Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nursery Rhymes - Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

good morning!
one of my favorite paintings, by Kay Charao

Today I'm having fun with the nursery rhyme

Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater!

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn't love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.

by Scott Gustafson
The first surviving version of this nursery rhyme is found in
Mother Goose's Quarto:
or Melodies Complete,
Boston, MA, USA around 1825.
It is thought to be possibly older.
I love Joan Walsh Anglund's paper dolls.
I bet this book is just as charming.

This is from a vintage book, with "Russel Mary Lafetra" credited.
Not sure if this is the entire book the page is from,
or if this is the name of the illustrator.

The rhyme is cute,
but what does it really mean?
What about that second verse,
new to me?!
Here is one possible explanation:

Peter was a poor man who had an unfaithful wife. She kept cheating on him (couldn’t keep her), so he had to find a way to stop her running around. His solution, fairly common in the middle ages, was a chastity belt (pumpkin shell). For those who don’t know, a chastity belt is roughly a pair of metal underwear with lock and key, so that no one could enter the private region of the woman except whoever held the key, usually her husband. And as the rhyme goes, once he put her in that belt, he kept her very well.
William Wallace Denslow, 1902

Here is another possible explanation:
"Peter Peter is actually an American verse, and was unknown in England til fairly recent times. They had no pumpkins, which are a native American plant. The verse was actually written for children, no hidden meanings or naughty bits."
watercolor by
Let's have fun pulling out
all the shades of orange crayons you have!
Warm up that printer!

I found the above illustration at a charming blog site:

She has beautiful nursery rhyme pictures from:

More Jolly Rhymes of Mother Goose

by Lois Lenski, 1922

But Peter's wife is calling, so we must have

 more portraits of her...

and of course of her pumpkin-eating husband!

another vintage illustration

When my son was very young, I used to say this nursery rhyme,
as his name is 'Peter".
Oh he would get so mad at me -
"MOM don't say that!"
It took me years to understand
that he is a very literal kind of guy.
Very literal.
So I suppose he thought I wanted him to get married,
or live in a pumpkin shell,
or....? Who knows?!

 vintage illustration

a very very clever scarecrow display!

Well, that's it for today.
I'm off to have lunch with a very dear friend.
Hope you've had fun
with Peter Pumpkin Eater!


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