleeper, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe takes as it subject a beautiful woman in death.

     At midnight in the month of June,
     I stand beneath the mystic moon.
     An opiate vapour, dewy, dim,
     Exhales from out her golden rim,
     And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
     Upon the quiet mountain top.
     Steals drowsily and musically
     Into the universal valley.
     The rosemary nods upon the grave;
     The lily lolls upon the wave;
     Wrapping the fog about its breast,
     The ruin moulders into rest;
     Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
     A conscious slumber seems to take,
     And would not, for the world, awake.
     All Beauty sleeps!—and lo! where lies
     (Her easement open to the skies)
     Irene, with her Destinies!

The speaker in the poem begins by describing the cemetery at midnight in the month of June. He observes the moon and notes the flowers that grow about the grave. At the end of the movement, he introduces the beautiful woman whom has died and whose grave is being prepared ready for her internment.

     Oh, lady bright! can it be right—
     This window open to the night?
     The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
     Laughingly through the lattice drop—
     The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
     Flit through thy chamber in and out,
     And wave the curtain canopy
     So fitfully—so fearfully—
     Above the closed and fringed lid
     ‘Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
     That o’er the floor and down the wall,
     Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
     Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
     Why and what art thou dreaming here?
     Sure thou art come p’er far-off seas,
     A wonder to these garden trees!
     Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
     Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
     And this all solemn silentness!

Irene is still lying on the bier in her room. The speaker can see her corpse through the window and watches the moving shadows on the wall and floor as the curtain of the canopy are blown about by the wind. The watcher is struck by her pallor, her strange dress, and her unusually long hair.

     The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
     Which is enduring, so be deep!
     Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
     This chamber changed for one more holy,
     This bed for one more melancholy,
     I pray to God that she may lie
     Forever with unopened eye,
     While the dim sheeted ghosts go by!

     My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
     As it is lasting, so be deep!
     Soft may the worms about her creep!
     Far in the forest, dim and old,
     For her may some tall vault unfold—
     Some vault that oft hath flung its black
     And winged pannels fluttering back,
     Triumphant, o’er the crested palls,
     Of her grand family funerals—
     Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
     Against whose portal she hath thrown,
     In childhood, many an idle stone—
     Some tomb from out whose sounding door
     She ne’er shall force an echo more,
     Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
     It was the dead who groaned within.

The speaker refers to Irene as being asleep and wishes for her sleep to be deep and for her not to be disturbed by on-going life such as children playing and throwing stones at the family sepulcher. The speaker calls Irene a “child of sin” but that holds no special significance. She is human and, therefore, is a child of sin.

Why did Poe write about women?

Throughout his life, virtually every woman Poe loved and who loved him died young.

His mother died before he was three years old and he was taken into the home of John Allan, a Richmond merchant who was presumed to have been his godfather. His foster mother died when he was in his late teens.

In 1835, when he was 27 years old, Poe married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, who was only 13. In 1842, Virginia became ill with tuberculosis and she died on the 30th of January 1847 at the age of 24.

VirginiaPoe.jpg
Virginia Clemm Poe – picture credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Eliza_Clemm_Poe

Why did Poe almost always write about women who died? It may have been because all the important women in his life died or he might have done it anyway. No-one will ever know.

Excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe’s letter to George W. Eveleth, Fordham, New York ,January 4, 1848 about his wife.

“Six years ago, a wife, whom I loved as no man ever loved before, ruptured a blood-vessel in singing. Her life was despaired of. I took leave of her forever & underwent all the agonies of her death. She recovered partially and I again hoped. At the end of a year the vessel broke again—I went through precisely the same scene. Again in about a year afterward. Then again—again—again & even once again at varying intervals. Each time I felt all the agonies of her death—and at each accession of the disorder I loved her more dearly & clung to her life with more desperate pertinacity. But I am constitutionally sensitive—nervous in a very unusual degree. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness I drank, God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink rather than the drink to the insanity. I had indeed, nearly abandoned all hope of a permanent cure when I found one in the death of my wife. This I can & do endure as becomes a man—it was the horrible never-ending oscillation between hope & despair which I could no longer have endured without the total loss of reason. In the death of what was my life, then, I receive a new but—oh God! How melancholy an existence.”

You can read more extracts of letters about Virginia Clemm Poe here: https://www.nps.gov/people/poe-virginiapoe.htm

My reading of The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000. 

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Winners of the WordCrafter A Ghost and His Gold Blog Tour giveaway

Thank you to everyone who supported the WordCrafter A Ghost and His Gold Blog tour which ran from Monday, 20 April to Friday, 24 April 2021.

If you missed any of the posts, you can find all of them listed in this post: https://writingtoberead.com/2021/04/24/day-4-wraps-up-the-2021-wordcrafter-a-ghost-and-his-gold-book-blog-tour/

The winners of the $10 Amazon gift vouchers are as follows:

Day 1 – Elizabeth Gauffreau

Day 2 – Annette Rochelle Aben

Day 3 – Staci Troili

Day 4 – Marsha Ingrao

Day 5 – Craig Boyack

The winners of the two paperback copies of A Ghost and His Gold are as follows:

Darlene Foster

Miriam Hurdle

The winners will have received a message from Roberta Eaton Cheadle to arrange for delivery of their prize.

Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Dark Origins – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a gothic story by American author, Washington Irving, and is included in a collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

Cover of The Sketch-Book by Washington Irving from Amazon US

The plot

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor

The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York. Sleepy Hollow is a secluded glen which is famous for its ghosts and haunting atmosphere.

Ichabod Crane moves to Sleepy Hollow to be the schoolmaster of the village. As was customary at the time, Ichabod earns practically no money, but is provided with lodgings and food on a rotational basis by the local farmers who are also the fathers of the boys he teachers. This arrangement, and the singing lessons he gives on the side, keeps him employed and also gives him numerous opportunities to listen to the many tales about ghosts, haunted spots and twilight superstitions shared by the farmers wives.

Ichabod is most fascinated by the story of the ghost of the Headless Horseman who is believed to be a Hessian soldier who lost his head when he was hit by a cannon ball during the Revolutionary War. The ghost has been seen riding near the church where he is believed to have been buried.

Katrina Van Tassel is one of Ichabod’s students and the beautiful daughter of one of the most successful of the farmers in the area. Ichabod comes to believe himself in love with her. He sets out to woo her but crosses swords with one of the other men in the village, Brom Van Brunt or Brom Bones. In order to scare off Ichabod, Brom resorts to trying to prank him.

One evening, Ichabod is travelling home late after a party at Katrina’s home. He is confronted by a rider with no head on his shoulders. The head is sitting on the saddle in front of the shadowy man. Ichabod tries to run away and ends up near the church. Ichabod makes a dash for the bridge where the ghost is said to disappear and not follow, but when he looks back, the Horseman throws his detached head at him. It knocks Ichabod off his horse.

Ichabod disappeared leaving nothing behind but hoof prints and a smashed pumpkin. He is never heard from again in Sleepy Hollow.

Origins of the story

Although one of America’s most famous tales and one the resurfaces every Halloween, Irving did not invent the idea of a headless rider. Tales of headless riders existed in Europe during the Middle Ages, including stories by the Grimm Brothers and the Dutch and Irish legend of the “Dullahan” or “Gan Ceann”, a Grim Reaper-like rider who carries his head.

One theory is that Irving’s headless horseman is derived from Sir Walter Scott’s ballad, The Chase, which is a translation of the German author Burger’s The Wild Huntsman.

Another popular theory is that Irving was inspired by the story of the actual Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannon ball during the Battle of White Plains around Halloween 1776.

As a teenager, Irving moved with his family to the Tarry Town area due to an outbreak of yellow fever in New York City. The character of Ichabod Crane may have been inspired by Jesse Merwin, a teacher from upstate New York and who was a mutual friend of Irving and Martin van Burden, America’s eighth president. An alternative theory is that Ichabod was based on Samuel Youngs, a lieutenant from Tarry Town and a friend of the Van Tassel family.

Jesse Merwin 1783-1852.jpg
Jesse Merwin, picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Merwin

The name Ichabod Crane belonged to a real army officer, Colonel Ichabod B. Crane who served at Fort Pike during the British-American war of 1812. Irving was also stationed at Fort Pike but there is no evidence that he knew Colonel Crane.

Ichabod B Crane.jpg
colonel Ichabod Crane, picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichabod_Crane_(colonel)

Katrina Van Tassel is also believed to be loosely inspired by Eleanor Van Tassel Brush and, possibly, another woman Irving knew.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000. 

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.