For those unfamiliar, the verse goes like this:
Jack and Jill went up a 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 trot
As fast as he could caper
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper
|Illustration of "Jack and Jill"|
Anyway, second verse aside, there are many different theories as to the meaning of Jack and Jill. It was first published in the 1760s as part of Mother Goose's Melody, but the rhyme probably dates back even further than that. Some scholars believe that it could be related to the brother and sister Hjuki and Bill of Norse mythology of the 13th century. Their story also involves a well, but instead of falling down they were taken up to the moon.
Another theory is that Jack and Jill are really King Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette, and "broke his crown" signifies their beheading. Or perhaps it has to do with England's King Charles I who led a tax reformation on liquid measures. "Jack" was a term for a half-pint and "Gill" was a quarter pint. This "Gill" might seem a stretch to you, but there are some old versions of the poem entitled Jack and Gill. Many pint glasses in the UK even have a crown above the half-pint mark.
Or the poem could even be about money! "Jack" and "Jill" once meant "dollar" and "cent", meaning that their climb up the hill was an economic boon, followed by a horrible recession when they came tumbling down. This recession could even be blamed on a drought, giving meaning to "fetch a pail of water."
But whatever the rhyme may truly mean, it is definitely a large part of popular culture. Shakespeare references Jack and Jill in Love Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Countless bands have sung of Jack and Jill, including The Dave Matthews Band in their song "What Would You Say." Even hip hop artist Eminem mentions Jack and Jill in the last two lines of his song "313". In fact, just looking up "Jack and Jill" on Wikipedia brings up a magazine, a novel by James Patterson, an adult film, a comic book, a television series, an organization, a song by Raydio and even an upcoming movie starring Adam Sandler and Katie Holmes.
Not to mention an upcoming book by me!