Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb.
Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went,
and everywhere that Mary went
– the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day
school one day, school one day.
It followed her to school one day,
which was against the rule.
It made the children laugh and play,
laugh and play, laugh and play,
it made the children laugh and play
– to see a lamb in school.
And so the teacher turned it out,
turned it out, turned it out.
And so the teacher turned it out,
but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
patiently about, patiently about,
And waited patiently about
– till Mary did appear.
“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
“Why does the lamb love Mary so,”
the eager children cry.
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,”
the teacher did reply.
At first this seems like a straightforward narrative about a little girl and her darling farmyard pet. Then we take our heads out of our asses and see it for the desperate war shriek it most definitely really is.
In the fourth stanza, we learn of the lamb’s creepy superpowers: “It made the children laugh and play.”
It’s one thing to make a child laugh. Anyone who farts can do it. But to make the children play? What would that even look like? Rows of young scholars standing up in the middle of class, silently assembling into hopscotch squares, slowly tossing balls, eyes locking over the rims of plastic teacups?
This is not entertainment. This is mind-control.
The teacher immediately identifies the lamb as responsible for the children’s antics, and sends it away. Significantly, she doesn’t kick the lamb out until after it uses its powers; The Rule doesn’t exclude little lambs in general. Just the agents of menticide.
Such a Rule, of course, would not exist unless there had been previous attempts to introduce psychic manipulators into the school. That the teacher was able to recognize the lamb’s use of mind-control, and respond in calm authority, further denotes a training facility prepared to handle coercive persuasion.
For these and other reasons, it is apparent that this is one of the special academies for gifted prospective assassins described in such legends as Ladybug, Ladybug. For all we know, it’s the same academy referenced in Ladybug, Ladybug. If you can’t remember mention of an assassin-training academy in the poem, Ladybug, Ladybug, go read it again. It’s in there.
We should have it figured out by the third stanza that Mary’s not a child. Our source tells us that the little lamb followed her everywhere. If it only followed her to school one day, she only visited once; she couldn’t have been a student.
Yet the children all know her by name. We can tell by her one-time visit to the establishment during school-hours that she had at least occasional business there. She is not sent out with the lamb, but remains behind for some length of time, occupying the teacher’s attention.
It’s deeply emphasized that Mary went everywhere; in all likelihood, she worked for the academy as a talent scout and facilitator. Discovering in the course of her extensive travels a promising young lamb-psychic, Mary made a special trip to plead in person for an easement to the rule against mind-benders. It didn’t work, but the lamb seems to have taken its rejection in stride.
The narrator struggles to communicate this history. Her speech is rife with echoing fragments – a single thought is repeated two to four times before the sudden introduction of a unique sentence, describing a personal impression. It’s as though she’s striving to hammer home each point to an audience who isn’t listening. Every so often, she can’t help editorializing under her breath.
This audience is familiar with the academy’s existence, but not with its internal policies; the narrator has to explain that the lamb’s attendance went against a Rule. They also know Mary by name. A good case can be made that these are village civilians gossiping over the assassin-school’s local coordinator.
By the same token, we can tell that our storyteller once attended this academy. Not only is she intimately familiar with school policy, she is also able to hear or channel the voices of schoolchildren in the present, which her audience apparently cannot do. Notice the subtle change in verb tense after the narrator tells us what happened with the lamb one day in school; the narrator has finished describing a memory, and begun to fill us in on a similar conversation the schoolchildren and teacher are having about Mary at that very moment. So she, too, is Gifted.
It’s clear, with both villagers and students discussing Mary and Lamb, some local event has occurred which embroils both of them in controversy.
If tone is any indication, Mary has long been an object of envy. One can hear it in the wistful refrain, “Everywhere that Mary went…” As the author marvels over all her travels. Then she mutters something about Mary breaking the Rule when she brought the lamb onto school property, but it’s never implied that she faced negative repercussions. It seems Mary is held to different standards than other school affiliates. The children demand to know why the lamb loves her – “Mary” is the word repeated most in stanza seven, emphasizing less that the lamb could love a person, than that the lamb could love Mary, of all people. In fact, the brutal tykes hardly seem to be asking for information – they shout the query eagerly. They’re all talking at once. They’re just plain tearing Mary down.
Paying careful attention to verb tenses in the last two stanzas, we gather that this is a recurring subject. In the past, the teacher jumped to Mary’s defense, saying Mary loved the lamb. In the present, no teacher replies to the snotty brats’ complaint.
As reported in other literature, when Ladybug’s school was attacked, the majority of her students ran away. It may be that the controversy of the moment, for which both villagers and students seem to blame Mary, is the burning of the school.
She might be just a handy scapegoat, guilt determined by circumstance alone. As someone who travels near and far recruiting, she’d easily attract the attention of rivals. She’s well-known and already regarded with mistrust by the student body. But if two separate groups suspect her at once, perhaps there is more reason to suspect her of treason than we know.
It is interesting to consider that, in possession of tremendous power, and with only lukewarm interest in joining the school, the lamb’s antics consist of making children laugh and play. Although young and inexperienced, the lamb employs an impressive level of subtlety – masking its influence by mimicking normal human behavior. In an ordinary school, the lamb’s interference might have gone unnoticed. As it was, the frivolity of the assassins-in-training struck the teacher as odd. But then the lamb seems not at all upset at being found out; it waits patiently outside for Mary to finish her business. Indeed, it might be argued that the teacher was playing directly into the lamb’s chops all along. The animal loved Mary and enjoyed her company; it should not surprise us to learn the teacher’s decision not to accept the lamb as a student was a product of the little beast’s design.
When we listen to the narrator shout her main points over and over, abruptly fixating on sensory details and internal dialogue at the end of every stanza, it is obvious that she, like her audience, is fighting to remain focused on her story. She struggles to explain that Mary had a little lamb, who made children laugh and play. There’s a reason she brings it up now. It seems as though the animal’s powers of distraction are being used at this very moment against the gifted narrator and her civilian listeners. If the lamb still follows Mary everywhere, it must be that Mary is hiding near at hand.
We should assume the lambkin is acting on Mary’s orders in keeping the civilians trapped by the power of distraction in whatever tavern they’ve holed up. It is possible that the lamb’s influence is to blame, as well, for the sudden cowardice of Ladybug’s assassins-in-training. Mary had the means and opportunity to amass an army with Ladybug’s rejects. All it would take is a smattering of power-hunger, with the lamb’s assistance, for her to try a hostile takeover.
It’s unlikely the villagers would hold their own against a horde of assassins. The telepathic narrator may or may not, due to her training, pose the tiniest bit of a threat to Mary’s horde. But she’s not sent far away like the academy’s other students. She’s kept near to the school, and passive, like the villagers.
The reason for this comes out as a Freudian slip in the seventh stanza, as the persistent refrain goes, “Love Mary so?” The main point in that sentence, deeply emphasized, is that Mary is loved. The narrator quickly backtracks and tries to distance herself from this admission by channeling the far-away students. But she follows up by repeating the schoolteacher’s past defense of Mary. She loves her. And if Mary’s lamb friend is keeping her distracted long enough to keep her out of harm’s way, it seems as though Mary loves her back.
But, as hinted at in earlier stanzas, the narrator all along considered the little lamb a liability – sure to go, considering all the places that Mary went. The narrator clearly blames the lamb for Mary’s betrayal. And perhaps is justified in doing so. The lamb is a mind-bender, after all. The lamb makes sure to go with Mary everywhere. Perhaps this is Mary’s special power: she can travel between realms. To realms where lambs can talk and bend minds, even. She’s an asset to an animal with deadly ambition.
The narrator channels answers from a teacher suggesting not so much that the lamb loves Mary, as that Mary loves the lamb. She’s its prisoner. And the narrator is a trained assassin, realizing this about the woman she loves. The lamb was sure to go. She’s got to kill it.