"Babes in the Woods"

This is a lullaby that everyone in my family sings and it's been passed down for generations. I have fond memories of my mother
and grandmother lovingly rocking me to sleep with it. One day when I was a teenager it finally occurred to me to listen to the lyrics consciously for the first time:

My dear, do you know, how a long time ago

Two little babes, whose names I don't know
Were stolen away on a fine summer's day
And left in the woods as I heard people say.

And when it was night, so sad was their plight
The sun, it went down and the moon gave no light
They sobbed and they sighed and they bitterly cried
Poor babes in the woods, they laid down and died.

And when they were dead, the robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves and over them spread
Then all the day long, they sang them this song:
Poor babes in the wood, Poor babes in the wood.

"Aaargh!" I complained to my mother, "That's a horrible song. Why would you sing that to me?" I guess until then, I'd always assumed it was just a
retelling of Hansel and Gretel, which this site seems to substaniate, but I never listened through to the end where they actually died.

As an adult, I've heard and read books that the song was based on a true story, which kinda makes it even more creepy. I've seen many different versions and even more stories about of where the song came from, as old as the 1500s. I've heard it's based on a true story either from Appalachia (not that likely considering my genealogy) or England (much more likely). In the one I'm most familiar with, it's an English ballad where a rich gentleman died and left guardianship of his son and daughter to his brother. A large sum of money was to be paid to the children when they were adults to go out on their own, but if they died before that the money would go to their uncle. So the uncle took off with them and left them in the woods to secure their money.

As a young adult I heard a Michale Ballam recording of this song and I couldn't believe anyone else had ever heard it outside of my family. He talked about how his grandmother taught him as a child about life and death and acceptance of the circle of it all through this song and he didn't think it innapropriate at all. I think I like this explanation the best.

And so, even though it's a "horrible song", I sing it to my daughter. And with very little parental encouragement, she loves it too and requests it often as one of the top 10 or so lullabies that is in our repertoirs. She was never more proud of herself than the day when she demonstrated to me that she knew all the words and could sing it herself. I hope that she will sing it to her daughter one day too.

What about you all? What inappropriate songs do you sing to your kids? Did your mothers sing to you? Would you pass them on or not?