Remember Baa, Baa Black Sheep? Well, my neighbour said that it is now "Baa, Baa Multi-Coloured Ewe". Never mind the history of the nursery rhyme. "Baa, Baa Black Sheep/Have you any wool?/Yes, sir, yes, sir/Three bags full/One for my master (the King received 1/3 of the wool tax)/One for my dame (the nobility received 1/3)/And one for the little boy who lived down the lane (the poor peasants received 1/3). Never mind that the black wool fetched three times the price of the white wool. Far from a negative connotation, the black sheep, therefore, was the most valuable.
Remember Little Miss Muffett? "[She] sat on her tuffett eating her curds and whey/Along came and spider/And sat down beside her/And frightened Miss Muffett away." How could we traumatize our children so? In the BBC version, Little Miss Muffett befriends the spider.
Remember Humpty Dumpty? "Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses and all the King's men. Couldn't put Humpty together again." Well, that's what happens when you're a giant egg. You fall and you crack open. But no, the BBC has new plans for Humpty. "All the king's horses and all the king's men/Made Humpty happy again."
And how about Hansel & Gretel? The witch puts them in her oven! Don't even go there.
My husband, who spoke German until he was 5 years old, was raised on The Struwwelpeter, a series of stories with morals. Of course, they were scary, but they were also silly. Rob's Dad would re-enact the scenes with Rob and his sister over and over again. In one story, Peter will not eat his soup. Every day he gets thinner and thinner. At the end the bowl of soup is sitting on Peter's grave. Rob stills laughs about those stories.
If you take away the scary parts of the story, you also take away the richness of the story. Who wants to hear about a multi-coloured ewe? Or a girl who befriends a spider? It's much more fun when she runs away. Or a giant egg that doesn't crack? Or a brother and sister who go for a walk in the woods, but nothing happens. Boring!
Isn't it ironic that in a day and age when the politically correct police are trying to soften nursery rhymes, our children are being exposed to a harder world than ever before? Go on Facebook and see some of the garbage posted there: the bullying, the vulgar language, pornography. How about "sexting" where teenagers send each nude pictures? How about crime shows where murder is almost glorified? How about our bookstores and variety stores which are full of magazines with nude or almost nude women on the cover? And one of the most disturbing of all, what about Bill C-17 that has been passed in the Ontario Legislature saying that public school teachers have to start teaching sex education (including alternative lifestyles) in Kindergarten?
We live in a harsh world. Our nursery rhymes take us back to a different world, a rural world. They teach us history. Political correctness has run amok! The BBC can keep their multi-coloured ewe. I'll keep my black sheep.
Image courtesy http://raisingchildren.net.