This might turn out to be a bit of a double rant.
One of my all time favourite songs/stories, when I was a kid, was There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly. It’s ridiculous and funny and dark and I always loved the shock of the last line She’s dead of course!
I found a lovely pop-up book and thought it might make a nice Christmas gift. Witness my horror on the last page When the had to operate of course!
Are children so sensitive that we they can’t sing or read about the death of a fictional old lady who has swallowed a horse? We have been doing this to children for centuries. I remember the wolf eating Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother and that was that, and then suddenly the huntsman cuts the wolf open and there’s grandma safe and sound. Really? I hated that ending. There is also a version where grandma is hiding in the wardrobe. Rubbish! Going way back, Red Riding Hood was forced to do a striptease for the wolf but all this is for another blog post I think. The important thing is that I have children – they have grown up with the macabre and the dangerous in stories and they are both now functional young adults. I think the old lady should die of course.
The second part of my rant is to do with Rose Bonne. Who is Rose Bonne you ask? Good question.
When faced with an alternative sanitised ending for an old lady stupid enough to swallow a horse, I wondered where this nursery rhyme came from. Was it a handed down ditty? No, it was in fact written by Rose Bonne. That is about all Wikipedia and Google seems able to tell me – which brings me to a statistic or two. It is estimated that only 8.5 to 16 per cent of Wikipedia editors are female. Even more shocking is that as recent as 2015 a study found only 15% of the biographies on Wikipedia were about women.
Is this inherent gender bias why Rose Bonne is a mystery and yet, the man who composed the music (Alan Mills) does happen to have a presence on the internet?
Meanwhile, authors and illustrators seem to be able to put their name on books called “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly” regardless of the where the words originally came from. Walt Disney would never have allowed that. But he was a man and he has a Wikipedia page too.
Can anyone out there tell me about Rose Bonne?
Oh, and here is The Muppet Show which was not afraid of the ridiculous and dead old lady endings. I hope it makes you smile.