Humpty Dumpty we all know to have been a riddle, with the answer of course being that the mysterious Humpty was in fact, an egg. Nothing particularly eerie about that, right? Well, as soon as someone decided to take the guesswork out of the rhyme, by illustrating Mr. Dumpty perched atop his wall, and gave him a face, it all changed. To a child (at least to me), we now had the story of a life; a terrifyingly fragile one at that. The rhyme was no longer a riddle; instead it could be surmised as:
“The fragile Eggman unwisely sat top a wall. He fell and died horribly.”
I remember being read this out of an Old-school Mother Goose book as a very young child and thinking what a nightmare it was to be Humpty Dumpty, as veritably anything (I had broken many an egg trying to help my Mom cook, promising to be careful) would lead this poor creature to a yolk-splattered death. Humpty couldn’t go out and play, he couldn’t slide down the stairs…everything I knew to be fun was off-limits to Humpty, with any false move leading to his doom. His only real option would be to stay at home in the nest or egg carton and not move.
Of course I knew Eggmen didn’t exist. It was the concept of this absurd fragility that had me so scared.
The picture out of that book sealed the deal, for it depicted the wide-eyed, last-second look of terror as Humpty, seeing the end of his cursed existence a few seconds away, was beginning to fall. I would imagine what the after-effect drawing would look like; that panicked, open-mouth look, and huge open eyes frozen amidst cracked shell and leaking albumen. I could even hear him scream.
I scribbled over his face with a pen, in an attempt to hide the first “Face of Death,” I had ever witnessed, but to no avail. I still knew it was there. I remember later watching SESAME STREET where a very freakish looking Humpty, with a mouth that caved in as he spoke, was being interviewed by Kermit the Frog as a nursery-rhyme news correspondent, and feeling the sense of dread that it was only a short matter of time until he was destined to fall from the wall, and no one would be able to help. Such was the fate of the doomed Eggmen.
The Eggmen repulsed me, as if they were the Elephant-men of the nursery rhyme circuit. It was not as if I wanted to save them; rather, I never wanted them to exist.
Earlier: Reader Bigwig not so fondly recalls Struwwelpeter.
Bigwig, This traumafession reminds me of one thing…
What is the very first rhyme little babies hear as a welcome to planet earth?
What’s it about?
A mother who for some insane reason only she knows, leaves her newborn baby in a small crib (a rocking crib no less!) high in a tree and then stands back and watches like a zombie as the inevitable occurs.
I think parents choose to sing this rhyme and tell the tale of Humpty dumpty in order to cover their asses if they should drop their babies on their head. This way if a kid asks later in life “hey didn’t you drop me on my head as a baby?” the parent can just say ” you’re thinking of that rhyme I used to tell you, it never happened!”
I like to think of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme as an allegory about alcoholism. Every time “Humpty” goes out he gets trashed and “falls off the wall”. His peeps (All the kings horses and all the kings men) stage many an intervention but to no avail. Every pay day Humpty goes out and gets “cracked” again!
By the way, I remember someone in a TV show once reading Rockabye Baby and then saying “Who wrote this? Stephen King?????” Cant remember what show it was but I got a good laugh off that one.
Now that you mention it, there is indeed something disturbing about that rhyme. As a very small child, I always thought he was sentient, due to the pictures, but although the king’s men weren’t able to save him, someone else was. This was before I had a concrete definition of life vs. death, mind you, and still had a lot to learn about the world.
Although I or anyone I know wasn’t disturbed by it, I think Jack and Jill is another creepy rhyme up there with Humpty Dumpty and Rockabye Baby. Think about it. Two children, a boy and girl, presumably siblings, go on an errand to fetch water on a hill. The boy falls down the hill, and “breaks his crown”, while the girl falls next. There’s potiental right there.
I believe the story book I had as a kid actually did have an illustration of Humpty post-plunge. It was horrifying. He was broken in two jaggedly, just under his eyes, with his life’s goop all over the place and the worst thing is, he was still clearly conscious! He had this pleading look in his eyes as if to say, “Sweet Henry, somebody DO something! Either fix me or put me out of my horrible misery!” Obviously, having an active imagination can be a terrible burden sometimes…
I did a little “research” (read: Googled) on ol’ Humpty and didn’t really find too many of the after pics…plenty of the poor chap beginning his fateful crash to the ground below…
Anyone remember McFarlane’s Twisted Fairy Tale toys? He did one of Humpty…
Blegh. Not too eggish, but still pretty grody.
Ah, the good old days of Sesame Street!
I, for one, get very excited when I see the Egg Man.
well, according to the BEASTIE BOYS song Eggman he LIVES!:
“Humpty Dumpty Was A Big Fat Egg
He Was Playing The Wall And Then He Broke His Leg”
Bigwig — that Humpty Dumpty from Sesame Street always freaked me out as well. And who did the face paint on that egg, John Wayne Gacy?
Well i never really saw it on TV because is a commercial of the 80’s on UK television, but what about this humpty dumpty???
I bet there are many traumatized children on the UK (now adults) because of kinder surprise adv