Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three Blind Mice, and Another One...

A wonder of the internet is that we can explore and discover all kinds of information. A piece of worthless trivia unearthed this week is that on October 12, 1609 – over 400 years ago – the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice was published in London. In case it has been a very long time since you crooned with a toddler or two, here are the lyrics:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

The verse seems cute and innocent. It is anything but. Adults and the toddlers they teach have no idea the rhyme has underlying meaning. And not a delightful one. 
Many nursery rhymes recited today were written in England during a time when speaking openly against the government, the King or Queen, or the Church, was dangerous and could result in dire consequences. To get around this obstacle dissenters wrote poems cloaked in innuendo.
Three Blind Mice, based on a true event, is one example. The three blind mice refers to three Protestant noblemen convicted of plotting against Queen Mary I, ruler of England and Ireland from 1553 until her death in 1558. Mary was Catholic and determined to reverse the Protestant Reformation. She killed many Protestants and earned the nickname Bloody Mary. The farmer’s wife alludes to Mary and her husband, King Philip of Spain. They owned a number of large estates. Mary did not have the three men dismembered and blinded, as inferred in the rhyme. However the three men were burned at the stake in 1555.
In our time free speech is a right (in some parts of the world). We can speak and write diatribes proclaiming opposition to whoever or whatever we want. Sometimes the target is apparent, and sometimes the target is revealed obliquely, or not at all. 
An example is the popular 1980 song by the British band Queen, Another One Bites the Dust. I don’t sing along whenever heard on the radio because of the song’s message; the message I learned. A Google search finds more than one meaning, but I still don’t feel comfortable warbling the lyrics.

A theme of the song is death, referenced in the phrase “another one bites the dust”. The song may represent a metaphorical death, like the end of a romantic relationship, or - the interpretation I learned - the song is all about mass murder. On a lighter note, another piece of trivia discovered in my research is that the song played backwards conveys (maybe) a pro-marijuana message.

Perhaps each person should figure out what the song is all about for themselves. As for future generations, young and old may continue crooning the song, its enduring popularity due to the captivating tune and lyrics.

Here is a YouTube of Another One Bites the Dust. Reach your own conclusion...


3 comments:

  1. Very scary to learn all this, Meryl. :-(

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  2. Another interesting fact about this song. It's been used in some medical studies to teach CPR because the beats per minute of the song coincide with the recommended compressions per minutes needed in CPR.

    But many famous songs have been born from conflict, war, and tragedy. There's The Night Chicago Died and Billy Don't Be a Hero both by Paper Lace. There is Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 and another by the same name from John Lennon and Yoko One about two Sunday massacres in Northern Ireland in 1972. Even What's Going on by Marvin Gaye is about a violent confrontation known as Bloody Thursday that happened in Berkeley in 1969. Then, of course, there's all the teen tragedy songs of the 50's like Last Kiss.

    It appears we like songs about death when they have a peppy beat to them.

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  3. I've heard that nursery rhymes came from gruesome realities but hadn't heard the backstory to Three Blind Mice. Makes sense. You just never know.

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