Every Jack has his Jill, or so goes the famous folk saying. But do you know where this famous phrase comes from? You guessed it! It comes from the famous nursery rhyme Jack and Jill.
Why Jack and Jill and not other names? What does the song even mean? Is there a darker meaning behind the words?
If you are looking for the answers and more, you are in the right place. In this article, I look at the song’s history to help you understand its origins better.
Lyrics for Jack and Jill as Sung Today
The modern version has kept with the original, with only a few changes when the composer needs to make it more exciting.
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.
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.
Full Original Lyrics for Jack and Jill
The original lyrics were a single stanza, with Jill spelled as Gill.
Jack and Gill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Gill came tumbling after.
The spelling of Gill later changed to Jill, with subsequent versions adding other lines.
Up Jack got
And home did trot,
As fast as he could caper;
Went to bed
To mend his head
With vinegar and brown paper.
Jill came in
And she did grin
To see his paper plaster;
Did whip her next
For causing Jack’s disaster
HISTORY BEHIND JACK AND JILL
Who Wrote Jack and Jill?
There is little knowledge of the person who originally wrote Jack and Jill. A quick Google search brings up lots of names to answer this question. However, these writers or composers only worked with the existing version.
The rhyme was first published in London around 1765 as a reprint of John Newberry’s Mother Goose Melody. However, it is unclear whether he was the song’s original author. The song has seen several modifications to become the modern song we know, with different people making their versions.
In 1777, Charles Burney came up with an earlier version that fell out of use with time. The most famous melody is the one by James William Elliott, published in the National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs in 1870.
What or Who Inspired Jack and Jill?
There had been instances of a boy and girl being called Jack and Jill long before the rhyme’s first recording. But it’s difficult to tell if these instances inspired the song or influenced the writer to come up with the song.
The names also have two appearances in Shakespearean literature and were part of a comedic act performed on an Elizabethan court around 1568. The comedic act was dubbed Jack and Jill, though we can’t tell if it influenced the song’s writing.
WHAT DO THE WORDS IN JACK AND JILL MEAN? DEFINITIONS
What is the Meaning of Jack and Jill?
The actual meaning of the song is difficult to decipher. There are theories that the song is a reference to specific historical figures. Of course, there’s no way to prove that since such events happened centuries ago.
That leaves us with the simple fact that the song is only entertainment for kids and adults. It doesn’t have any hidden meanings, as many would want to speculate.
What is a Crown?
A crown is an ornamental headdress worn by a monarch to show or signify authority. In Jack and Jill’s song, the crown refers to Jack’s head.
What Is a hill?
A hill is a natural land area that has risen above everything surrounding it. Hills aren’t as tall as mountains, and neither are they craggy.
What Does Tumbling Mean?
Tumbling is falling quickly with no control, especially on a steep descent such as a hill.
What is Vinegar?
Vinegar is a sour liquid containing acetic acid. You get vinegar when you ferment alcoholic fluids. It is used as a food condiment and in healing wounds.
What Does Brown Paper Mean?
In the past brown paper and vinegar were used to treat wounds, with few better remedies. That was before modern medicine came along to make treatments of injuries easier.
One would sprinkle some vinegar on the wound and use brown paper as the dressing.
INTERESTING FACTS & QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Does Jack and Jill Have Any Association with Historical Figures?
According to some theories, Jack and Jill were real living people. Several theories attempt to explain the origin of the rhyme and its association with different historical figures.
a) The Kilmersdon Story
This theory sounds more credible than the other theories because there’s a real hill named Jack and Jill in Kilmersdon, Somerset. According to legend, Jack and Jill were a couple that lived on the hill in the area.
Jack went up the hill one day to fetch water but had an accident. A boulder hit his head, and he died living a heartbroken Jill. She didn’t last much longer after the death of her husband, dying shortly after giving birth to a baby boy.
Perhaps that could be why the song came to be for all its worth. But then, there’s little to suggest that’s the case. There’s no way to prove the timelines of the events considered with the song’s origin.
b) The Hjuki and Bill Theory
According to this theory, Hjuki and Bill are two Scandinavian kids supposedly kidnapped by the moon while collecting water.
Parents told the story to children to prevent them from going out in the dark. Because of the repetitions of the tale, Hjuki became Jack, and Bill became Jill.
This theory does not mention the part where the children come rolling down a hill. That casts doubt on it being a true story.
c) King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
Another famous explanation of the rhyme is the story of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, famously associated with the French Revolution.
King Louis XVI was the last French king before the fall of the French Monarchy. He ruled from 1774 to 1793. He was killed and lost his crown in the French revolution in 1793.
His wife, Marie Antoinette, was later killed nine months after the king. The killing of the king and his wife could have led to the belief Jack and Jill reference them.
In the song, Jack falls and breaks his crown with Jill following. King Louis lost his crown after the revolution, with his wife killed later. That explains why Jack losing the crown easily relates to King Louis XVI.
There is also anecdotal evidence that the song became famous after the king and his wife’s death. That adds further fuel to claims it refers to the monarch’s fall from grace.
There is little to prove or disapprove of this theory.
d) Dudley And Empson
Some accounts say Jack and Jill were King Henry VII’s ministers, Dudley and Empson. Henry killed the two when he assumed the throne.
Why Would Jack and Jill Go Up the Hill for Water?
The comic makes fun of the contradictory idea that Jack and Jill go up a hill to fetch water. Were there no wells or boreholes on flat surfaces?
We can’t tell why this happened besides the reasoning that it’s only a line to make the song catchy. Most natural water sources, like rivers and streams, flow down the hill. So, you’re likely to find them in valleys rather than on top of hills.
Historian Edward A Martin says ancient people drew water from dew ponds on top of hills. Maybe Jack and Jill had gone to draw water from a dew pond.
Has Jack and Jill Been Used in Popular Culture?
The Jack and Jill nursery rhyme has inspired the making of several movies. The comedy Jack and Jill stars Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler) is one of the most famous. There’s also a 2011 film of the same name featuring Al Pacino.
How Famous Is The Jack and Jill Nursery Rhyme?
So famous. The rhyme is so popular it has even been translated to different languages besides its use in popular culture.
Children in most countries can enjoy the song. French and Spanish are some of the few languages it has been translated into. The song is not only famous for English- speaking countries.
Is Jack and Jill in The Public Domain?
Yes, Jack and Jill are a public-domain song. One can use the song in their work since no one has a copyright to it.
(Disclaimer: This is a general-not a legally confirmed fact, and you need to do more research into the laws in your jurisdiction/country to confirm you may use this song)
However, don’t use anyone’s song version since they own the copyrights. If someone records themselves singing Jack and Jill, they own the recording’s copyright.
So, you can’t use it without their permission.
How do you sing Jack and Jill in Sign Language?
You can sing Jack and Jill in sign language. Below is a resource from YouTube that can teach you how to sign Jack and Jill.
JACK AND JILL INSPIRED LESSON PLANS
The following is a selection of Lesson Plans and fun activities inspired by Jack and Jill. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.
SHEET MUSIC FOR JACK AND JILL
HOW TO PLAY JACK AND JILL ON AN INSTRUMENT
It is possible to play Jack and Jill using instruments. The following are some tutorial videos from YouTube that will guide you.