Reinventing Nursery Rhymes to Lullaby Length

For the past year, I’ve been singing nursery rhymes. You know, Jack and Jill, Mary Had A Little Lamb, London Bridges. I’ve got camp songs from my childhood, but there are only two or three that I have memorized and that are calm.

It’s been a challenge to recall nursery rhymes that I haven’t thought of for at least ten years. And I’ve discovered something–it is really easy to make up verses for all those well-known images we associate with nursery rhymes.

A boy and a girl go trudging up a hill, carrying an empty bucket. Then they fall down. If one strains the memory and does a tiny bit of research, one finds that Jack goes home to his mother, who mends his head after which he goes trudging up that hill again.

A bridge in a big city is crumbling, and there are multiple techniques as to how to support it.

A doting lamb follows a little girl to school one day.


I run out of things to sing, and the kid isn’t asleep yet. So, to keep myself from falling asleep as well, which has happened on other nights, I put my mind to work.

The boy and girl with a bucket have pailfuls of brother/sister politics: dares, stunts, tauntings, and finally, a death–wherever did Jill go while Jack got his head fixed, huh?–that mom discovers. This version ended with a remorseful little fellow who can’t learn his lesson and stay away from the stupid hill.

Mary and her lamb: An economics lesson about meat that wanders into the wrong hands; the schoolteacher has a husband, and he has to get rid of this thing somehow. Lamb is my favorite meat, and I can sing about it all I like.

A nonsense rhyme about structures falling down that’s associated with a children’s game? Transformed into an ongoing conversation among rich financiers, architects, and the workers. No rhyming needed, just a sense of rhythm. Break up the conversation into short sentences that repeat the last phrases and poof! You have additional verses that baby can’t understand anyway.

He’ll understand it all too well if he ever plays the children’s game; I had wrestling matches with my siblings that began with this game–after the song was done, the bridge had quickly lowered and someone was caught. It’ll be reassuring to know that the soldiers, the guards, and the mudslingers are also part of the conversation.


About The Original Kate

Along with artistic tendencies, Kate enjoys unusual people and is constantly striving for some sort of nonconformity. Kate offers a perspective that is thoughtful but well-written and full of images within the words. Other tidbits that might intrigue: she has very long auburn hair, and, you guessed it, her favorite color is orange.

Posted on November 29, 2010, in From Moss-Lined Oregon and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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