Monday, July 16, 2018

London Bridge Is Falling Down — The story behind the Nursery Rhyme by Mary Anne Yarde






We all know the children's nursery rhyme
London Bridge Is Falling Down? Right?

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down, my fair Lady...

I wonder if you have ever heard this verse...

London Bridge is broken down.
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing,
Odin makes our Olaf win!

Let's take a journey back to the early 11th Century.
 It is story time, now listen...


The oars of the great Viking longships hardly made any sound as they cut through the water of the River Thames. The mist from the Thames hid their presence and they made good progress. However, as the sun began to rise, so did the mist.


A child rubbed her tired eyes when she thought she saw something that looked like a dragon. Suddenly she realised what she was seeing. 

"Vikings," she screamed with fear, as she dropped her basket and ran for home.


Her cry was taken up by others, and King Cnut, whose Father had only recently toppled King Æthelred from the throne, came out with his warriors. Surely Æthelred would not be so foolish as to try and take his kingdom back?

King Sweyne (Cnut's father) invading England — Wikipedia

Unbeknown to King Cnut, King Æthelred had enlisted the help of the great King Olaf of Norway. King Cnut prayed to God for victory when he spotted an armada of dragon heads coming out of the mist.


"To the Bridge," he yelled. King Cnut knew that if they could hold the bridge, then they could hold the kingdom. King Æthelred would have to pass under the bridge if he had any chance of winning this battle. King Cnut prayed to God that King Æthelred would keep coming, for he had one heck of a surprise for him.


But, this had once been King Æthelred's kingdom, he knew the territory and he knew this bridge. So he was not at all surprised when he saw that King Cnut had used the bridge to form an impassable blockade.

King Æthelred smiled, it was exactly what he had expected King Cnut to do and he had prepared for such an eventuality. He had instructed King Olaf to build high platforms on the boats. He knew that King Cnut would think that this had been done to protect the rowers, but that was not the reason.

When the dragon heads reached the bridge, King Æthelred and King Olaf's men climbed onto the platforms. They were now on the same level as King Cnut's warriors who were standing on the bridge. King Æthelred had instructed his and King Olaf's men to stand in pairs. One of which would hold a shield and the other a grappling hook.

Arrows, rocks, and rubble rained down upon them, but it did not deter the warriors who threw their hooks towards the bridge’s wooden pilings. But they were not trying to moor up, far from it.



King Cnut's released what King Æthelred planned to do and he ordered his men to throw mighty boulders down onto the ships, but it was too late.

King Æthelred gave the order to row back the way they had come. The wood of the bridge’s pilings held strong for a moment. King Æthelred felt a moment of doubt. This wasn't working. But then, God answered his prayers. The wood began to tear as the grappling hooks dug in. London Bridge began to shake.

King Æthelred encourage his men to heave, and to his delight he watched as wood, stone and men fell into the water.

A great cheer rose up from the Viking boats. King Æthelred and King Olaf had won. London Bridge had fallen down.

Is there any truth in the story?

King Cnut defending London Bridge ~ Wikipedia

Yes! Æthelred the Unready did indeed lose his throne to Sweyn. Æthelred fled to Normandy, but then Sweyn died unexpectedly and his son, Cnut, became king. Æthelred launched an expedition, with the support of Olaf Haraldsson to retake his kingdom. Olaf led a successful attack on London Bridge, and Cnut and his army withdrew from England.


Later, Æthelred son, Edmund Ironside, revolted against his father and established himself in the Danelaw. Cnut returned and over the next few months conquered most of England. Cnut won a decisive victory over Edmund at the Battle of Ashingdom (1066) but, so impressed was he with Edmund that he agreed to divide the nation. Edmund took Wessex while Cnut took the whole of the country beyond the Thames. Edmund died a few weeks later, and Cnut became the first Viking King of England.

The Du Lac Chronicles series

Mary Anne Yarde is an award winning author of the International Best Selling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the fall of King Arthur, The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Briton and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, the Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed.
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury--the fabled Isle of Avalon--was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.



COMMENTS

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CC Hogan

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
(Psst - by the way, that pic is Tower Bridge...)
 
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CC Hogan

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Interesting! There are a huge number of verses to the song and some very confused origins with lots of versions. Going through my Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, it was originally a dance, though the dance and the song seem to have been separated at some point, leaving the song as a nursery rhyme. The Dance gets mentioned in several volumes in the early eighteenth century. One of the earliest texts reads, "London Bridge is Broken Down, Dance over my Lady Lee."

Trying to find earlier origins seems to have caused the researchers Iona and Peter Opie problems as the earliest mentions in English don't go back any farther than the early 18th. However, German songs and games do go back a little farther, and they point out that this dancing game (two players making a bridge with their arms and others dancing under) seem to be widespread across Europe. One German reference says the game was known to Meister Altswert (a 14th century minstrel) as "Zwei spiltern der fuln brucken."

So, reading between the lines, it is possible, I suppose, that the game comes before the rhyme and it's attachment to London Bridge. But I am guessing and they don't say that precisely.
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Ruth de Jauregui via Google+

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Mary Anne Yarde​ shares the history behind the classic nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down." Amazing!!
 
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Ruth de Jauregui

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Wow, this is amazing! I had no idea of the history behind the nursery rhyme. Thank you so much for this interesting post and a glimpse of the past!
 
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Rebecca Tran

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Wow Mary Anne I never knew there was another verse to that nursery rhyme much less so much history. What a great post.
 
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Thank you so much, Rebecca. I am glad you enjoyed the post!
 
I always love your posts Mary Anne

Rebecca Tran

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Mary Anne Yarde tells the true story behind the nursery rhyme London Bridges on #OurAuthorGang  
 
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Joanne Jaytanie via Google+

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Mary Anne Yarde shares the story behind the song, 'London Bridge Is Falling Down'. #OurAuthorGang
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Joanne Jaytanie

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Wow! I knew there was a story behind the song, but I never knew the details. Thanks, Mary Anne.
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I am glad you enjoyed it!

Joe Bonadonna via Google+

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Today on #OurAuthorGang, Mary Anne Yarde​ gives us a history lesson when she discusses the history behind the old nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down."
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Joe Bonadonna

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
This is great and entertaining stuff, Mary Anne! Never knew any of this before, although a couple of names are familiar. The truth behind myths, legends and nursery rhymes is incredibly rich and full of surprises.
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Isn't it just! I am glad you enjoyed the post!
 
+Mary Anne Yarde -- I love all your historical posts. They're both entertaining and educational!

Erika M Szabo

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Gosh, I so love your historical stories and legends Mary Anne! I had no idea where the nursery rhyme originated from and of course, like most people, I knew only the first verse. Keep your stories coming!
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Thank you for your kind words, Erika!

Grace Au

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
I absolutely love the history lessons you give us through your posts. Thanks, Mary Anne!
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I am glad you are enjoying my posts, Ruth!

Toi Thomas via Google+

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
Today, Mary Anne Yarde​ offers the little-known history and meaning of a well-known nursery rhyme. #OurAuthorGang
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Lorraine Carey

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
A most interesting post here, Mary Anne. When I hear this nursery rhyme again I will now know it's true meaning. You've now piqued my interest to check out the other meanings of some popular traditional rhymes.
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Thank you for your kind words.
 
+Mary Anne Yarde You are welcome. It's good to know the origins of these tales. xx

Nikki McDonagh

6 months ago  -  Shared publicly
 
What an interesting post. I had no idea what the nursery rhyme was actually about until now. Thanks, Mary Anne.
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I am glad you enjoyed the post!

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