On a well-known fairy tale
‘The Princess and the Pea’ is one of the shortest of the classic fairy tales. It also manages to be simultaneously one of the most straightforward and one of the most baffling. It’s straightforward because its plot is so simple, but it’s almost too simple. What are we to make of this tale of royal oversensitivity to bed-dwelling vegetables? Does the fairy tale (if it even is strictly a fairy tale at all) have any discernible moral?
It is easy to summarise ‘The Princess and the Pea’: a prince wishes to marry a princess, but he wants to make sure she is a real princess, rather than one of the dozens of royal pretenders who appear to inhabit the realm. He goes on an extensive search to find his royal bride, but he cannot be completely sure that any of the women he meets are bona fide princesses. This pickiness when it comes to courting looks set to end in perpetual bachelorhood, until one day, on a dark and stormy night, a young woman arrives at his castle, asking to take shelter inside until the storm has passed. The woman claims to be a princess, so the prince’s mother takes a pea and places it under twenty mattresses in the bed where the princess is to spend the night. Read the rest of this entry
What are the origins of Little Boy Blue?
‘Little Boy Blue’ is a popular children’s rhyme, but as is the case with so many nursery rhymes (as we’ve been discovering in the course of researching these posts), the meaning of ‘Little Boy Blue’ is far from apparent. What does this curious little nursery rhyme mean, or is it an example of that genre of perennial appeal, nonsense verse?
Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow,
The cow’s in the corn.
But where is the boy
Who looks after the sheep?
He’s under a haystack,
Fast asleep. Read the rest of this entry
What are the origins of this nursery rhyme?
‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ is a famous nursery rhyme, and has been popular with children for several centuries. The nineteenth-century Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, used to sing ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ to his children every day. But which ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’ are we talking about? For there’s more than one. The origins and history of this nursery rhyme require a bit of unearthing and analysis.
First, here’s the most familiar version of the rhyme:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.
But this isn’t the only version of ‘Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross’. There’s also this one: Read the rest of this entry