Peter Peter: Origins

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater is a nursery rhyme, possibly adapted from Eeper Weeper. Lyrics to both are provided below. Below, is the true story of both Eeper the Weeper, and Peter the Pumpkin Eater.

Mary looked outside again but to no avail. Eeper was nowhere to be found. Winters were tough in the Weeper household. All across London, households were stoking fires and cooking stews. As the weather cooled, the occasional weasel would find itself stuck up a chimney, lured in by the smells of a hearty kitchen, only soon to discover itself being cooked alive by the heat of a fireplace.

Eeper was a regular among the neighbourhood, and this time of year he was stretched thin. It was nearly 3am when the last chimney was swept and he could finally make his way home along the cold, dark London streets.

The last thing he wanted to do was speak to anyone about his day. All he needed was a change of clothes and a warm bed. But Mary, anxious to see his husband, couldn’t empathize with the plight of an honest day’s work and was only too eager to ask Eeper about all the chimneys he had swept that day. Mary could not have known that this would be the last time she’d ever see her husband.

Little Peter could hear Mary and Eeper arguing again. He laid awake, but with his eyes closed, and listened to the muffled voices coming from the kitchen. Peter dreamed of moving to a farm, and leaving everything behind. There he would work the fields, and after the sun had set he’d return to his room, and read a book.

Peter was still illiterate, his parents could not afford to send him to school. He’d spend his days shining shoes to bring home a few pennies to help his father out, his lungs full with the smell of polish. The occasional banker would perhaps pity poor Peter and give him an extra penny as they’d read their newspaper, while Peter stared at the words hoping he could one day understand them.

The fighting soon stopped, as it always did. Eeper must have blacked out again, while Mary swept up the broken glasses around her husband’s body.

When the sun rose, Peter ran downstairs to finish breakfast — porridge with hot water, only to find no breakfast awaited him. He looked around for his mother and she was nowhere to be found. Outside the house his father looked back at him through the window, and all Peter saw was his father being taken away. It was only a matter of minutes before the constable came inside and asked Peter to step away from the chimney, while a medic looked inside and confirmed to the constable that she was stuck up there real good.

To this day, no one knows how Eeeper managed to lift Mary twelve feet in the air and stick her in the chimney. Some speculate he had help, others think it was a vacuum effect and negative pressure. Rumours abound, but the truth is only known to Eeper himself.

Peter, however, appeared to have gotten his wish. His aunt took him in. She had a farm in the village where her and her brother had grown up. There she raised chickens and had a healthy harvest of pumpkins.

Lyrics:

Eeper Weeper, chimney sweeper
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
Had another, didn’t love her,
Up the chimney he did shove her
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.
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