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

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Dark Origins – Hansel and Gretel

Most people are familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in their Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812.

In summary, the story goes as follows:

Hansel and Gretel are a brother and sister whose starving parents decide to abandon them in the forest. Hansel overhears his parents plotting and drops pebbles on the path so that he and Gretel can find their way home later. The family’s plight does not improve and a short while later the mother [or stepmother depending on the version] persuades the father to take the children into the forest again and leave them there. This time, Hansel drops a trail of breadcrumbs but the birds eat them and the two children become lost in the forest.

The starving children come across a gingerbread house and they begin to break off bits and eat it. The house, however, is a trap set by a wicked witch who captures the children, enslaves Gretel and locks Hansel in a cage. She sets about fattening Hansel up so that she can eat him.

Gretel saves Hansel by shoving the witch into the oven which she has heated up in order to cook Hansel. The pair escape and manage to find their way home with the witch’s treasure. In the meantime, their mother [or stepmother] has died and their father is a broken man having abandoned his beloved children. The family live happily ever after.

Hansel and Gretel - Wikipedia
Picture from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansel_and_Gretel

The real history behind this already rather grim story, is even more grim.

The true story of Hansel and Gretel may have its roots in the great flood and great famine of 1314. 1314 was a year of continuous rain and this continued throughout 1315 and 1316. The wet conditions resulted in crops rotting in the ground, harvests failing and livestock drowning or starving. Food prices increased dramatically as a result of severe food shortages.

The great famine is estimated to have effected 400,000 square miles of Europe, 30 million people and to have resulted in the deaths of up to 25 percent of the population in certain areas.

The famine was so bad that during the winter of 1315/1316, the peasants resorted to eating the seed grain they had stored for planting in the spring. People resorted to begging, stealing and even murder in their quest for food. Parents abandoned their children to fend for themselves and their were rumours of cannibalism. An Irish chronicler wrote that people “were so destroyed by hunger that they extracted bodies of the dead from cemeteries and dug out the flesh from the skulls and ate it, and women ate their children out of hunger.”

In the story of Hansel and Gretel, the pair are taken into the forest by their father and abandoned. They are taken in by an old woman living in a cottage. When the old woman starts to heat the oven, the children realise she is planning to roast and eat them. Gretel tricks the woman into opening the oven and pushes her inside.

It is interesting to note that this time of famine coincided with the end of the medieval warm weather period and the beginning of the little ice age. The changing climate with its cooler and wetter summers and earlier autumn storms damaged the harvests. Given the strange wet and cool summer South African is experiencing, coupled with severe cold in the northern hemisphere, this really is food for thought.

Another grim early tale along the lines of Hansel and Gretel is a Romanian story called The Little Boy and the Wicked Stepmother. You can read this story here: http://www.planetofbirds.com/the-story-of-the-little-boy-and-the-wicked-step-mother

The story of Hansel and Gretel was the inspiration for my recent twisted fairy tale Covid-19 cake which featured a gingerbread house and a witch who is trying to keep children out after they are declared to be vectors for the virus.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle has published nine children’s books under the name of Robbie Cheadle. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Her supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

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

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The joy of nursery rhymes: Twinkle, twinkle little bat

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are”

Do you remember the words of this nursery rhyme? It has always been one of my favourites and the first one I remember hearing as a child. There was something about it that captured my imagination. Today, the words of this nursery rhyme are imprinted on my brain and remind me of the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, one of my favourite childhood books.

When I was 9 years old, Alice in Wonderland was my favourite book [it still is a favourite and I have a number of different copies of it]. The words of Lewis Carroll’s adaption of Twinkle twinkle little star stayed with me and is still the version I think of first.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE BAT: A Singable Poem with Pictures and a Play on a  Classic | Film alice in wonderland, Parody songs, Alice in wonderland

I had difficult babies. They were both real ‘howlers’. Gregory cried so much I gave all my baby stuff away when he was three months old and the promised reprieve from the endless crying didn’t happen. It turned out he was a ‘six-monther’. Terence had to work hard to convince me to have another baby and then Michael turned out to be a howler too. His health issues were even more challenging and he was in hospital numerous times during his first two years of life.

But, I digress … back to nursery rhymes. I used to recite nursery rhymes to my kids while I carried them around. They howled and I recited. It kept both of us sane.

Both of my sons have good vocabularies and literacy skills and both are musical. Reading up on the useful benefits of nursery rhymes for children, I think all the reciting I did may have helped enhance these skills.

The five major benefits of nursery rhymes are as follows:

They help develop language and literacy skills:

Vintage Nursery Rhyme Print Mary Mary Quite Contrary & Fairies... | Vintage  nursery, Nursery rhymes, Children's book illustration
Remember this one – this is how I learned the word contrary. It was applied to me a lot when I was a kid.

The help develop phonemic awareness – children hear the words said and learn to pronounce them. A lot of nursery rhymes include unusual and funny words and phrases.

Pin by Charmaine Cretin on rhymes | Hey diddle diddle, Nursery rhymes, Nursery  rhymes poems

Nursery rhymes help build word memory and articulation. They are full of rhyming words and include words and groups of sounds you don’t encounter in everyday speech.

WEE WILLIE WINKIE". OLD SCOTTISH NURSERY RHYME | Nursery rhymes, Nursery  rhymes lyrics, Childrens poems

Nursery rhymes help develop creativity in children by encouraging them to imagine the scene in their heads. Just think of this one:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

BY EDWARD LEAR
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

II
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.

III
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)

Finally, nursery rhymes teach children to listen, a very important life skill.

I am finishing off this post with a video of a recital of the poem Television by Roald Dahl. It is hilarious and epitomizes my thoughts about children and the modern trend of television and video/TV games.

About Robb,ie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  1. Two short stories in Spellbound, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  2. Two short stories in Spirits of the West, A Wordcrafter Western Paranormal Anthology edited by Kaye Lynne Booth;
  3. Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  4. Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  5. Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  6. Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books



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