"The Truth About Mother Goose"

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Writing about Mother Goose Rock 'N' Rhyme recently, I was reminded of another Disneyfied look at Mother Goose nursery rhymes that was--if you can believe it--even more macabre.  It was the short "The Truth About Mother Goose," which is a kind of exposé of the origins of popular nursery rhymes. 

One has to wonder how many of these explanations are apocryphal, in the same spurious vein as the "true story" everyone hears about "Ring Around the Rosie" being about the Black Death.

The most memorable part for me was the bit considering "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary," which the cartoon claims tells the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots.  In this segment, we see, among other things, the beheading of one of Mary's lovers and the exploding(!) of her "weakling" husband.  As the camera then pans to reveal the innumerable corpses of soldiers who died defending Mary's honor, all piled into sky-high mounds, Mary reflects on the carnage with an unruffled, "Oh dear."

After Elizabeth I grows jealous of Mary's popularity at court, she has her cousin imprisoned in the Tower, and the jester-narrators sing the saddest, most dirge-like rendition of "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" that you'll ever hear as Mary ascends the Tower steps and the screen fades to black, indicating her botched execution via multiple strokes of a butcher's axe.  Ouch.

Lesson learned:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? / With silver bells and cockle shells, and the tears of kids who watch this show.

"The Truth About Mother Goose."  Dir. Bill Justice, Wolfgang Reitherman.  Perf. Page Cavanaugh Trio.  Disney, 1957.

Watch Part 1 on YouTube here and Part 2 here.
Walt Disney Treasures - Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s

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