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Shoots And Ladders

by

Korn



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The title is a play on "Chutes and Ladders," a popular board game for children. This song is about how nursery rhymes often have very dark meanings and contain frightening images. Lead singer Jonathan Davis wrote the lyrics, and is definitely on to something, as many children's songs do have surprisingly nefarious roots. A brief rundown of some kid's songs he mentions in "Shoots And Ladders":

"Ring Around the Rosie" - This one is actually innocent, although rumors were that the song was about the black plague ("Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down...").

"London Bridge Is Falling Down" - There is a real London Bridge that was built in the 1100s. The song is about all the materials used in an effort to keep the bridge standing, and the watchman responsible for keeping thieves from looting it.

"Mary Had A Little Lamb" - This really is about a a little girl who takes her pet lamb to school. It's one of the few that originated in America, not England.

A song Davis doesn't mention that can really haunt some dreams is "Sing a Song of Sixpence," where a maid gets her nose pecked off. Early versions of the rhyme actually have children being baked into a pie.
Before he moved on to movies like We Are Marshall and Charlie's Angels, McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol) directed some of Korn's videos, including this one. He also directed the clips for "Blind," "Clown" and "Faget."
The low voice in the background during the chorus is a actually a backwards recording of lead singer Jon Davis saying "This is madness" over and over. (thanks, Nick - Paramus, NJ)
Korn
Korn Artistfacts
More Korn songs
More songs with lyrics based on nursery rhymes or fairytales

Comments (55):

From about 2003 to about 2012 when KoRn would play this live they would transition into the bridge of Metallica's "One" after the bridge of this song.
- Zero, Nowhere, NJ
When KoRn played this on their early tours, they would get a bad reaction from the crowd when Jon would bring out the bagpipes.
- Zero, Nowhere, NJ
I think this song has several meanings. Of course, each nursery rhyme has historical relevance, but also, Jonathan Davis was abused as a child, as well. So, there are dark meanings to the origins of the rhymes plus a dark association to them from his childhood.
- andy, Ankeny, IA
This is song is awsome cause it makes me thank I 'm still a kid inside and not careing about life 2 much. Jon thanks like I do it seems like. Sanging about crazy s--t.
- Josh, Meridain, MS
the one i havent seen a meaning for in these comments is "one, two, buckle my shoe". it does, however, have a meaning. it is about concentration camps, like with Hitler.
- alex, flagstaff, AZ
the posies didnt prevent the plague but people did put them in their masks to cover up the smell they never thought the posies would protect them or cure them they only used them because even if the masks they wore helped protect them from getting the plague it didnt get rid of the smell and the smell was so horrible
- Amber, Ozark, AL
London bridge is also based on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, well if it is played like Iplayed it as a child. "Take a key and lock her up!" Anyone else play that way? Anyhow, I just love this song!
- Becca, GJ, CO
"Ring around the rosie" is black plauge... "London Bridge is falling down" when the london bridge burned and fell (was rebuilt later on) and the "my fair lady" was when they told the queen of england that the bridge was falling... "Baa baa black sheep" was about the importance of the wool industry in england... "Mary Had a little Lamb" is a poem based on a true story... "1, 2, buckle my shoe" is about nothing. It teaches kids to count...
- kelsey, Rustburg, VA
i think this song is about several children stories that explain dreadful things that happened in life such as the ring around the rosie story.. it stood for the black plauge, "the black death". ring around the rosie refers to the blisters that the contracted victims of the deadly disease got that looked like red rings around their skin. pocket full of posies stands for how when the blisters popped they let off a foul stench or it could be by all the rotting corpses. ashes to ashes stands for how they burned all the deceased bodies. and we all fall down refers to all the people who died from the virus.
- Dylan, Mora, MN
Well my teacher had said that Ring around the Rosie was about the black plague-I looked it up. It started before that time period. There are versions about the black plague. But it wasn't originaly about it. As far as the counting one (totally forgot the title) wiki says that's about the black plague, and I like the way they said that one.
- Brian, Hewlett, NY
Me and a Friend of mine thought hard about these song meanings and this is what we got

.Ring Around the Rosies- Plague
.One Two Buckle My Shoe- Witchcraft
.London Bridge Is Falling Down- Given
.Nick Nack Pattywak- Do Eating Old Mans Bone, Roll . Whats Left Home
.Merry Had a Little Lamb- Slavery
.Ba Ba Black Sheep- The Outcast of a family is . . referred to as the black sheep . of the family, so this is about . the master, the maid, and the . little boy down the lane . . . . killing him(life=wool)
- Logan, Mena, AR
I personally believe that nersery rhymes are meant to teach children at an early age of the history behind them all. "Ring Around The Rosie, London Bridge, Baa-baa Black Sheep", etc. As morbid as it seems, the rhymes are about the facts of what happened during those time periods.
- Palmina, Kitchener, ON
I luv how he mixes songs people sang when they were little kids, so u must know the lyrics!! i think its cool how this was one of their first songs on the radio!!!
- Avery, Bucksport, ME
Another thing, ring around the rosies has multiple verses. One is "a cough and a sneeze, we all fall down" another is "a tish and a tash, we all fall down" the other is "ashes to ashes, we all fall down"
- Colby, Corinth, ME
This song is nursery rhymes in the best form of song ever.
- Taylor, Pueblo, CO
This song get's many of the rymes wrong. Firstly it's "ring around the ROSES" and I always did "London Bridge is BURNING down".
- Mjn Seifer, Not listed for personal reason, England
The song is about nursery rhymes and their real meanings. It is an amazing song. I love the bagpipes in the intro.
- Kyle, Canton, OH
the posies were supposed to help deal with the smell not keep you from getting the plaque.
- mikhail, greenville, PA
song is hillarious in my oppinion, deffinatlyone of my fav's. listen to it at least 2ce a day
- Dyly, New Knoxville, OH
Ring around the rosie was a disease back then that killed people and to prevent it u but posies in your pockets so u had them in case of catching it or around someone with it and ashes to ashes is about them burning people becasue after they died from the disease they had to burn the bodies in order to prevent the disease from spreading and we all fall down is about people dying and falling down.
- Eric, Rochester, NY
This is the first KoRn song to feature bagpipes.
It's making fun of children's nursery rhymes, showing how they, like Fairy Takes, may sound cute, but mostly have terrible things about them.
1.Baa Baa Black Sheep is probably about Black slaves working on the farms in South America.
2.London Bridge is falling down is obvios.
3.Ring Around the Rosies is about how the spots of the Black Plague looked.
- Graeme, Carluke, Scotland
See here for the meanings and origins of Nursery Rhymes www.rhymes.org.uk
- Howler, The City, WI
The song is heaps good, takes a while to get into it at the beggining though. Its kool that the nersery rhymes actually have a meaning, i didnt know that untill i came to this site. ;) thanks guys
- x-X-x T.j.C x-X-x
- Dev01d, Wollongong, Australia
i went to see korn at the family values tour,it was like a month ago and jon brought out his bagpipes and started to play this song it was badass to hear it live everyone went crazy....good times!
- heather, irving, TX
i also find the bagpipes to be very symbolic, this song almost won a grammy.
- Brian, Winchester, MA
yeah, you can hear one guitarist in the background i don't know which one, he says "Baa baa black sheep have you any wool, Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full." some times you can hear the first line, and then the seocnd but instead he says "Yes sir Yes sir, White Trash Crone."
- Brian, Winchester, MA
I think the "1 2 buckle my shoe" refers to slaves because they had no real id just listen a few times and you'll get it.
- Travis, Laconia, NH
give a dog a bone dosent directly mean any thing ,but that nursary ryme was about an old man who didnt like people playing with his dog "give a dog A bone" and when a he tryed to confront a man for giveing his dog a bone the man knocked him out "this old man came rolling home"the moral is that sometimes you should just let it go
- armand, welsh, LA
Okay, so whats the meaning behind "Nick nack patty wack give a dog a bone"?
- Bob, Rio Vista, CA
ive read that the "my fair lady" part in "london bridge is falling down" is about the bones of a virgin girl. its said that it was customary to bury a virgin girl (sometimes killed for the occasion) at the foundations of bridges and buildings and walls to keep them upright. it was beleived that these female virgins had supernatural powers because of their virginity that were beneficial to man or the community at her death. im not saying this is 100% true so you might want to do your own research but ive never heard this theory thingy before so i was just trying to put out another possibility. i think writing this song was an excellent idea and koRn kicks ass! jon you freakin rOck!
- deja, nowhere, MI
Thank you Kein. Now I don't have to type all that out :P
- Frank, Hickville, GA
first off, John Davis said this about the song, "It was written because all these little kids sing these nursery rhymes and they don't know what they originally meant. Everyone is so happy when singing but 'London Bridge' is about the Black Plague. All of them have these evil stories behind them." "The lyrics are all from nursery rhymes, and a lot of nursery rhymes go back to the Middle Ages. They're actually pretty twisted if you know the stories behind them, like about Black Death and stuff." - Jonathan Davis. I think the author of the song knows more about what it means than u all do.
- kevin, Indepence, MO
This is not just a song about nursery rhymes and its deeper meaning, but more related to the media today and what is seen as the norm. children are introduced into this new age with pornography on tv, violence etc. "look at the pages that cause this evil". For me, it's about how the children are brainwashed and "de-principled".
- Marthinus, SA, South Africa
This is such a good song. It brings back all the momories of when i was young. The best part is when he screams "MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB" i love that part. And when he plays the pipes at the concert.
- Ellen, Watertown, SD
hmm thats super cool, its one of my favorite songs too. does anybody know any good sites or books talking about the darker side of nursery rhymes, or hidden meanings or anything? <3
- Carrie, Rockford, IL
You're rite you can hear birds and a train if you turn the vol. up all the way! KOO!! I love this song!! It's my favie! KoRn is my favie band besidse SlipknoT!!!!!!!!
- Rachel, Raleigh, NC
This song is awsomme at the end when he breathes heavey and then says nick nack patty wack give a dog a bone,this old man came rolling home ! And jon keeps saying it louder each time and more aggresive!
Thanx KoRn, For touching our lives FOREVER!
- Kelly, bonita springs, FL
Ahem. This song is about the darkness of nursery rhymes that are being fed to the nieve youth. 'Ring around the roses...' that is resembeling the Plaugue.
'1 2, buckle my shoe...' think carefully and you realize it is about child abuse and slave labour.
'london bridge is falling down' self explanitory.
'baa baa black sheep, have you any wool' the black sheep is a cocaine dealer, wool is white, as is cocaine.
'mary had a little lamb' same thing. 'snow'and 'wool' are code names for cocaine.
Hope that helps you understand the song a bit better... KoRn did -not- get all mushy and pathetic, as some of you thought.
- danielle, Northumberland
To add to my prevous message,
Jared D. Port was right about "Ring around the rosie"
What hetfield said about the london fire was false the bridge didnt burn down go look it up online
But beside those nursery rhimes korn put them in the song to be gay apparently
- Mike, Frazier park, CA
How could you like this song. I like 99% of all KoRn songs and this one is just gay. its all just retarded nursery rhimes.
either way if any of you were older than preschoolers you would know that London bridge is still standing today
"I belive that London bridge is falling down is about when the London Bridge burned down"
- Mike, Frazier park, CA
yeah. you can tell jon was playing on a hill becuas if u turn ur stereo up all the way and listen carefully, you can hear a train and birds chirping. job does a hell of a good job with the bagpipes
- Billy Ross, Hagerstown, MD
this is also my favorite KoRn song
- Billy Ross, Hagerstown, MD
some of these lyrics dont make sense at all, but its a great song.
- Billy Ross, Hagerstown, MD
this is my favorite korn song. i think that it is the best
- Billy Ross, Hagerstown, MD
Also there is something about Mary's "fleece-as-white-as-snow" lamb...like she favors white people or something, I forget....
- Chris, Manassas, VA
Not ALL the rhymes have subliminal messages, just the ring around the rosies (some big plague), bah bah black sheep (racist), and I forget what else Jon said in an interview...And when he was talking about London bridge falling down, I heard it was the black plague in europe or something. But maybe that one just doesnt have a meaning. Anyway, this is one of the greatest songs ever made.
- Chris, Manassas, VA
But what are the meanings for Paddywack, And 1,2 buckle my shoe?
- Cassius, Bear, HI
Ring around the posie was indeed about the black plauge. it was thought up by children to help them cope with the death that surronded their life. "ashes ashes we all fall down" was about the color of the falling chunks of skin b4 you died.. "pockets full of posies" was a superstition believed to help keep the plauge away if you had 'pockets full of posies' (which was brought on by rats)
- Heather, Amarillo, TX
I belive that London bridge is falling down is about when the London Bridge burned down and there were families traped on it because of the houses that we're built on it, (what a smart thing to do)
- Jordan, alberqure, NM
the proper version of ring around the rosie doesnt go "ashes, ashes, we all fall down", I think its something like "a-tish you, a-tish me, we all fall down"..I could be mistaken.
- Joseph, Manteca, CA
dont quote me on this, but i believe "Ring around the Rosie" is about the black plague, the plague started with a small sore with a ring around it. "Posies," refers to a plant that people would carry they believed it protected them and/or would cure the disease. "Ashes" refers to how mass burnings of plague victims to prevent further spreading. "We all fall down" obviously refers to the fact that almost everyone who contracted this disease died.
- jared, d-port, IA
I think they're both about the Black Plague
- Nick, Paramus, NJ
Actually, "Ring around the rosie" is about the Plague, NOT "London Bridge is falling down"
On a hill? Yea! I saw a video of him playing on top of a hill...to this song...like a live thing tho. He looks so damn cool and plays the pipes real well.
- Charlie, somewhere, CA
The beginning of the song with the bagpipes was said to be recorded with Jon standing outside up on a hill.
- Nick, Paramus, NJ
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