The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

A few weeks ago, while I was going about my business, a thought came into my head. Not as uncommon as it might sound, but it was a fairly momentous thought, nevertheless. The thought concerned the nursery rhyme, โ€œRub A Dub Dubโ€, which involves three men: a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. The version of the rhyme which I remember from my childhood went something like this (pulled from a Wikipedia page).

Rub a dub dub,
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
They all sailed out to sea.

You are correct in deducing that this is, indeed, quite a random thought. Fortunately, such thoughts come into my head just often enough to keep my life reasonably interesting. The odd thing about this particular random thought is that I hadn’t thought of that particular rhyme for years, and the only portion I remembered was the line, “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.” Even more amazing is the fact that, after the thought entered my head, I automatically attempted to fabricate some underlying and philosophical meaning to account for the seemingly disjointed nature of the rhyme.

This is what I realized:

Throughout history there have been three kinds of people necessary in order to facilitate major change in any given society. The “butcher” is the person willing to take whatever action necessary, despite the implications or nature of the act, in order to cause or further change. The “baker” is the person who takes what he has, despite how little or how much that may be, and uses it to support the others in the cause. And last, but by no means least, the “candlestick maker” is the person who illuminates the darkened path leading to change, and who keeps a beacon of light constantly burning to light the way for others to follow.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? All that from a phrase that popped into my mind while standing in my living room one day. Some people might say that I read too much into things.

I disagree with them.


~ by offling on April 1, 2009.

9 Responses to “The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker”

  1. U know that reminds me of the Bible account of Joseph the butcher and the baker, and how Joseph was the one who lightened the truth about their dreams. Just a thought. Not sure how they sailed out to sea tho.

  2. Do you mean the cup bearer and the baker? But, yes, I see what you mean, especially about the light of truth concerning their dreams. Haha, yah, I never really thought about what might be related to the sailing out to sea portion of the rhyme. ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Rub-a-dub-dub
    Three men in a tub,
    And who do you think they be?

    The butcher, the baker,
    The candlestick maker,
    They all jumped out of a rotten potato!
    Turn ’em out knaves all three

    Could it be Titus , Arrius and Christ !!!!

    Just a thought.

    • You never know! I think a lot of old nursery rhymes contain symbols of important figures in history, so it makes sense that this one might too…

      Thanks for your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi – You’ve got me thinking about those old nursery rhymes.

    How about this one.

    Sing a song of sixpence,
    A pocket full of rye.
    Four and twenty blackbirds,
    Baked in a pie.
    When the pie was opened,
    The birds began to sing;
    Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
    To set before the king?
    The king was in his counting house,
    Counting out his money;
    The queen was in the parlour,
    Eating bread and honey.
    The maid was in the garden,
    Hanging out the clothes;
    When down came a blackbird
    And snapped off her nose.

    They send for the king’s doctor,
    who sewed it on again;
    He sewed it on so neatly,
    the seam was never seen

    Just working through the main clues.

    Sixpence I believe alludes to Christianity. (Christams Puddings, In CS Lewis – Mere Christianity – Christianity is exchanged for sixpence)

    Who would have a pocket full of rye? Perhaps a Baker or Miller! Could it be the same Baker as referred to in “Rub a dub dub”?

    24 Blackbirds I suspect are Christians. 24 being a number associated with the Greek spelling of “Jesus”

    Baked in a pie? We are back to the Baker again – seems to be a common theme. Pie also alludes to Pythagoras.

    “The birds began to sing” – Christians were renouned for their singing.

    The King and the Queen seem to be doing quite nicely – thank you!

    The unsuspecting Maid (the worker / unbeliever) gets attached by the blackbirds who cut off her nose – stops her being nosey and searching for the truth.

    But when the maid gets too “nosey” the Doctor comes along and fixes the nose so well you can’t see the join. The secret is preserved.

    My prime suspect as the “Baker” in both these rymes is Arrius Piso. His Surname Piso is associated with Baker or Miller. He was also a keen advocate of the works of Pythagoras – Pie, and trained as a Doctor. And lastly, he and his family literally baked the Christian pie.

    I leave the overall meaning to those readers who have found these crumbs.

    • Hello! Sorry for the extremely late reply…

      I see what you mean. What you’re suggesting makes sense, seeing as people throughout the ages have always found ways to entwine “controversial” ideas or messages into their work, literary or otherwise.

      And to think people repeat nursery rhymes to their children by rote, often without wondering even once what the rhyme’s underlying meaning might be…

  5. In the 70’s I penned a story entitled “A Candlelight Story”. It seems that it’s time now to finish it. I didn’t have the internet back then. Just before starting to work this PM the phrase “The Butcher, The Baker, The candlestick maker”. (Using your words,)… I remembered was the line, โ€œThe butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.โ€ Even more amazing is the fact that, after the thought entered my head, I automatically attempted to fabricate some underlying and philosophical meaning to account for the seemingly disjointed nature of the rhyme. I’m not sure but the reason that I’m finally working the story into a book is that I’ve come upon the underlying and philosophical meaning. It’s been in the story for over 30 years waiting, as candles do, for a touch of flame to bring out the radiance. My own research has shown that great truths were encoded into nursery rhymes, so that a childs innocense could intuit that which is out of reach of the conditioned mind.
    Any way if you’d like a copy of the story. Just drop me a note. It’s yours free to enjoy. Best Wishes, Happy Musing

    • Hi – Forgive me for my slothsome reply but after further reading and understanding I have only just grasped the meaning of your first couple of lines. It’s quite a struggle putting it all together without a mentor or teacher. I would be very interested in reading your story – I assume it will illuminate the mysteries in the rhyme?
      Many thanks

  6. I love what you said about this. I still don’t really get the poem but I’ve been looking everywhere for the meaning of it. I can’t find any but yours so far and it’s a good guess!

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