Inspired by Stu Mills of CBC Ottawa Radio One, who has vowed to air a pumpkin story daily until Halloween, I’ve decided to write and post my own little segment of the Twelve Days of Pumpkin. This is my ninth piece… The Fourth Day of Pumpkin – Petrifying Pumpkin Prose.
In trying to come up with ‘pumpkin’ themed posts for this series, this rhyme popped up. While oldEngland is typically known for its nursery rhymes, this one actually originated in North America because pumpkins are not indigenous to England! As I researched its origin, I learned that there are a number of theories out there as to what exactly this Peter and his wife are up to – and none of them are particularly cheery!
Some say it has to do with a man whose wife is not exactly devoted to him. In fact, she’s a trampy wench. He decided to use a pumpkin as a sort of chastity belt in order to quell her wanton ways. Oh what we poor women had to endure in the middle ages [sad face]!
I read another version of its meaning in that the nursery rhyme had to do with taking the story about Peter’s wife’s faithlessness a few steps further. He found out about her disloyalty and murdered her. He kept her body parts in a pumpkin shell to stave off its deterioration [shudder].
Yet a third version of its meaning is that it’s about Peter the Great of Russia. His wife and sister plotted to overthrow him thus ending his tyrannical rule, but they failed. He had them committed to a prison – the pumpkin shell representing the penitentiary.
It’s true that one does not have to go far to find a nursery rhyme that has its basis in some sinister or gruesome historical event (i.e. Ring Around the Rosie), but this was the first I heard of the origins of Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater. Dreadful. How very a propos for what is, by and large, a sinister time of the year.
Did I tell you my husband’s name is Peter?