Halloween Blogfest: Sharon Bidwell

Peter Pumpkin Eater?
This is an abbreviated and edited sample of an essay I had published some time ago and which generated fan mail all the way from South Africa!

It may surprise many to know that until Victorian times, the stories and nursery verses that we now regard as created for children were originally intended for adults. They were often traditional folk tales with endings that were far more bloodthirsty than their modern day counterparts. No one saved granny, or the little girl in the red hood from the wolf’s ‘great big teeth’ and Sleeping Beauty was not awakened by a kiss but impregnated by the prince, and even gave birth while still she slept.

How many of us remember Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater? Not much to concern anyone there even with the Pumpkin’s connotations of Halloween; yet, how many of us would happily sit down to read this rhyme to children knowing what the verse actually meant. “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn’t keep her” translates to an unfaithful wife; hence, he couldn’t ‘keep’ her. He put her in a pumpkin shell (pumpkin shell in this instance meaning chastity belt) and there he kept her very well.

The truth is many of the rhymes that we once laughed over at bedtime were written using fact, even politics. Many were folk songs or even prayers; many rhymes were direct digs at greed and taxation. Some may have traditional customs. However, surely it is important to keep these in the context they have been regarded for decades.

Once heard as children they became part of our play, have remained constant companions, and did us less harm than most images youngsters are subject to today. The sad truth is some of these rhymes have changed over time and may not reflect their original intention. Alas, some origins are lost to us completely and the creators, many of them anonymous, are no longer with us. Still, they should not be discarded. Not many of us look back on them with any emotion other than a feeling of fondness. They are an integrated part of our history and, most importantly, they teach us to play with words at an early age.

These rhymes and stories speak of mysterious times and places, yet they are a tool to reflect incidences in our own lives and history. Maybe in this they still serve their purpose for when read to children now, parents are unconsciously teaching their offspring that bad things happen in life, that we have to learn to deal with them, and that with a little luck and maybe perseverance the good guy can still win.

Incidentally, the face carved in the Pumpkin is to frighten bad spirits away: it is not a bad entity itself. Another frequent mistake: children are not meant to trick you if you do not give them a treat. They are meant to ask for you to give them a treat or for you to play a trick on them: more examples of where traditions have been twisted to suit this modern age. So adults enlightened, children beware!

Free Book Giveaway: Seduced by a Legend

seducdedbyalegend-200Ignatius is about to be seduced by a legend.

During a time when even the most educated of folk believe in ghosts, Ignatius Swain arrives in the quiet town of Ville sur le Fleuve to act as pedagogue to the adult daughter of Gregoire Delacroix. There he encounters the enigmatic Jacques Bouchard, who appears to view him as a rival for Desiree Delacroix’s affection. Nothing could be more misconstrued. Even if Desiree’s gaze were not able to freeze water, Ignatius has set aside hopes of love hereabouts. He satisfies his desires with the ‘helping hand’ of ghostly fables, tales of terror that walk shivery traces and fiery passion up his spine…until one night when Jacques’s behaviour breeches barriers, and the pair encounter the most famous of resident spirits on the road.

About the Author: Sharon is a writer from the UK. Her worlds are vivid, unexpected and sometimes intensely magical. Sharon writes whatever her warped mind can come up with. Although her longer works to date mostly involve a variety of wonderful men finding true love…or at least some loving, she’s quite capable of writing something darker, grittier, and even outright twisted. She currently lives in a house with a few art-Deco original features and a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. Watch one of the films — that’s her cupboard. Sometimes she dreams of clearing it out and hiding away in there, seeking some magic and ‘sinpiration’.

Seduced by a Legend from Musa Publishing


  1. Sharon,
    Informative post. I’ve always loved the darker, grittier version of folk lore and tales. Your story looks wonderful. Thanks for the insight!

  2. I knew that kids were meant to ask for a treat or a trick, not play a trick on householders who didn’t give them a treat. I’d not come across most of the others, though. Very interesting!

    • Yes, some of the things I came across surprised me when I did the research for this. Some of the possible meanings varied a bit, but it was interesting to note that many of them were digs at Government and the like. Glad you enjoyed!

  3. Interesting blurb

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. Sharon Bidwell says:

    Melissa, you’re the winner! I’ll be in touch.

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