Have you ever thought that your popular nursery rhymes might actually be a true life story. Do you remember that nursery rhyme of a little girl that took her lamb to school? Well, it’s a true story. Mary indeed had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.
The nursery rhyme is based on an actual incident that involved a little girl, Mary Elizabeth Sawyer. She was born in 1806 on a farm in sterling.
When Mary was nine years old, she found a sickly newborn lamb in the sheep pen while helping her dad. The sheep had been abandoned by its mother, therefore, after a lot of pleading, she was allowed to keep the sheep.
Mary Sawyer was able to nurse the little lamb back to health and it’s fleece were indeed white as snow. After gaining more strength, the lamb began to follow Mary around like a shadow.
One day when Mary and her siblings were going to school, the lamb followed her. The siblings didn’t try to prevent as it tagged along with them. Once they got to Redstone school, a one-room schoolhouse they attended, Mary hid the per under her desk and covered it with her blanket.
When mary was called out to the front of the class to recite her lessons, the little lamb came out of it’s hiding place to meet her. The lamn was sent out of the class where it waited for Mary who took it home during lunch break.
The next day, John Roulstone, a student a year or two older, handed Mary a piece of paper with a poem he’d written about the previous day’s events which was so not our popular nursery rhyme. Soon after, tragedy struck and tragedy struck when Roulstone, by then a freshman at Harvard, died suddenly at age 17. That was when the controversy began.
In 1830, a renowned writer and influential editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, published Poems for Our Children, which included a version of the poem. Mary revealed she had no idea how Hale had gotten Roulstone’s poem. Hale mentioned her version, titled “Mary’s Lamb,” wasn’t about a real incident, but rather something she’d just made up.
It didn’t end there, it stirred up another controversy when Mary Hughes, of Llangollen, was credited with being the subject of the nursery rhyme which was allegedly composed by Miss Burls. The only problem with this version of events is that Mary Hughes wasn’t born until 1842, twelve years after Hale’s poem was published.
Next time when you’re listening to any of your favorite nursery rhymes, picture that it might just be a true story.