Rub-a-Dub-Dub . . . c’mon, say it with me. You know it:
Rub-a-Dub-Dub, three men in a tub . . .
But do you know the rest?
Rub-a-Dub-Dub, three men in a tub, and who do you think was there? The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker, and all of them gone to the fair!
Oh, this one was so much fun! These three guys have all spent the day at a fair, and now they’re making their way home with all their stuff!
The Butcher bought some livestock:
But the piglet and the chicken aren’t too happy about it — they’re both doing their best to escape.
The Baker bought some apples.
I wish I could taste some of whatever he’s going to make with them!
He also won first prize for his cherry pie!
The Candlestick-maker apparently was trying to sell his wares at the fair, but wasn’t able to get rid of all of them, so he’s carrying them home again.
And look: he bought some toys for his children! A ball-and-cup game for his son, and a corn husk dolly for his little girl. What a good father!
But the candy apple is just for him. (He just couldn’t resist!)
Someone also bought something that’s wrapped up in brown paper. It sure is crowded in that tub!
But here’s the strange thing about this nursery rhyme: why on earth are they in a tub? That makes no sense at all!
Well, there’s one rather titillating possible explanation. As with most folk literature, there are variations on this poem. There are a number of different versions of the last line. But I have read that one early version of the poem had the ending I quoted, but with a very important difference near the beginning. Instead of three men in the tub, there were three maids in the tub — suggesting that the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker were looking at a peep show at the fair!
What naughty boys!
But that can’t be right. They don’t look a bit ashamed!
And the Candlestick-Maker!