I've always felt an affinity for Jack and Jill - you know, the kids that went up the hill to fetch the pail of water?
We had running water, thank goodness, when I grew up in Zululand, but there were many others who didn't. Nevertheless, young children were expected to do their share of chores, and the focus was on learning by practical and reading experience.
The reason I say that is he was then able to get up, and even "homeward trot, as fast as he could caper,"which would be a run. I bet the poor little guy cried all the way too.
But the part I could identify with was when he started to "mend his head with vinegar and brown paper."
Injury experience ~ then and now...
Doctors were some sort of strange species, far out of our realm unless you were extraordinarily ill. CT Scans were unknown. MRI's of course were just a twinkle in the eye of some yet unborn genius. So you healed yourself with what you had.
What we had was cider vinegar, powerful stuff, and very coarse brown paper. I loved that paper!
My mother would put the vinegar in a pot, dilute it with a bit of water and then put several small sheets of the brown paper in it. She would then bring it to a fairly high heat, making sure the paper still stayed together.
This ritualistic placing of the brown paper did two things:
It made you feel very important, and tough because you bore the pain.
It actually worked, because it seemed to magically pull the pain and bruising out.
It worked for headaches too, if you had one the rare time. My mother used it herself quite frequently!
Something has always puzzled me about this nursery rhyme... why isn’t anything said about Jill? After all, she tumbled down too. And what about the pail of that precious water? I mean, surely some of that would have been needed for the brown paper treatment?
My guess is...
On realising her brother Jack had deserted her to go home to mother, Jill would have first and foremost dragged the now half-empty pail with her and slowly, very painfully made her way home. She had to stop frequently, as she had been badly winded.
All family attention being focused on Jack, she retreated to her bed for some well-earned rest. Suddenly looking down at her clothing she sighed.The grass stains on her white bloomers were going to need special scrubbing and boiling. She would help her mother do that in the morning.
And that's the way it was.
Here's the rhyme...
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after
Then up Jack got
And home did trot,
As fast as he could caper.
He went to bed
To mend his head
With vinegar and brown paper.