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 he trot,
As fast as he could caper;
Went to bed and bound his head,
With vinegar and brown paper.
When Jill came in how she did grin
To see Jack's paper plaster;
Mother vexed, did whip her next;
For causing Jack's disaster.
Nursery rhymes are one of the most lasting forms of passed-down lore. While seemingly fun and innocent, many nursery rhymes actually have deep political, religious, and/or satirical roots. Jack and Jill is just such a nursery rhyme.
While most nursery rhymes having roots in past occurences
can apply to only one event in history, Jack and Jill can be related to many different events, from political to mythological and even an average couple's love.
The first and most popular interpretation involves Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (Jack and Jill). After being married for four years, Louis assumed the throne with Marie Antoinette by his side (went up the hill). After rebellion broke out due to heavy taxation, Louis tried to eliminate some of the most oppressive taxes (to fetch a pail of water); however, the people weren't satisfied and so broke into the Bastille and held the royal family captive in the palace, thus ending the monarchy (Jack fell down). Years later, after France finally declared itself a republic, Louis was beheaded (and broke his crown), with Marie Antoinette being beheaded soon after (and Jill came tumbling after). Discrediting this theory is the fact that 'Jack and Jill' was first published as 'Jack and Gill' ('Gill' being, if anything, a male name) in the 1765 edition of 'Mother Goose's Melody' (almost 30 years before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's beheading).
A mythologyical interpretation, suggested by Lewis Spence in 1947, is that this rhyme is originally based on Scandinavian mythology. After the moon god Mani left a bucket of dew on the top of a hill, Jack and Jill decided to steal it. The moon, seeing this, asked his friend the wind to blow Jack and Jill away, to which the wind complied. While Jack and Jill were tending to his injured head, the moon captured them.
Another interpretation states that 'Jack and Jill' is the true story of a Scottish couple. Jack went up a hill to fetch a pail of water and fell on the way down and was killed. Jill died later of a broken heart.
And yet another theory is that 'Jack and Jill' is really the story of a greedy king (Jack) who changed the unit of measurement (Jill, which was originally printed as 'Gill') so he could get more gold. It was discovered what he was doing and he lost his kingdom (Jack fell down and broke his crown), and the measurement Gill was never used again (and Gill came tumbling after).
Due to the fact that most nursery rhymes were probably around much longer than they have been in print, it is truly impossible to discern which of these explanations, if any, are correct. But take these theories as you will.