Humpty Dumpty for the Modern Era

Heads up! You will LOVE this Pearls Before Swine comic featuring Humpty Dumpty (and his lawyers) today! This is not just some wacky notion of where our world is going. Recall that in 2009, we noted that a British  TV program was actually assuring children that, “All the kings horses and all the kings men MADE HUMPTY HAPPY AGAIN!” Yes, because it’s too much to expect kids to recover from the emotional blow of hearing that sometimes an egg actually cracks open. The truth? Our kids can’t handle the truth!

And if that’s not enough, tomorrow I will post about the updated, newly “safe” children’s poem that will drive you mad!! Mwa ha ha ha!!! – L

These things are tough as golf balls, right?



24 Responses to Humpty Dumpty for the Modern Era

  1. SKL September 24, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    And here I am explaining to my 5yo that Freddie Mercury died of AIDS.

    My children are doomed. Doomed!

  2. Jennifer September 24, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Oh, if yours are doomed, mine are even moreso. After my mother’s death I got to explain all of one’s post-death options to my then-6yo. She was fascinated by cremation.

  3. CrazyCatLady September 24, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    They may try to cream cover things, but kids eventually figure it out.

    My 7 year old son asked me a week ago, “What is going to happen to Santa when the polar ice cap melts?”

    We go along with the Polar Express type of belief (which allows for non-believers telling my kids there is no Santa.) I told my son that as long as one kid believes, Santa will have enough ice at his magical workshop to keep things afloat. After that, he will retire because no one believes any more!

    Humpty Dumpty, my foot. My kid worries about global warming!

  4. Mike September 24, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    The whole point of fairy tales is explaining to children how the world works. In Humpy Dumpty, the message is that there are some things that once done, cannot be undone, no matter how hard you try.

    “Sanitizing” it for the tender ears of the fragile little puffballs doesn’t do them any favors. Surprise, guess what: Some actions cannot be undone. Actions have consequences. Trying to clean up H-D doesn’t change that central fact.

    Fairy tales have a purpose, and have evolved into their present form over centuries of use. The politically correct versions will be swept aside, as those versions don’t teach children what they need to know.

    From 100 years in the past:
    From 100 years in the future:

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
    All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
    Could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

  5. Community September 24, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Part of the idea of Free Range Kids is that most people are good and will help out a kid if needed. Here’s a story about just that.

  6. Warren September 24, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    What’s next……Hansel and Gretal pushed the wicked old witch into the wood burning oven, becomes, Hansel and Gretal excorted the misunderstood, elderly lady to the sauna?

    Or will they just let that story stand as an example of abduction danger.

  7. gap.runner September 24, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    When my son was born he received a book called, “The Real Mother Goose.” I remembered a lot of the poems from my childhood. Then I got to the one about the old woman who lived in a shoe. It ended, “…and she kissed them all sweetly and sent them to bed.” I read it a few times just to make sure I read it correctly, then shook my head.

    It turns out that my stepmother, who’s in her early 70s, has the same book. She got it when she was a baby, and it’s one of the few books from her childhood that she saved. I looked in my stepmother’s copy of the book. The last line of the poem was, “…and she whipped them all soundly then sent them to bed.” That was how I learned it back in the day.

    Last year in German class, my son read the original version of Grimms’ fairy tales. According to my son’s German teacher, the Brothers Grimm changed their fairy tales because their brutal versions weren’t selling well. For example, in the original version of Hansel and Gretel, the witch cuts off Gretel’s hand to test if she is ready to be eaten.

    I can imagine a modern American version of Hansel and Gretel. Two children went into the woods without any adult supervision. They were cared for by an old woman, who called the police and Child Protective Services to report Hansel and Gretel’s parents for child endangerment and neglect.

  8. SKL September 24, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Well, I do think H&G’s parents were a little out of line, don’t you?

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure what the moral of that story is, other than just keeping your wits about you no matter what happens.

  9. Bob Davis September 24, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    When my daughters were of the nursery-rhymes age, I rewrote it in keeping with what was then the latest in adhesive technology:

    “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Used epoxy resin to put him together again.”

  10. Katrin from Frankfurt September 24, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    @gap runner and skl: We have a collection of the Grimm’s Fairytales, the old and brutal ones.I admit, I wouldn’t read them to my kids. But there are enough conflicts and cruelties in the “softened” versions. With regards to “Hänsel und Gretel”, I once saw a program on TV where someone assumed that this fairytale came up in the Thirty-Years-War when many people sank into extreme poverty, so it might be that some families abandoned their children.

  11. Mimi September 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I was (happily) surprised that my daughter’s preschool class was actually singing the words to “I know an old lady that swallowed a fly…perhaps she’ll die.” Shocking, I know! :)

  12. Christina September 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I was taught that H & G’s origins date back to the Great Famine (1300s). In the original story, the mother was not a second wife, and the father did not oppose the scheme. Those elements, and the religious references were added later. The various resourceful means the children used to escape and find their way home can be found in even older rite of passage stories. In any event, I always enjoyed that story (my mom gave me a book of the original versions) b/c those kids just were not having any of it :-)

  13. Amanda Matthews September 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    That’s very interesting. As a stepmother I often find the amount of “evil stepmothers” in fairy tales a bit insulting. I wonder why that came about – perhaps a nod to the religious disapproval of divorce?

  14. Michael September 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    When our daughter was about 6 years old she came up with her own alternate ending to Humpty Dumpty. It goes like this: “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again so they turned him into an omelet and had him for breakfast”!She’s probably scarred for life now but at least she knows not to waste food without reason.:-)

  15. SKL September 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I don’t think Humpty Dumpty was actually an egg. I think he was an actual roly-poly public figure whose actual death inspired this rhyme. I don’t remember who it was – a king or prince or some high official I think.

  16. Warren September 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    What about the poor child that finds broken potato chips in their bag of Humpty Dumpty Chips? OHHHHHHHH the horror of it all!

  17. pentamom September 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I doubt it was about religious disapproval of divorce, because religious disapproval of divorce meant that there *were* no step parents out of divorce. If the parents separated, they remained unmarried, because they had no other option. But of course younger widowhood was far more common than now, so there were step-parents all over the place anyway.

    So here’s what I think was going on. Until really quite recently, as in the last couple of centuries, step parents were not even expected to love or treat kindly the “children of another man/woman.” The expected stance, unless the person was very kind-hearted and virtuous, was to consider the kids in the way and competition for any children the step-parent might already or later have. As recently as Jane Austen you have characters who forgo remarriage because they know their daughters would not be kindly dealt with by the new wife, and second wives who spend all their energy getting their step daughters married off to any who will have them, not for their own good, but to get them out of the house, because they can’t stand them personally, or are competition for Dad’s money and affection, or whatever.

    IOW, step-parents frequently *were* cruel and most people didn’t think anything of it. The idea that step parents should love and embrace the children of their new spouse is modern, albeit of course superior.

    So the cruel step-parent meme was just…reality.

    As for the point, I think it actually is a “stranger danger” idea, to some extent. And in world where even parents would leave their kids to starve so the food would go farther (and it DID happen. as did a lot of other bad things at the hands of family, acquaintances, and strangers), yeah, the kids needed to learn that not everyone was trustworthy, and that quick thinking was a valuable skill.

  18. Jen Connelly September 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    I had a Mother Goose rhymes (and other poems) that was printed in the 70s (I believe, I was born in 76) and it has the original last line for The Old Lady in the Shoe. That one always fascinated me. In my book it was a two page spread with a cutaway of the shoe and all the kids lining up to get their spankings and then running upstairs to bed in tears. I always wondered what those kids did to tick the old lady off that she spanked ALL of them, lol.

    Funny, when I passed the book down to my kids that also became their favorite rhyme and my “lesson” was, “you should better behave or I’ll spank you all soundly and send you to bed.” They were not traumatized in any way.

    They were also taught to correct Humpty Dumpty ending in school. I’m sure there’s more backstory to that rhyme but to me the lesson was always, be careful because somethings can’t be undone.

    We also have a copy of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales. I have no idea what version it is and there is no copyright in it (it’s hard bound with a plain green cover and was my father’s when he was a kid in the 50s). I dared my 12yo to read it and she said no because they were taught in school that the stories were much scarier and violent then the whitewashed Disney versions she was used to. I still have tried to read it either.

  19. Shayne September 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    I really have nothing to add to what you, and he others have said, except that “Pearls Before Swine” is the best comic strip I’ve read since “Bloom Country” stopped being written. Stephan Pastis really is a genius.

  20. Lisa September 25, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    Kids are not stupid and the sanitized versions are boring. When my son was about 4 we had a big bushfire and there was a large lizard that lived at the back of our house. After the bushfire my son asked me “what happened to the lizard in the bushfire?” I though oh the poor sensitive little boy would be too traumatised to know the truth so I told him “well the lizard knew the fire was coming so he moved to a safe place” to which Mr Sensitive replied “oh really? because I am pretty sure he would have been burnt to death in the fire” He has now grown into a nice well balanced 23 year old.

  21. Christina September 25, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    @Amanda and pentamom – that reminds me of a story I heard about Abraham Lincoln as a young child. His mother passed away when he was young, and his stepmother was a huge part of his upbringing. Even though she was illiterate, she encouraged his reading and intellectual pursuits and really was a mother to him in every way. They were so close that he traveled to see her after he became President b/c she was worried about his political enemies harming him.

  22. pentamom September 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Yes, I didn’t mean to suggest that all step-parents were unkind. Certainly many were excellent parents. It’s like racism, maybe — in past eras, it was quite socially acceptable to be racist, though a goodly number of people knew better and did better. So it was with being an unkind step-parent; it wasn’t the scandal it would be nowadays. It might have been frowned upon but the expectation that any decent person would love their step-kids wasn’t there.(

  23. Warren September 26, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    Just throwing this out there. Back when these fable were born, wouldn’t most cases of becoming a stepmother be because of the birth mother’s death. Then the kids would be living with just the dad. Stepmom arrives, getting dad’s love and attention, creating jealousy, manifesting in the wicked stepmother?

  24. Bob Davis September 29, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Moving into this century, when singer Peggy Lee was growing up in North Dakota, her dad remarried, and the stepmother was not a nice person. When she was a teenager, her dad’s drinking problem sometimes got so bad that she had to cover his job as a railroad station agent.