The Mother of All Nursery Rhymes by Jim McClennan
The Mother of All Nursery Rhymes
Once upon a time, in the very deepest, darkest part of a forest lived a wolf called Jack. Jack, and his lovely wife Squat lived in the house that Jack built. They liked living in this secluded spot as it was very peaceful and beautiful. (And also because there were no crocodiles, fiery dragons, or things that go bump in the night)!
Jack had some problems, however. One of the problems was that his nickname was “Splat”. He got that name from Brer Rabbit, after the fast and elusive rabbit dove headlong into a briar patch to avoid Jack, who was frantically trying to catch him! Jack abruptly stopped, and being a very sensitive wolf fell over backwards to avoid falling into the terrible thorns on the briars.
In fact, he fell Splat on his jackside, and as a result ended up with that awful name, because Brer Rabbit couldn’t stop laughing and telling everyone about what had happened. In fact, Brer Rabbit was really honored that prickly day by being given the nickname “Jack”, because of what happened. From then on, all of Brer Rabbit’s descendants have been referred to as Jack-rabbits.
A bigger problem was that Jack, (Splat), could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean. Unfortunately Jack could not afford to buy his wife fatty, fancy steaks, pork roasts, or whale blubber, so he had to go over to the three little pigs’ house to try and get them and cook them for Squat’s dinner. It seemed to be a simple solution to their culinary problems.
But when Jack tried to carry-out his simple plan, he ended up in a great huff, because the pigs built better and sturdier houses, so Jack could no longer blow them down. So he finally gave up on the very succulent, but uncooperative pigs.
Jack stewed about this big, fat problem for a long time until he heard about a Giant living up on a platform high in the sky. The Giant was said, to own a Moose who had Golden Legs. Jack then decided to steal the legs, so he could buy the expensive meats his wife craved so much. So Jack cleverly went and planted some beans right beneath the Giant’s platform and over-fertilized them. Soon a very high beanstalk grew all the way up to the Giant’s lofty dwelling. One evening as the sun was going down, Jack, who was nimble, scaled the tall beanstalk intent on stealing the Moose’s golden legs.
All was quiet when he got to the top, so Jack sneaked wolfishly into the Giant’s house. (It was actually an old apartment building and the clever giant had torn out all of the in-between floors so that he could stand up in it.) Consequently, when Jack entered the building he had to be very careful, because the Giant could see all over his house. Only the partitions in the rooms on what used to be the first floor were left standing, so the giant could see and step right over them!
As Jack crept into the house, he was startled by seeing someone peeping around the door of the next room. “Why its Little Bo Peep”, said Jack, as he recognized her peeping style. “What are you doing way up here?” “I was out looking
for my lost sheep and I couldn’t find them anywhere else” Bo said. “Then I saw a beanstalk and out of curiosity climbed up here and found them just outside in a field”. “My brother, Little Bo Blue came with me, but he was too afraid of the giant so he stayed outside looking after the sheep in the meadow. He is likely under a haystack fast asleep”. “But how did the sheep get way up here,” said Jack? “Not many sheep can climb up a beanstalk”. (For that matter, not too many wolves can either, thought Jack).
“Well, I think Ali Baba probably flew them way up here on his magic carpet,” said Little Bo Peep.“You know his religion forbids him to eat beef or pork, so he likely stole the sheep so he could have something to eat.
I think he hid them away up here, thinking nobody would ever find them. He probably made a deal to give the Giant their wool, so that he could keep them here safe and sound. Then he could just come up and get one whenever he got hungry.”
Jack, and Little Bo Peep then went looking for the Moose who had the nice Golden Legs, being very careful to hug the walls so the giant could not see them. Going into a far room, they saw the Moose fiercely shaking his “aunt Lars”, because she refused to polish his golden legs. The Moose became quite afraid when he saw Jack. But Jack was really a nice wolf and once he had met the mannerly moose, he changed his mind about stealing the Moose’s legs.
He changed his mind mainly because the Moose was an amputee with four (4) missing legs. He had made the golden legs for himself and had to wear them in order to walk. Jack could not figure out how to remove the legs without hurting the Moose. (They didn’t just unscrew, as Jack had hoped they would). So Jack decided to help Little Bo Peep rescue her sheep instead. Jack promised not to hurt the moose if he would help them with the sheep.
Jack then noticed a huge slide over in the corner, which the Giant’s son Horrid, played on. The moose used his aunt-Lars to help drag the slide outside and lower it over the edge of the platform all the way down to the ground below. The sheep then sailed gaily down the slide one by one until there was a heap of sheep, baaing and carrying-on down below.
The Giant by now had noticed the sheep were missing and had stomped over to the edge of the platform. He started throwing quite revolting things at Jack and the Peeps, trying hard to knock them off of the beanstalk. Jack then decided he had better try and remove the beanstalk before the Giant decided to climb down it. So he stopped at a branch half-way down and began gnawing furiously at it. But poor Jack, not being a vegetarian, had to keep stopping and spitting out bits of the stalk to avoid swallowing them. It was taking him a long time, and the giant was starting to rethink the situation.
Unfortunately at that moment, Chicken Little was going by. Because of the flying sheep and the messy missiles from the giant, she started crying out, “the sky is falling”. This was a silly thing to say, but being only little she didn’t know any better. So she ran madly off in all directions wailing, “the sky is falling”.
Meanwhile back at the branch, Jack had bit off more than he could chew. Little Bo Peep noticed that he was having trouble, so she called up to him to tip the slide over before the Giant could slide down it. Jack did kick the slide over, but he was so upset that he had been too stupid to think of something so obvious himself, that he banged his head against the beanstalk. (That is why to this day, if someone bangs their head on something they are often said to have “beaned” themselves). At last Jack managed to gnaw all the way through the beanstalk, and he climbed down to safety.
At this point, Jack decided to give up on trying to steal things to buy meats for Squat, and tried to think of another way to provide fatty foods for her. He thought of his nice neighbours the three bears who also lived in the forest. They were very fat and as far as he knew did not eat any meat. So how did they stay so fat? Jack was about to go and ask them, but then realized that you did not just go up to someone, (especially a bear), and ask them, even in a polite way, why they were so darn fat?
Instead, Jack got his best friend Little Ned to agree to conceal himself in the bears’ house and spy on them to find out what they ate. Little Ned was a midget, and a very tiny midget at that, so the bears would not likely notice him if he was careful not to fidget.
He thought that if Little Ned hiding, could not find out the bears’ secret, no one could. So Little Ned went to the three bears house to sit in the corner without a twitch, so he could snitch on them.
Upon entering the house Ned saw three bowls of soup on the table, which the bears had left to cool while they went out. (Probably fetching food thought Ned). I will just wait here and see what they all bring back for their dinners.
While Ned waited, he thought about what he had heard about the three bears. He knew Papa Bear had gone quite loony and had run off bear-naked into the forest months ago and that Grandpa Bear was getting old, wierd, and grizzly as well.
Unfortunately, Little Ned got hungry after a while and so he got up on the table at Grandpa Bear’s seat to have some soup. Then he realized what a Ninnie the Po’ bear had become, for he was using old, worn-out socks as napkins. Anyway, the large bowl for Grandpa Bear was full of yummy mushroom soup, so he had some. He then moved on to Mama Bear’s bowl, which was filled with Watercress soup. Bearly edible, but he had a few sips anyway. The third bowl was for Baby Bear, and was therefore quite small, so little Ned just gulped it right down, only to discover that it was brussel sprout and peanut butter soup. It was so bad, (can you imagine!), that he felt quite sick afterwards!
Not feeling well, Ned really just wanted to get away from the mouldy socks and the three bears. But he had promised Jack, so he sat down to wait for the bears to come home. He waited a very long time. Unfortunately, because Little Ned was so small and still not feeling any better, he found the waiting too tedious and he sadly got bored to death. So Jack never did find out what made the bears so fat!
Jack then decided he needed to find someone very smart to help him with his fat problem. Simple Simon was anything but smart. But he did mention to Jack that he had met a Sly Man, tho’ he knew not where, who might be able to help. So Jack and Simple set out to find the Sly Man the next morning.
They soon came across little Miss Muffet. She was sadly sitting on a bench by the side of the road. Now Jack, who was wider, sat down beside her, to try and lighten her day. “Oh, but you’re a wolf and you scare me,” Miss Muffet cried out. “No I’m not,” said Jack, “I’m just a sheep in wolf’s clothing and I wouldn’t harm a fly, unlike a certain spider that is sitting right there on the other side of you.”
After Little Miss Muffet came cautiously back after being scared off by the spider, she asked Simple and Jack where they were going?
Miss Muffet, said Simple, “we are trying to find a Sly Man carrying a pig who was along here somewhere, the other day. (The pig was news to Jack). Oh said Miss Muffet, that must have been Tom Tom the Piper’s son. He’s not smart, he’s just a devious and wicked boy who steals things! If you really want suggestions on what to do, you should talk to wee Bill E. Blinky who lives in the next town. He loves to give everyone he meets free kind advice; free kind advice, flows from him like gossip from a guttersnipe.
So Jack, Simple and Miss Muffet, (they were going her whey), started down the dirt road towards the next town. As they went along they came across a little Ram whose teeth were quite a show. A little girl named Mary, whose ram it was, explained to them why the Ram did not have any wool. According to Mary, the ram had wallowed in the pool one hot day which was against her rules. A good rule because as you can well imagine, it would be very difficult to dry off a woolly sheep that is soaking wet!
Partly as a punishment and partly because she had so much trouble drying the ram, but mostly just for the shear fun of it, Mary had taken all of the wool off of the ram. She then hung it out the window to dry. But along came a black sheep and stuffed the wool into three bags. He took one to his master and one for his pains, and one to a little girl to shed off the rain.
Mary was so upset by this, that she became quite “contrary”, and after that could only be found planting silver bells and cockle shells for the rest of her life!
As the party of three went further along, they could hear an awful big racket in a yard by the side of the road. They approached and saw a little red hen cackling at her neighbours about how they were all greedy goof-offs and terrible wastes of skin!
Simple Simon was getting very hungry, so when he spotted some pies in the red hen’s window, he grabbed them all when the hen’s back was turned. He did not feel bad about doing it, because the red hen was obviously a mean old spiteful chicken! Jack then persuaded Simon to give him most of the pies, because he knew they were loaded with fat and would be good for his wife Squat!
Just as Miss Muffet had wisely advised, when they reached the next town they could see wee Bill E. Blinky running all through the place. He was trying to collect as much information as he could, so he would not run out of advice. Just in case he was ever actually asked for some. They could not run fast enough to catch Bill. However, they did trip up his daughter Jill, so they could ask her about Bill’s track record on giving out advice. She laughed and told them that her father’s advice was best kept to himself, since his advice was usually more kind than good!
Regardless, when Bill came back to look for his daughter, he really did give them good advice. He said, “If they wanted sage advice they should go see the “Queen of Smarts”, who lived further along the road somewhere.” Bill added that he understood that she liked to receive presents, and unless they brought some they would probably not be admitted into her castle. Bill offered to give them a quail Jill had bagged that morning, as a gift for the Queen. He said it would be a thankyou for listening to his advice.
So Jack and Bill went up to Jill to fetch a quail for barter. It was now getting late, so they spent the night with the Blinkys in order to rest up for their long journey the next day.
In the morning they walked a very long way meeting many interesting people, but none worth writing about. None that is, until they came across a large group of men and horses milling around, blocking their way. Oddly, the men appeared to be busy scrambling a large egg right in the in the middle of the road.
Jack spoke to the captain of the King’s Men, (for it turned out that that’s who they were). He found out that a very smooth, white, oval-shaped, hairless fellow had tried to sit on a wall. But because he did not have a proper bottom to sit upon, he fell off onto the hard road, breaking up into a zillion fragile pieces.
When they had first got the call to help a hairless fellow, the King’s Men thought it might be someone trying to be funny. However, when they arrived at the frightful scene they knew it wasn’t just a yolk. In fact, it was likely all ova for the poor fellow. But they got right to work, and even though some of them got rather queasy they managed to turn him over easy. (Into the recovery position). Since then, they had been trying diligently to put him back together.
By the time Jack and his fellow travellers arrived, they had decided to give it up as a lost cause. They were now ready to go back to the castle, except that they were just rounding up a couple of dozen of the blackbirds that were hovering about before they went. They said the songbirds made a very good pie and that the King would be very pleased when the birds sang grace for his supper. Fortunately, being King’s Men, they said they would be pleased to escort Jack, Simple, and Miss Muffet to the castle and then take them to the Queen of Smarts and her husband, bold King Cole.
Arriving at the castle, they were greeted by the Queen of Smarts, who of all things, was in a kitchen baking tarts and right-side-up cakes. After Jack explained his fat problem, the Queen thought about it for a while. She then suggested that Jack take several years supply of her tarts back home with him for his wife, as they were filled with lots of fatty things. She said that the tarts were made from warts and other fatty parts of strange animals that were always roaming about in her kingdom, but that since she was such a good baker, they tasted delicious! (Or else!)
In order to pull the heavy cart full of tarts the Queen went to Banbury Cross to see a kind Lady about a white horse. The Lady had rings on her fingers and smells round her toes, so she made you sick when ere the wind blowed.
Jack and Simple finally started home with the fatty tarts and pies. After dropping Miss Muffet off along the whey, they chanced upon an old woman running around in circles in front of her odd house. Believe it or not, the house looked much like a shoe! There were children running and screaming almost everywhere you looked, and the woman was fit to be tied. She said her cupboard was bare and she did not know what to do to feed all of her children. Jack and Simple felt so sorry for her, that they put their pies and tarts into her cupboard and left for home, empty handed.
Arriving back home in their forest, Jack and Simple seemed to be right back where they were when this story began. Simple did not care, because you have to be thoughtful not to be happy. However, Jack and Squat did live happily ever after, because Jack spent the rest of his life feeding Squat homemade blackbird pies, and big fat lies about the extraordinary and exciting adventures he had in his travels!
Jim McClennan 2010
If you would like to contact Jim, he can be reached at JMcclennan@shaw.ca