The earliest recorded version of the rhyme stems from 1805, though there are rumors that children used to play a game called bo-peep — a version of Hide and Seek — in the 16th century. The first time it was officially published was in 1810 in “Gammer Gurton’s Garland or The Nursery Parnassus.”
Some say it also may have something to do with a darker origin, as in the 14th century, the phrase “to play bo-peep” meant to hold someone in a pillory, which was a torture device used to humiliate and abuse.
Little Bo Peep
Aside from it being a popular childhood rhyme, there’s nothing innocent or friendly about Little Bo Peep, not even at first glance.
The rhyme tells the tale of a shepherdess who loses her herd of sheep, dreading that something awful has happened to them. And what she finds at the end of the rhyme doesn’t just make her own heart bleed.
In what is perhaps one of the most famous nursery rhymes in the English language, a young girl falls asleep and wakes up only to find her sheep all missing.
She’s hopeful that they’ll come home soon, wagging their tails behind them. But one day, she goes wandering into a meadow and discovers their actual tails hanging up in a tree. Gee, what a wonderful image to plant in a child’s head!
London Bridge is Falling Down
Everyone who grew up in the English-speaking world knows this rhyme, which is also known as "My Fair Lady," or simply "London Bridge." It has catchy lyrics and a catchy tune now, and although no one is certain of its meanings, it is based on a dark past and some troubled times.
One theory is that it revolves around the bridge being majorly damaged in 1633 and again in 1666. But another explanation is much, much darker.
Many speculate that the rhyme is referring to a process called immurement, which caused some poor souls to be entombed within the bridge during its reconstruction.
Some thought that, without a guard, the bridge would perish again, so they buried people within it so they could always look over it. There is no proof that these bodies exist, but there’s no proof they don’t, either.