Songs That Are Guaranteed to Drive You Insane

Ring around the rosy
Pocket full of posies
Ashes ashes
We all fall down

     This is a nursery rhyme that has been sung by little children for nearly a thousand years. It seems like an innocent enough little ditty, and the children who sang, clasped hands and ran their little circles did not realize that this rhyme is about the black death that killed nearly one-third of the European population in the 1300s. The "Ring around the Rosy" is about the ring that would appear on the plague-infected part of the body. The posy was a flower that people would oftentimes hold up to their nose, so they did not have to smell the decomposing bodies that were lying everywhere. The line about the ashes refers the bodies that were cremated, and "We all fall down" is about everyone dying. When children learn the history about this nursery rhyme, they may stop twirling around in their little circles.

     In the beginning of the movie The Innocents, directed in 1961 by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, Flora (Pamela Franklin) sings a pleasant song about a weeping willow tree. All the audience can hear is her sweet voice singing. And when the opening credits begin rolling, the sound and words of the song match the movie title perfectly. However, as the story begins to unfold and the evil of the situation becomes apparent, Flora's song begins to sound more sinister and fear-involving.

     The song is the most physical link Flora shares with Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop), who had taught it to the young girl before Miss Jessel had committed suicide. Flora is constantly singing the song throughout the entirety of the film. Each time the words escape from her lips, the atmosphere becomes more dark and foreboding. One half expects this sweet little girl to grow a set of horns, pitchfork in hand, and demand one's soul.

     The song also is an allusion to the Greek myth about the bard who was singing about his lost love, when a group of Baki, worshipers of the god of wine, Dionysus, came across him and fell in love with his song. They asked him to join them, but his grief would not allow it. In a fit of drunken rage the Baki ripped the singer apart and threw him into the river of the dead. The dismembered singer continued to sing, and his sisters witnessed him floating by. The song touched them so much that they began to weep uncontrollably. The gods took pity on the sisters and transformed them into weeping willows. They continued to cry for their dead brother for the rest of time.

     Flora's slightly psychotic song runs along the same lines. It makes one want to turn into a tree so he or she will not have to sit at the edge of his or her seat and wait for the climactic ending.

Krista Matheny

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