Simple Simon

Today Mother Goose begins a new and important series about nursery rhymes. If you are like me, you learned the rhymes as a small child without even realizing or understanding the function of memorization. Maybe you heard them from your mother. Maybe you heard nursery rhymes as a bedtime story. Maybe you watched videos where the Mother Goose stories were dramatized by cheezy actors and actresses… Wherever you learned these delightful bits of posie and prose, I strongly encourage you to revisit them now that you’re all grown up and have a world of experience in your pocket.

We will begin our study with the story of Simple Simon.

Let’s first of all put this into a historical setting. The incredible story of Simple Simon has been floating about since the late 1600’s, a rough time in world history. England, Ireland and Scotland were fighting amongst themselves about who is the most popular and most powerful, and whilst they’re not looking France is headed to the new world to establish some colonies in Texas and along the Mississippi River. And amidst this world of great confusion, Simple Simon comes onto the scene.

He’s at the fair, and he’s hungry. He can’t find the corndog stand or the cotton candy or the funnel cakes so he asks a pie guy for some of his yummy pie. We do not know from this context what kind of pie is available from this particular pie man. We could assume mince meat or chicken pot pie, and probably not a French silk or a lemon cream pie.

So let’s just stop there for a moment…. Simon has no money, not one penny, and yet he has the boldness to ask for a pie. You just have to give the guy credit for trying, right? Perhaps he has had free pie before and expects that all pie is free. Sorry, Simon. What a harsh world he lives in, how troubling that he doesn’t even have a penny? I’ve walked past so many pennies lying on the ground and on the sidewalk. I just leave them there…. Perhaps a modern day Simon would pick them up and save up about three thousand of them to buy a pie today.

Let’s look at the next verse. Simon goes fishing. He gets his fishin’ pole and his tackle and some worms for bait. He loads up his rod and reel and heads for the fishin’ hole — yessirree Bob, today’s his lucky day and he’s gonna catch a whale. Atta boy, Simon — it’s good to have a plan, especially when you’re going fishing. Set some goals and make it happen. Watch your dreams become reality! But, ooops, again Simon makes some logistical errors by dropping his line in Mama’s milking pail. Yikes, Simon, what were you thinking? What are you, simple or something?

And finally the last verse of the rhyme, not often recognized as part of the original Simple Simon story.

Simple Simon went to look
If plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much,
Which made poor Simon whistle.

Poor Simon. He didn’t get the pie. He didn’t get the whale. He’s still hungry, the poor fellow, his tummy is growling and grumbling like a grumpy old bear. So he’ll take anything at this point, even a plum. A bit of fruit for the sake of starvation. But omigosh, he’s looking in the wrong place for plums, isn’t he, gentle reader? Thistles have thorns, not plums. Even Mother Goose can see this one coming. So, of course, Simon gets injured in the course of his thistle adventure. And did he grab a bandaid or at least a kleenex to stop the flow of blood? Nope, he just gives a good old whistle — kind of a “pheeet, pheet, pheeeewww” to ease the pain of the puncture. Or maybe he’s just decided to forego the whole plum harvesting strategy and settle into more of a song and dance routine to attract attention to his hunger issues. Anyway…

The moral of the story is this: it’s a big scary world out there. Don’t be a simpleton like our friend, Simon. Take your debit card with you — it’s welcome at most McDonald’s and Starbuck locations. Or pack yourself a lunch. Or call Mother Goose and she will pack one for you.

(a big thanks to Wikipedia for all of this important information and these wonderful pictures…)

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March 2023