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Image of girl with birds in uncombed hair

The little girl who would not brush her hair

In our Parker collection of old children's books we have one from 1860 called Aunt Oddemadodd's Whispers About Certain Little-People by W. Newman. This book is all about naughty children and what happens to them! In the moral tales written for children during the mid 19th century, the good were rewarded and the wicked severely punished. Although this cautionary tale about what happens to a little girl who refuses to comb her hair carries the same message, it has been written to entertain children, rather than to scare them.

"I’ll tell you of a little girl, who would indeed have been
As pretty a young lady as ever could be seen,
But that about her little head she had no cleanly care,
And never, never could be made to brush and comb her hair.

Behind her ears her matted locks she carelessly would push,
And at the top her hair stood up, just like to a furze bush;
In winter it was filled with flue, in summer swarmed with flies,
And in the spring, and autumn, too, it hung about her eyes.

One day, into a wood she went, and slept beneath a tree,
And all the little birds came out, her tangled locks to see;
And as they flitted by her ears, they chirruped out with joy,
“Sure never was a safer place to hide from gun and boy.”

So, quickly they brought moss and twigs, and all the other things
Which, when a bird would build a nest, industriously he brings;
And whilst against the aged tree the maiden sank to rest,
Six little birds within her hair securely made their nest.

And when from sleep the girl awoke, so heavy felt her head,
(For all the birds, both young and old, had snugly gone to bed,)
That she began to scream and cry, and wander to and fro,
But never from that hour could she prevail on them to go.

Both day and night, thro’ all the year, now all of you may see,
The birds sit perching on her head, as tho’ it were a tree;
And was not this a punishment most fitting as the share
Of the naughty little girl who would not brush and comb her hair.”

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