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Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.

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Monday, 19 July 2021

The origins of Jack & Jill went up the Hill

 I am sure you all know the nursery rhyme,

Jack and Jill went up the hill

to fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after. 

We had quite a conversation the other night with my grandson about why this is flawed. He pointed out that you wouldn't go up a hill to fetch a pail of water from a well. At the top of a hill the well diggers would have to dig down too far to reach the aquifer. So true. I had never really thought about it, even though I have been plagued by this poem all my life.... my name being Jill. 

I must have thought about it during the night as the next morning after breakfast I drew this, albeit very basic, drawing. 


I realised that there is nothing in the rhyme to suggest they went up a hill to a well, though most illustrations you see have them going to a well on top of a hill. 

I decided therefore that there might be a waterfall feeding into a pool or lake on a hill from which they could scoop the water. We have scooped water with a bucket from a river or lake on camping trips many times. 

My son commented that it just goes to prove that you should never assume. 

And my grandson's response: "If it was a lake at the top of a hill, why didn't it flow right down so they didn't have to walk up at all?"..... good question.....

Our friends who have been to Iceland say that just about around every corner when you do a drive around the island it seems there is a mountain with a waterfall, and a house with a red roof. So I figure this scene I have drawn is plausible. 

This illustration below is from the public domain book, The Book of Knowledge, The Children’s Encyclopedia, Edited by Arthur Mee and Holland Thompson, Ph. D., Vol II, Copyright 1912, The Grolier Society of New York. The original copyright for these books was 1899

The illustration does indeed show a well at the top of a hill


The rhyme continues:

Up Jack got and home he trot

As fast as he could caper

He went to bed to mend his head

With vinegar and brown paper. 

Why vinegar and brown paper? According to History House in the UK: 

This refers to the use of a vinegar and brown paper poultice for the treatment of wounds, bruises and other injuries. It is a very old remedy which is still used today for swelling and bruising, or headaches.

For bruises, one method was to take six or seven sheets of brown paper and soak them in a saucepan containing vinegar. The vinegar was heated and allowed to simmer making sure the paper did not break up. The paper was then applied in layers over the affected area. Often secured in place with a cloth or rag.


But what is the real origin of the Jack and Jill rhyme? Research shows me there are a few different suggested origins. As with many nursery rhymes there is a more sinister origin that we are unaware of as children when we sing them. 

Below is a suggestion according to Vagabomb's article: 10 Dark and Disturbing Origins of Popular Nursery Rhymes written by Shahana Yasmin in 2016. You should click on the link to read about the origins of many of our nursery rhymes. It is fascinating reading. 

One origin suggests Jack and Jill are actually France’s Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were convicted of treason during the French Revolution, otherwise known as the Reign of Terror, and beheaded. Jack or Louis XVI, lost his “crown,” i.e. his throne and his head. And Jill, or Marie Antoinette's head soon came tumbling after.


So there you have it, the origins of the Jack an Jill nursery rhyme. I encourage you to go to the Vagabomb post to read about more grizzly backgrounds to our popular childrens' nursery rhymes. For instance, do you know the background of Ring a Ring a Rosie or London Bridge is Falling Down

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed my post today.
Are you a Jill or a Jack? Were you plagued by the rhyme as a child, or even an adult?

And just because the wildflowers are starting to pop in Western Australia I thought I would share a few. 


I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week and stay safe. 

Hello there! I love reading your comments. If you scroll down to the bottom you can comment too! I would love to hear from you.

9 comments:

  1. BRAVO!!!
    I really enjoyed reading about Jack and Jill. Lovely mosaics. Happy Monday

    Muchđź’ślove

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  2. Interesting research you did! I had no idea. Plan to check some more out. Thanks.

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  3. We were just talking about he meaning of a few nursery rhymes/ poems this weekend! Most are really about something else quite sinister.

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  4. Jill - what an interesting post. I am not sure when or where, but I did read something in the past about the less than golden history of fairy tales. I don't think there are any nursery rhymes with Angie in them, but there is a song by the Rolling Stones!!! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday! (and if your spring is arriving, that means we are heading to autumn, and I am not ready for that!)

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    1. Spring is still a bit more than a month away but the wildflowers are still starting to pop in the northern parts of our State

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  5. I like you post. I don't know the song but it's interesting to recognize the secret message, pointing to that sad history. Here in the Netherlands we also have such folk songs.

    The flowers are amazing.
    Thanks for sharing them.

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    1. Interesting - I thought everyone knew Jack & Jill - perhaps it is an English thing.

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  6. Very interesting and something I had never even considered although have recited that little poem many times to my children and grandchildren. Thanks for researching it. I love the WA wildflowers. There aren't many here in our Flinders Ranges but will be more by September/October and hopefully we will get back there then.

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  7. I've heard for years that most of the 'children's' rhymes are political in origin.

    Such pretty flowers in your area.

    Thanks for your link at My Corner of the World this week!

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