The Fairy Tale Rhyme Known Widely As Jack And Jill Has Been The

    Outdoor fairy tale games. The fairy tale rhyme known widely as jack and jill has been the subject of much debate since of a traditional interpretation of the garden of eden story. the word choice is reference to a child's game as raz claims (101). to tumble only. roanoke.edu.

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The fairy tale rhyme known widely as “Jack and Jill” has been the
subject of much debate since Duncan’s ground breaking 1985
monograph Jack and Jill: Who Knew? His thesis that Jack is a
symbol of the playfulness of childhood in the emerging middle
class in pre-modern England (Duncan 1066) has been challenged
on numerous fronts. Raz suggests instead that Jill should be the
focus of interpretation as a “proto-feminist icon of equal pay for
equal work” (589). Murray, by contrast, argues that “Jack and Jill”
should be read as a lament prompted by the scarcity of water
during the catastrophic droughts of the 13
th
century (cited in Raz
496). While each of these authors makes important observations,
a more nuanced reading of “Jack and Jill” must take into account
both the setting (i.e., the hill) and the absence of parental figures
in the narrative. As will become clear, this rhyme expresses the
futility of family life in the context of the plagues that ravaged
Europe in the 14
th
century.
The origin of “Jack and Jill” in the 14
th
century is widely
acknowledged. The opening lines, when read carefully, convey the
rhyme’s precise social origin: “Jack and Jill went up the hill//To
fetch a pail of water.” Clearly the protagonists are children. “Jack”
is a diminutive for the more common “Jackson,” and “Jill,” only
attested here, appears to be a shortened form of the Germanic
“Hilda” (Sprache 69). Water is certainly a common symbol of life
and freedom (Duncan 32), but it was also the primary treatment
for the plague at that time (Bube 128). Another pertinent fact for
interpreting these lines is that the hill, the quintessential
topographical feature of modern day England, was even more
prevalent prior to the Industrial Revolution (Deere 99). The full
meaning of the lines now becomes clear: Children commonly
found themselves responsible for nursing their sick parents during
the years of the plague.
(turn over)
The rhyme continues, “Jack fell down and broke his crown//And
Jill came tumbling after.” Raz sees this turn of events as a reversal
of a traditional interpretation of the Garden of Eden story.
The word choice is significant: Jack “fell” down. In
contrast to ancient theologians, who tended to place
blame for the so-called “fall of mankind” on Eve, this
bold author asserts that it was Jack, the male, who fell.
The woman, Jill, does not fall, but “tumbles,” that is
engages in a playful act of defiance. (Raz 126-27)
This assertion would be more convincing if “Jack and Jill” were set
in a garden rather than on a hill. The key word “fall” is probably
better understood as an expression of failure. “Tumbling” is not a
reference to a child’s game as Raz claims (101). “To tumble” only
took on this meaning in the 17
th
century; previously it only meant
“to fall repeatedly, to come to harm” (Sprache 101). The poem
thus ends with both Jill and Jack (“he broke his crown”) suffering
physical harm as a result of trying to care for plague victims. Thus
the final two lines of the rhyme speak not only to the failure of
water to cure the plague—a fact borne out of historical studies
that demonstrate that water cured only 20% of plague cases prior
to the invention of plastic buckets (Sterile 145)—but also to the
common spread of infection from victim to caregiver (156). “Jack
and Jill” is neither an exploration of childhood nor an early
feminist manifesto. It is a poignant reflection on the futility of the
health of families in plague ridden England. In light of this new
interpretation of “Jack and Jill” one must wonder about its
implications for understanding Jack’s later sparse existence as
revealed by the equally famous “Jack Sprat.”