Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep is an eponymous character from a nursery rhyme. Bo Peep is a shepherdess who loses her sheep and receives advice on how to get them back.

Commonly the rhyme goes:

:"Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep":"And can't tell where to find them.":"Leave them alone, And they'll come home,":"Wagging their tails behind them"

Also common for the second line is "And "doesn't know" where to find them". The fourth line is commonly stated as "And bring their tails behind them" (like in the photo on the right). This alternative version of the fourth line helps the nursery rhyme lead into 2nd through 5th verses that have to do with sheep tails being detached. As with most oral tradition, there are many variations.

The character appears as 'Bo Peep', a ceramic doll, in "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2". In the Shakespeare play "King Lear" there is a reference to "Bo-Peep" by the court fool. In the anime Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo they call her Little Bobobo-Peep.


The exact origin is uncertain, but can probably be traced back at least as far as the Victorian era. At least one bookmark from Victorian era is illustrated with Little Bo Peep, so the origin may be even earlier than this.

In Sussex, people claim it is a smuggling tale from the town of St. Leonards (Part of the Hastings conurbation). One of the Martello Towers, known informally as Bo Peep was used to house the customs men and sometimes to imprison the smugglers themselves. The Bo Peep public house (which still stands) is said to have been used by smugglers. The extra verses of the rhyme make more sense in this context than if it is really about a shepherdess. Little Bo Peep herself refers to the customs men, the sheep are the smugglers and the tails are the contraband (probably barrels of rum and/or brandy). It was known for smugglers to abandon their contraband if they heard the customs men were onto them. The second verse probably refers to the fact that, in local communities, smugglers were more liked by the locals than the customs men and false trails were often set.

Additional verses

The following additional verses appear to originate much later than the first verse.

:"Little Bo peep fell fast asleep":"And dreamt she heard them bleating;":"But when she awoke, she found it a joke,":"For they were still a-fleeting."

:"Then up she took her little crook,":"Determined her to find them;":"She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed,":"For they'd left their tails behind them."

:"It happened one day, as Bo peep did stray":"Into a meadow hard by,":"There she espied their tails side by side,":"All hung on a tree to dry."

:"She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye,":"And over the hillocks went rambling,":"And tried what she could, as a sheperdess should,":"To tack each again to its lambkin."

In the 1950s, comedian Johnny Stanley recorded a line-by-line commentary on the poem, titled "It's in the book." He ridicules the simplistic (to him) attitude of the person addressing Bo Peep, and winds the commentary up with "wagging their tails" "Pray tell, what else "could" they wag?!" "behind them." "Did we think they'd wag them in "front?!!"

External links

* "The History of Bo Peep"
* Lyrics and history

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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