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A-Z Blogging Challenge: B is for 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'

Baa baa black sheep
'Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?  
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full,
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.'

Although this rhyme was first published in 1744 it is believed to have been around for much longer. In fact, it is thought that it was written in the Middle Ages during the reign of King Edward II (1307 - 1327). This seemingly innocent children's nursery rhyme about a black sheep yielding three bags of wool actually has political undertones like many of the nursery rhymes from that era.

During the Middle Ages the wool industry in England was huge and wool was a very valuable commodity. England produced the best wool in Europe and peasants were required to pay their taxes in the form of sacks of wool. They gave a third to the King (the master), a third to the nobility (the dame) and they were allowed to keep the final third for themselves (the little boy who lived down the lane). To be honest, taxes nowadays don't seem quite so bad when you think about it!

I find it amazing that this rhyme has survived for 700 years and that we are still teaching it to our children in the 21st Century.


nita said…
I love your theme! Definitely following your blog's RSS feed :)
Denise said…
Hi Nita and thanks for following. I'm really enjoying this challenge. Hope you are too!
Laura Clipson said…
I never knew that either! I'm loving your theme, I'm learning a lot, thanks! :)
It's so interesting how many of these nursery rhymes have rather dark themes. I love these posts - fascinating!
Denise said…
Loopyloo - thanks :-) Lots more interesting stuff to come too.

Jaye - it is fascinating and yes, many of the stories behind them are 'dark'. Much more to come! :-)
Maryannwrites said…
So interesting. Thanks for this bit of trivia. Thinking about story developes, one can see how so many nursery rhymes and fairy tales did come out of real life.
laughing abi said…
Even way back then there was no escape from politics & taxes! So does the expression "black sheep of the family" have any connection to this nursery rhyme?
Spanj said…
How absolutely fascinating. I love finding out the roots of sayings, but never thought about nursery rhymes before.

Just visiting from the A to Z challenge.
Marian Allen said…
Good stuff! I love learning the stories behind things I take for granted. :)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes
Denise said…
Maryann - thanks. Absolutely! They were also often a way of indirectly poking fun at authority although many nursery rhymes were simply plays on words to amuse children.

Abi - 'black sheep of the family' does have a connection with the rhyme. The peasants' sheep mainly had black wool as it was deemed to be of a lower grade than white wool. That's where 'black sheep of the family' comes from. A person who is worth less than the rest of the family.

Hi Angeline. Thanks for dropping by. I also love the origins of sayings and that's what got me on to the nursery rhymes.

Good luck with challenge!
MOV said…
love this! never knew the rhyme was so old.

found you on A to Z, will be back to read more of your letters.

Anonymous said…
Love the theme, Denise. :)
Denise said…
Hi MOV and thanks for dropping by.

When you start to look into nursery rhymes it's quite fascinating.

Good luck with the challenge!

Linda - thanks!

Sorry to see you're not doing the challenge but you're clearly incredibly busy!

Happy blogging :-)
Linda said…
I love your take on A-Z - can't wait to see what rhyme comes next.
Denise said…
Hi Linda and thanks. Even I'm not quite sure what's coming next :-)
krissyranae said…
Very interesting! I was just teaching this nursery rhyme to my kids a couple of days ago. I love knowing the history behind things like this. Thanks for sharing!
Denise said…
Krissyranae - glad you enjoyed it.
I think nursery rhymes are a great way for children to learn language skills, rhyme and rhythm and have fun at the same time regardless of the meaning behind some of the rhymes.
Very interesting! Amazing the things we learn and don't know how they came to be. Thanks!

Anna@ Herding Cats & Burning Soup
Denise said…
Herding Cats - thanks. I don't think anyone ever wonders about what they mean and they usually just take them at face value but it is interesting to find out the history too.
Jotje said…
You know that we also have this nursery rhyme here in Holland? It's actually a children' s song. Funny to discover it's origin!!!
Denise said…
Hi Jotje and thanks for dropping by.
It's funny when you start to look into these rhymes. They all seem so innocent at first but when you look a bit deeper many of them have quite 'dark' undertones.

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