On preparing an anthology of English-language nursery rhymes for a Pyrenean baby

Dead space is newish horror survival game set on board a stricken interstellar mining ship. You play an engineer fighting a polymorphic, viral infestation which turns humans into grotesque alien monsters. Reviewing it Seth Schiesel asks:

When did fear become fun?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I’ve played Dead Space, the new, delectably gory science fiction survival thriller from Electronic Arts. Dead Space rolls out all the mufti: blood-splattered hallways; gnarly, slavering monsters jumping out at you; flying body parts; wails of anguish; creepy music. It comes off like a well-tended distillation of modern horror.

I don’t think he really gets round to answering his question, but there’s an interesting point in there: the respective replacement of shivery candles by reliable electric lighting, and draughty cinemas by well-secured sitting rooms, de-scarified ghosts and then blood and snot to the extent that they could be used freely in family entertainment. For me the frightening bit about the Dead space trailer is not the imagery but Twinkle, twinkle, little star:

That’s because nursery rhymes haven’t yet made the cultural transition. Environmental policy in Spain is resulting in the domestication of wild boar, vultures, bears, wolves, and the trend is a general one, but nursery rhymes on the whole remain stuck in the remote, mad world of the folklorists and their sinister interest in what were then barnyard animals.

There is of course some movement. I loved some of Lydia Wick (sorry, Mudder Noose)’s Gothic rhymes:

Little Boy Blue
Did not make a peep
Under the haystack
Presumed asleep
Until they discovered
The pitchfork to blame
And that’s the true story
Behind Blue Boy’s name

Unfortunately I can’t find any dealing with said wild boar, vultures, bears, wolves, and hence suitable for someone growing up in the central Pyrenees. Much medieval English verse has French roots and themes, but even there I found nothing comparable to, for example, Dafydd ap Gwilym’s marvellous Welsh nature poetry. The following couplet from a 14th century spring love poem, Lenten ys come with loue to toune, makes me laugh but will probably be vetoed by the local branch of the Monstrous Regiment of Women:

Wormes woweth vnder cloude,
Wymmen waxeth wounder proude.


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