Edited By Vanishree
It was during my Environmental Science class that I realized the ruins of my childhood. Let me walk you through my experience. A warning before I start – if you want to keep your childhood intact, I suggest you stop reading right here and continue living in the fantasy world of bliss and happy memories. If not, then here goes.
In class, we were learning about nuclear activities such as nuclear testing and burials of nuclear waste material and its impact on people in the surrounding area. One of the places that came up was the Bikini Atoll. For those who are unfamiliar with this place, Bikini Atoll was an area in the Marshall Islands, near the United States of America. It was inhabited by people, but the population was scarce, and thus, was used as a nuclear testing ground by the United States during World War Two. The result of such activities was that it left people with many health problems, as well as genetic mutated body systems, the impact of which was seen for generations. And how does this relate to our childhood? Ever heard of the popular cartoon show, SpongeBob Square Pants? And do you know where the characters live? – Bikini Bottom. Does the name ring a bell? So, the theory is that Bikini Bottom is, in fact, situated directly under Bikini Atoll and that SpongeBob and his friends are aquatic mutations whose body and minds have been warped by nuclear waste above them.
My mind blew on hearing this fact, and this is what led me to research other childhood cartoons and nursery rhymes that are actually PG18. Even Disney movies such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc., are supposed to have very dark and twisted tales, which have been softened so as to be palatable to society. My internet search led me to results so gruesome that I do not have the stomach to mention here.
But, here is another heart-stopping example based on nursery rhymes. Almost everyone has heard of “Ring-a-Ring o’Roses”, a rhyme that always ended with everyone lying on the floor. The dark story behind this nursery rhyme is based on the deadly plague that crept around Europe, during medieval times, killing millions. A round red rash, that looked like a rose, was supposed to be a symptom of the plague and to ward off the disease, people used “posies” or herbs. Other symptoms included coughing and sneezing, thus the line “A-tishoo, A-tishoo”. The home run is the final line “we all fall down”, which was meant to signify the deaths of people due to contracting this disease.
Not had enough? Here is another nursery rhyme, Ba-Ba Black Sheep, based on medieval times, when a wool tax was imposed by the King of England on his people. Under the new rules, a third of the cost of a sack of wool went to him, another went to the church. The original rhyme in fact ends with “none for the little boy who lives down the lane.” This was to show the discrimination based on class imposed on society in those days. Later, it is said that they changed the song to “and one for the little boy who lives down the lane.”
In fact, nursery rhymes were considered so dark that during the mid-20th century, a British Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform was organized to condemn common nursery rhymes. And, there are many theories spun around the reason behind their dark meanings, such as the fact that such rhymes and cartoons were a way of portraying popular resistance to high culture and royalty, and a way of mapping the situation into a more acceptable form. It is also said that such rhymes and cartoons helped people remember the situation they found themselves in, especially when illiteracy was high, thus, allowing them to pass it on from generation to generation. It is also believed that people used it as a means to smuggle hidden messages and meanings, only understandable to those who knew where to look.
All these are, of course, conspiracy theories and not the whole truth. But they still leave you dazed for a few days and make you question everything you know. Moreover, if the stories are actually true, then what a dark world we live in. The paradox is that in spite of such claims about the hidden meanings, nursery rhymes and cartoons still continue to be the backbone of everyone’s childhood, and I don’t think that will stop anytime soon! Maybe this is the way to teach children the truth about the life that was. Not when they are young, but they could find out about it when they grow older as I did. The not so known histories come to light in the most unexpected way and I would have never known about it if it wasn’t for my research. It does taint our childhood, no doubt, but I can’t say that I am not interested in finding out more!