Three Sons

There was an old woman had three sons,
Jerry and James and John,
Jerry was hanged, James was drowned,
John was lost and never was found;
And there was an end of her three sons,
Jerry and James and John!

Well, that’s damn depressing. I think I have a pretty good idea why this one never made it into any of my children’s books. I guess this is reality for some families, but yikes, it’s a harsh tale for little ears.

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds;
And when the weeds begin to grow,
It’s like a garden full of snow;
And when the snow begins to fall,
It’s like a bird upon the wall;
And when the bird away does fly,
It’s like an eagle in the sky;
And when the sky begins to roar,
It’s like a lion at the door;
And when the door begins to crack,
It’s like a stick across your back;
And when your back begins to smart,
It’s like a penknife in your heart;
And when your heart begins to bleed,
You’re dead, and dead, and dead indeed.

This one is also quite dark. Perhaps the repetition of “dead” is a bit much and the poem as a whole really makes no sense, but I like the reality of it. No “gone to a better place” or “passed on” or “is no longer with us.” We could all stand to be a little more open and blunt about the reality of death, so that we stop being afraid of it and can be adequately prepared.

Verdict: Someone should create a Miss Mary Mack style hand clapping game to the second rhyme.

It’s widely understood that Aesop’s fables had a lesson to impart to the reader. It’s less commonly known, but no less true, that the original Grimm’s fairy tales contained a lot of violence and sexual content that was inappropriate for children. But what about Mother Goose? Were the colorfully illustrated nursery rhymes in your Little Golden Book really so innocent? Were they carefully curated to be only about silliness and pat-a-cake? Let’s explore the reality together in this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.


  1. Hi. First, thanks for stopping by Tale Spinning. Hope you come back for more.

    I’m a professional Storyteller, among other things, and the tales that the Grimms transcribed were oral stories, passed down generation to generation, locale by locale. The tales were originally NOT for children, perse. No TV’s, radio, etc: stories like those collected were moral tales, tales of warning, rape, abuse, and more. Red Riding Hood is really a warning to avoid dangerous men who could rape the unaware. People die horribly (the wolf is sliced open, rocks are stuffed inside, the skin sewed back up, and then thrown in a lake. Not Happily Ever After things.

    I’ll check out the rest of your blog, and upcoming AtoZ, as we’re in our final stages.

    Tale Spinning

    Liked by 1 person


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