Outrage of the Week: Humpty Dumpty SAFE???

Dear Readers: Cracked! That’s what the folks are over in Britain where one of the BBC’s kiddie programs (created for children with special needs but a big fave with all the under-fives, apparently), is teaching the kids that Humpty Dumpty did indeed sit on the wall. And he did have a great fall. BUT all the kings horses and all the kings men somehow “Made fytfstkyyd
Humpty happy again.”

And not in tasty omelette form!

Good God, are we SO AFRAID for our children that we think they will be traumatized by hearing of an egg that broke? Are they going to have flashbacks the next time they see a piece of French toast? Are our kids more fragile than the eggs themselves?

Bigger question: Why do we think we are HELPING our kids by assuming that a nursery rhyme that delighted several  hundred years’ worth of children is suddenly too much for this current generation to bear? 

And wait’ll the kids hear about Little Red Ridinghood!! (I’m sure she and the fox will open an organic bakery together.) — Lenore

65 Responses to Outrage of the Week: Humpty Dumpty SAFE???

  1. alicorn October 20, 2009 at 3:45 am #

    Actually, nothing in the rhyme itself indicates that Humpty Dumpty is an egg. That’s purely a product of illustrations that accompany it.

  2. Joette October 20, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    Goodness knows, we wouldn’t want our children to take away from a nursery rhyme that doing something dangerous could lead to an injury that’s either not easy to fix (broken arm) to impossible to fix (broken neck). Far better that they learn that the government (all the king’s horses and all the king’s men) will take care of them!

    Strike one more blow against self-reliance.

    For those who aren’t aware, many time-tested nursery rhymes have been re-written this way. The old woman in the shoe doesn’t spank (or smack, or whip or whichever version you happened to grow up with) any more, either. Now she kisses them all gently.

  3. Vincent October 20, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    I’d add that most children’s stories that we know today are modified. Look up the actual ending of little red riding hood, or the problems that struck the sleeping beauty or the little mermaid.

  4. radosh October 20, 2009 at 3:54 am #

    The nice thing about the Humpty Dumpty story is Free Rangers can be outraged either way. “Why are we teaching kids that if you sit on a wall you might fall off and die?! Do we really want to instill a fear of sitting on walls? What about all those people who fall off walls and don’t break, or who do break but can be put together again. By horses, no less! I think kids can handle the truth about surgeon-horses.”

  5. Stephanie October 20, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    I’ve had fun discussing some of the older fairy tales with my daughter once in a while. Like most kids she knows the Disney versions all too well.

    Now if you want a real laugh, check out The Wooden Horse at Starfall.com. The ending they give that one cracks me up every time. The story doesn’t give any context to why the horse is there, or mention the Trojan War at all. It just says that there were men hiding inside the horse and when they came running out it was a big surprise!

    Sure, guys. I’ll bet the Trojans were just delighted.

  6. Lola October 20, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    @alicorn: So what? If you have a great fall, it´s probable you can´t be put back together again. If you want to update the rhyme, maybe you could say something like “all the ER nurses and all the trained meds couldn’t put Humpty…”
    Actually, I had a chat with a friend of mine about something like this. Our kids were fascinated by a chick that had fallen from its nest. All dead and covered with ants, the poor thing. My friend was all fussy about her kids being traumatised by this, but I pointed out that not too long ago, people were born and died at home, surrounded by their loving relatives. Children assisted to the farm animals’ births, which are pretty yucky, by the way. And turkeys were sacrificed in the kitchen, just hours before being Thanksgiving dinner, right?
    My point is, birth, death, illness, injury… are all part of our nature, and kids are so broaded minded that they can assume it. It doesn’t have to be crude or tough; an adult in a wheelchair is as fascinating for them as the fact of a huge tree coming out of a tiny seed.

  7. Kevin October 20, 2009 at 4:16 am #

    I never understood what the heck the kings horses could do anways…….

    p.s. how do we even know he was an egg?

  8. tally October 20, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    I’m just confused about the end. There’s no fox in Goldilocks and the three bears.

  9. Uly October 20, 2009 at 4:19 am #

    Actually, nothing in the rhyme itself indicates that Humpty Dumpty is an egg. That’s purely a product of illustrations that accompany it.

    Not quite. Earlier Mother Goose books actually *title* the rhyme “An Egg”. I believe it was originally intended as a riddle, along the lines of “Hickamore, Hackamore, on the king’s kitchen door” and “Little Nancy Etticote in her white petticoat”.

    For those who aren’t aware, many time-tested nursery rhymes have been re-written this way.

    Look up the actual ending of little red riding hood, or the problems that struck the sleeping beauty or the little mermaid.

    Another “not quite” for both of you. With the exception of The Little Mermaid, which is a literary fairy tale, nursery rhymes and stories such as these are products of an oral tradition. Any rhyme you think of as crystalized and tradition-bound has a dozen equally old variations, and as far as fairy tales go – well! There’s nothing that makes Grimm’s version of Little Red Riding Hood any more “actual” or “real” or “definitive” than Perrault’s version – or versions predating both of them, such as found in Italy and India.

  10. Uly October 20, 2009 at 4:24 am #

    Oh, also? This is bound to come up, so let’s just get it out of the way now.

    Ring around the rosie has NOTHING to do with the plague in any way, shape, or form.


    (I link to snopes because it’s easiest, but the truth is that you can find far more comprehensive proof in print.)

  11. Uly October 20, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    I never understood what the heck the kings horses could do anways…….

    Conflation of two different rhymes will do that to you. I’ve seen versions of Humpty Dumpty that run

    …and fourscore men and fourscore more
    Couldn’t put Humpty as he was before.

    And I’ve seen versions of Hickamore Hackamore that run

    Hickamore Hackamore, on the king’s kitchen door
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t get Hickamore Hackamore off the king’s kitchen door. (The answer is the sun, btw.)

    My completely uneducated opinion is that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”, being a pretty turn of phrase, became a “floater” and just kinda attached itself to the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, even though it doesn’t make much sense there.

  12. Joette October 20, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    @Uly: I’m not sure why I get a “not quite”. Aren’t we both indicating that nursery rhymes are mutable, ie what we grew up with (smacked, spanked, or whipped wtr to the little old woman who lived in a shoe) has changed? I was just pointing out that many of the less politically correct nursery rhymes have changed to be more politically correct/less gruesome than they were when I was a child. 🙂
    I’m not fighting, btw. I just enjoy a good debate/discussion.

  13. Jacqui October 20, 2009 at 4:30 am #

    uh, hello, CAUTIONARY TALE!?

    The other day I told a student the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf so she’d stop telling me that she felt sick and had to lie down instead of doing homework. All that traumatizing tale did was get her to realize the value of her words. Sometimes you make stupid choices that are irreversible–that’s a life lesson that you can either learn gently as a child through a nursery rhyme, or the hard way as an adult who’s up crud creek without a paddle!

  14. Uly October 20, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    I didn’t think you were, but if you were then that’s great 🙂 I thought, like most people, you were adhering to a view that holds there’s One Right Form of these rhymes and the others are innovations. (People often hold that view, even if they don’t realize it!)

    My favorite with the deliberate editing is one that edited Daffy-down-Dilly to have a male counterpart… completely ignoring the fact that Daffy-down-Dilly is another term for daffodil!

  15. Marion October 20, 2009 at 4:39 am #

    Who wrote that? James Finn Garner?

    Garner’s Politically Correct Fairytales, Bedtime Stories and Nursery Rhymes are famous, but they were meant as a parody. It’s sad when what was written as an obvious parody in 1994 has now become reality.


  16. Joette October 20, 2009 at 4:48 am #

    @Uly: I’m not a proponent of One Right Form of much of anything! 🙂 But I will note how things have changed since I was a child, and would argue that for me, the changes _are_ innovations. Not that they’re bad, necessarily, but that I mourn the change from what I was accustomed to. I do feel that, in some cases, the innovations render the story/rhyme meaningless (as in the change to Humpty Dumpty) or, as you noted above, the male counterpart to Daffy-down-Dilly which is non-sensical.

    I feel the same way about cover songs. I can sometimes enjoy a cover — I particularly like the Johnny Cash cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” — but I tend to miss hearing the original if the cover becomes more popular.

  17. Mike October 20, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    This is fairly off topic, but all this talk of the true version of Humpty Dumpty reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde. He tells the tale of Humpty in the book The Big Over Easy. It’s a hard boiled detective novel.

  18. Dino October 20, 2009 at 6:08 am #

    Jack and Jill went up the hill…

    But obviously, Jack could not possilbly fallen. Too traumatic!

  19. Uly October 20, 2009 at 6:37 am #

    On the subject of Jack and Jill, there’s a whole lot of variations here:


    But these versions being primarily made up and sung BY children are probably not suitable FOR children, so us grown-ups will just have to cover our ears and pretend the kiddies aren’t singing ’em!

  20. Elizabeth October 20, 2009 at 7:46 am #

    We should all make sure that we have copies of the ORIGINAL Grimm’s fairy tales around for our kids. Those and the old Greek and Roman myths and legends. Try reading the story of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone’s, abduction by Hades to the underworld. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persephone#The_Abduction_Myth )

    My 4 year old daughter loves that story. And, incidentally, she first saw it on an HBO Family original show. So, not everyone thinks that things must be sugar coated for the kids. HBO does a great job with those myths.

  21. Alison October 20, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    The true story behind Humpty Dumpty goes back to the English Civil War. The Parliamentary men (i.e. Oliver Cromwell’s army) were defending one of the major towns (I think it may have been Colchester) and they had a big, round-bottomed cannon on a wall, shelling the Cavaliers (the king’s forces). The big cannon had been nicknamed Humpty Dumpty by the local townspeople because it was so fat and round. The Cavaliers, being led financed by the rich nobility, were usually mounted on horses, whereas Cromwell’s less well-paid but militarily superior army were on foot. This is where we get the word “cavalry” – mounted soldiers.

    The Cavaliers managed to land a cannon ball on the bottom of the wall and bring it down. The cannon fell and broke, and the Cavaliers took Colchester (at least for a time). However they could not repair the cannon.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

  22. Uly October 20, 2009 at 8:33 am #

    Actually, Elizabeth, the Grimm brothers did quite a lot of editing of fairy tales.

    For one thing, they thought it was monstrous to talk about parents harming their children, so they went and changed all the wicked mothers and fathers into wicked stepmothers and stepfathers. Later editors tried, with varying levels of success, to change some of them back.

    And certainly the stories they collected were not original to them, nor were the variants they chose special in some way – I, for one, prefer the version of Rumpelstiltskin where he flies away on a wooden spoon, or even the one where there IS no Rumpelstiltskin, just a trio of misshapen “aunties” who – LOL! – scare the prince so much he makes his (lazy) beloved promise to NEVER spin or weave or sew again! They also, in later editions, tended to tone down the sexual aspects of many of the stories they collected while turning up the violence – you can compare and contrast various editions of their work if you like.

  23. owen59 October 20, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    These old English nursery rhymes were often also political satire and so probably weren’t initially just told to children. I remember the book we had as children had a picture of Humpty’s head cracked. It didn’t stop me sitting on walls or climbing 40 – 50 feet tall conifers. But I think Humpty did help me understand that a fall could result in a serious injury. And there’s the rub. Telling small children, especially children already struggling in life, that everything will be okay, that someone else will fix it up, is a more dangerous proposition. Robust children need to feel the sting of consequences firstly in story and instruction, then in reality. Adults best help is to be on hand to encourage children to solve the problem. Sometimes the most astute approach is to let the child who doesn’t listen, “touch the hot plate while ensuring they don’t pull the boiling pot on top of them”. And that can be a metaphor for a lot of educational supervision. A child of three can be then asked, while the king is applying first aid, ‘what will you do next time? And hopefully receive a blubbering, “Leave alone”.
    And, as they grow older, the story of humpty becomes a story of over-reaching in all human realms. Each older generation must be careful to limit advice to problem-solving assistance, not to be too assertive on things that may now be outside our context.

  24. Uly October 20, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    Alison, that’s an interesting theory, however, it is demonstrably false: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_dumpty (I’m sorry for going to Wikipedia, but, regardless, you’re still incorrect.)

    It’s a popular pastime for people to attribute all sorts of serious and fanciful “meanings” to nursery rhymes, but really, you can’t believe everything you read. Among other things, if Humpty Dumpty had anything to do with the Civil War it is unlikely to have stayed out of print until 1810.

  25. Susan October 20, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    i liked the humpty dumpty version where it says – …all the king’s horses and all the king’s men had scrambled eggs for breakfast again.

  26. Uly October 20, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    LOL, Susan.

    Mary had a little lamb
    She ate it with mint sauce
    And everywhere that Mary went
    That lamb went too, of course!

  27. Kim October 20, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t know about any of you other parents, but when I was pregnant with my daughter (who is now 2,) bored out of my mind while on partial bed rest, and shopping online to build her kiddie library, I intentionally sought out a book that I remember reading when my sister was little…”The Real Mother Goose”. I didn’t want the “sanitized” versions of all the classic nursery rhymes, I wanted the real things. Beatings, broken eggs and all. I also bought her a large volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (You know, like Hansel and Gretel…two kids who are abandoned in the woods by their father and mean stepmother and left for dead, are lured to the edible abode of a witch who wants to fatten them up and eat them, and who eventually push the old bat into her own oven so they can escape?) We sing a song that I learned in my elementary school music classes called “Mr. Fly,” which is about a fly who climbs too high up a tree, falls and is “smashed to pieces on the ground,” leading to a futile rescue attempt by the local insect community. And don’t even get me started on my old Girl Scout campfire songs…

    I guess the fact that I loved all that stuff a child (and still do at 34,) coupled with my intention to teach my daughter to love them not only makes me a little bit bent, but also a bad mother.

  28. Mae Mae October 20, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    For some hysterical retelling of two stories check out “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” and “The Stinky Cheese Man” both by Jon Scieszka. They have been family favorites for years. I laughed so hard when we first read them.

    As for the Brothers Grimm – I don’t care whether they have the original stories or not. I agree that every parent should have them available for their children. Same goes for roman and greek mythology. Right on, Elizabeth!

  29. pw October 20, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Might I suggest a close look at Disney’s rendition of ‘The Little Mermaid’ while we are a it?
    The original story is a morallity tale about the trading of one’s soul for personal gain; a child’s Faust. The very point of the story is that the mermaid does loose her most valued gift due to averice, the very opposite of win-the-boy; marry-the-prince; retain-the-voice; live happily-ever-after. All at no cost. Evil is seen as something external, not a failure by the good to act for the good. Humpty Dumpty is in fact something similar, as suggested above by Owen.
    As for the Grims, the original stories they edited are in many ways now best viewed through Jim Hensen’s “Story Teller”. Dark and menacing like the European forests from which they came.
    The sacarine sweet spins applied to the likes of Humpty dumpty and The Little Mermaid are in fact the very evils the stories themselves attempt to warn us of. We really have lost the plot.

  30. Uly October 20, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    For all the talk about Greek and Roman mythology, I gotta say – I prefer the Norse gods. I just *do*.

    PW, I thought that the point of the story of The Little Mermaid is that by striving she gained a soul, that there was more to existence than what is on the surface. This is a common theme in HC Andersen’s work – the Steadfast Tin Soldier endures through being melted, the Little Match Girl lights matches to see a better world, and the Ugly Duckling is metaphorically beautiful within (although that kinda flops as he’s literally beautiful on the outside).

  31. Tracy Lucas October 20, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    I…. I… um, wow.

    I just read something on another website on this topic, and don’t even know what to say.

    Seriously. I’m baffled.

    For a word from the other side, check out this link:

    I guarantee it will make your head spin.

    Geez louise, people….

  32. pw October 20, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Uly, indeed, the original mermaid story uses that as a vehicle. However it comes at great expense in the end and calls into question many issues of desire and the soul. Central is a calling into question of what the surface and the inner being are actually perceived to be. It requires deep compromises.
    Disney’s Mermaid, like our new TV Humpty Dumpty, which actually promted this discussion, gets the lot in the end for almost free, thus by-passing any need to review inner motivations, wants and needs, causes and effects etc. The essential lesson is rendered back to front. That was more the point I was trying to make.
    And let’s not forget that Anderson was in his own way a bit of a Disney in his day too.

  33. Alison October 20, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Uly – don’t you see any problem in telling me not to believe everything I read, while pointing at Wikipedia as a source of greater knowledge? Just saying’ ….

  34. Rich Wilson October 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    I have to admit to ‘creative’ readings of most things. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater often gets a “because he was a misogynist” tossed in at the end. Or some reference to “until he got hauled off to prison”.

    I got some really strange looks in a Doctor’s waiting room when I randomly replaced “God” with various other names, such as Buddha, Zeus, Krishna, in a Veggie Tales book.

  35. Uly October 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Not really, because, Alison, I’m pointing you at Wikipedia because I can’t very well throw a physical book at you over the internet 😛

    However, let’s go for it. You cite your source to me, and I’ll go look it up next time I’m at the library. Wikipedia at least has the courtesy to show sources upon occasion.

  36. Uly October 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Oh, for crying out loud. Mother Goose isn’t dressed like a witch, she’s wearing old-fashioned clothing! Pease porridge isn’t disgusting, it’s mush made out of peas. (Pease used to be a mass noun, not a count noun, kinda like rice.) Ring around the rosie has nothing to do with the plague, as I’ve said, and if it did – so what? Your kid doesn’t know that!

    Tracy, I think this is the twit that decided to “rewrite” Daffy-down-Dilly, losing all the meaning. Let me finish reading, hold on….

    He doesn’t like “weird” ones? Ye gods, what DOES he like?

    Oh, wait. No, he’s the one who wrote Mary Had a Little Jam. Which is a pretty funny book on its own merits – to ACCOMPANY traditional rhymes, not to supplant them!

  37. Nick October 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    Humpty Dumpty was pushed!

  38. Randy October 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    Humpty Dumpty boarded a plane
    but forgot about his unusual name.
    Then the TSA poked
    and searched through his yolks–
    Poor Humpty was never the same.

  39. Leah October 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Actually, there *may* be something in the BBC’s protests in this case. From my recollection of Something Special Humpty Dumpty (or Justin dressed up as a giant egg, anyway) is indeed a recurring character, and is also demonstrably not lying around in pieces, so that could have motivated the wording change. I’m not sure I believe it, but it’s at least plausible.

  40. Christy B. October 20, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    I love the show Something Special! It’s great for all young children, regardless of ability. Justin the host comes across as such a kind, gentle soul that I really don’t care how many words were changed.

    I seriously doubt that any children now think that falling doesn’t hurt because they heard one song on a kiddie tv show. As others have said, nursery rhymes and fairytales have been changed and re-written to suit the needs/wants of the teller for AGES. Nothing new here.

  41. Ashley October 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Can’t we just read for the simple and pure pleasure of reading????

  42. Kenny Felder October 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    I had heard that it was Lewis Carroll who first made Humpty an egg. But after all the debunking going on here, I won’t bet much on it.

    If you’d like to read a very thoughtful post on Lenore’s original topic, here is one from a different blog:


    It is not about the origins of nursery rhymes or any such, but it did get me thinking about the kinds of things we read to our children, and about how it has changed over the years.

  43. pentamom October 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    I think “all the kings horses and all the kings men” was probably a metaphor for “all the might and skill of the kingdom.” In those days, a kingdom’s strength lay in its army, and an army’s strength lay significantly in its horses.

    So a far less poetic modern version would be “the combined efforts of FEMA, NIH, and the Department of Education” couldn’t put Humpty together again. LOL

  44. Bill October 20, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    This has been going on for years. Forty years ago I was soundly chastised by my younger son’s kindergarten teacher when he brought a book of rhymes from home that included “Three Blind Mice.” Obviously, it’s making fun of the “differently abled” and teaching cruelty to animals.

    Obviously, these things are modified over the years. Yet the current drive by many to create a perfectly PC world is patently absurd.

  45. Uly October 20, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    Interestingly, Bill, the older forms of Three Blind Mice don’t involve cutting off their tails at all!

  46. Joette October 20, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    It’s not really just about making a perfectly PC world, it’s also about creating the illusion for children that it’s a perfectly safe world. It seems to me that there are those who want to sanitize all possibility of violence, adult behavior, “bad” words, and tragedy out of children’s literature — and to a great extent I think it’s worked.

    Is it any wonder, then, then our children grow up somewhat schizo? On the one hand everything we’re exposing them to tells the comfortable lie that the world is completely safe and bad things don’t happen to good people, then on the other hand so many parents are trying to wrap their children in bubble wrap. Frankly, I’m amazed that we have anything resembling a sane segment of the adult population — which I would argue we do or those of us who are here, wouldn’t be. 🙂

  47. pentamom October 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    Uly, I’m not saying you’re wrong because you may well be right, but what is your source for the idea that the Grimms sanitized the fairy tales by converting all the parents to steps? My understanding was that since step-parents were traditionally expected to be hostile or at the very best indifferent toward their non-blood children (and you do see a subtext of this in non-fanciful writing even up through Jane Austen), it was natural for step-parents to be a genuine threat to the children. So I’m curious what you may have read that suggests that this is not the explanation for step-parent evil in fairy tales. Another thing is that Cinderella is not a Grimm story but has the same theme.

    Yeah, pease porridge is roughly split pea soup, isn’t it? Some people may think it’s disgusting, but it’s not some inedible slop. I guess it’s the nine-days-old thing he’s reacting to, but that’s IGNORANCE, not wisdom. Lots of cultures eat food that cooks or keeps for a long time.

    Anyway, Mr. Lansky is actually wrong that kids aren’t diminished by only hearing things that are sweet and gentle. Life ISN’T sweet and gentle, and you don’t get a magic ring when you’re 18 than enables you to cope with the hard stuff. It is far BETTER to introduce tiny amounts of the ugliness to kids in a really safe setting like “The Old Woman in the Shoe” because there ARE women out there who starve and beat their children. No, you don’t want to treat your kids to dramatizations of the CYS files when they’re five, but maybe it’s a little better for them not to be entirely blindsided when they first learn of evil, because the idea that evil is out there (though they are mostly safe from it as well loved children) is not alien to them.

    And why ISN’T it appropriate to give a child a book with an illustration of an old woman who looks like a witch (even if that’s what it is.) Are odd-looking people supposed to be automatically scary? (Free Range detector going off!) Or, is it really harmful for a child to get a mild scary thrill from a picture that can’t hurt them? Maybe a super-sensitive child could be traumatized by a certain picture and like I always say, parents have to know their kids. But a picture of a weird-looking Mother Goose is AUTOMATICALLY bad for kids? Ridiculous!

  48. Amber October 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    I remember in second grade I went to this public school that was very strict about everything, especially gaining permission from parents for the most mundane things as having a party in class or climbing some of the play ground equipment. I had to get a permission slip signed by my mother before I could read ANY book of Greek mythology, Mother Goose, or National Geographic magazines ( as NG has nude people sometimes). I was frustrated that I couldn’t even take a peek into one of those books unless I brought my slip in. Even my mother rolled her eyes about this and came down to the school library to bring the slip in person and complain about the rule as in second grade I could read at a tenth grade level, but I couldn’t even check out a sixth grade level Greek mythology book without her permission.

  49. Uly October 21, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    Uly, I’m not saying you’re wrong because you may well be right, but what is your source for the idea that the Grimms sanitized the fairy tales by converting all the parents to steps?

    The books themselves. You can probably find texts of the earlier and later editions of their books online, as they’re in the free domain, and compare and contrast them for yourself.

  50. Uly October 21, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    In fairness, there have always been stepmothers in many of these stories – it’s just that the Grimm brothers *also* edited several of their stories to move mothers and fathers to being stepmothers and stepfathers.

    Though it probably is a bad idea to speculate on their motives….

  51. swa101 October 21, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    What will they ever say about the dish running away with the spoon?

  52. Just Me October 21, 2009 at 4:14 am #

    Not a FOX, dear, but a BIG BAD WOLF! I’m sure they’re somewhere opening a vegan restaurant together.

  53. Amber October 21, 2009 at 4:16 am #

    [q]What will they ever say about the dish running away with the spoon?/q]

    Also is in this day and age would the mother of the Three Little Kittens be charged with neglect with the CPS as she let her children be outside unsupervised?

  54. Anne October 21, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    This may sound really horrible but when I first read the description of Humpty Dumpty for special needs kids. I thought of a bunch of students with traumatic brain injury that were like Humpty Dumpty and fell off a wall (or a bike) and got a head injury and nobody could put them back together again. The King’s men and horses made them happy by giving them accommodations and feeding them silly tv shows. Ok, maybe I am way off base here but it what I thought.

  55. Sandy October 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Lest you think this is purely English phenomena I will note that this is happening with American shows too. I love SuperWHY that airs on PBS because it is a cute, educational show that my son loves, but I will tell you it really bothers me that they change all the fairytales to have a happy ending.

  56. Uly October 22, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    Well, in fairness, Sandy, that’s kinda the point of the show – they use their Word Powers to fix these stories so people can be happy.

  57. Tracey R October 22, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    Sanitized fairy tales and nursery rhymes? Humpty’s been pasteurized.

  58. Tracey R October 22, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    And I remember from a course in graduate school that this rhyme started as a satirical rendering of part of the English Civil war: http://www.rhymes.org.uk/humpty_dumpty.htm

    Or also it could have been the death of James…the first, I think.


  59. Uly October 22, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    Tracey, as I said above, that’s an interesting story but it’s almost certainly not true. Given that the first publications of Humpty Dumpty were entitled “An egg” (as a riddle) and that they were printed several generations *after* the English Civil War, it’s highly unlikely that there’s any connection.

  60. pw October 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Copied and pasted from a news article, ABC Australia, abc.net.com/news

    Don’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again

    By News Online’s Sarah Collerton

    Posted 43 minutes ago
    Updated 38 minutes ago

    Dr Factor says such moves to “sanitise” story-telling is very concerning. (ABC)

    A children’s literature expert says changes made to the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty are part of a worrying trend in society.

    In the United Kingdom, the BBC is under fire for rewriting Humpty Dumpty to give it a happy ending on the CBeebies children’s programam Something Special.

    Instead of the last line saying “couldn’t put Humpty together again”, the new version claimed all the King’s horses and all the King’s men “made Humpty happy again”.

    June Factor, who has spent nearly four decades researching and writing children’s books, says such moves to “sanitise” story-telling is very concerning.

    “It’s a sad sort of ignorance involved. It’s completely unnecessary, it’s a misjudgement and it’s foolishness,” she told ABC News Online.

    “I am concerned about this misunderstanding and misreading of human development, and in many ways there are quite serious restrictions being placed on children.

    “It’s a worrying trend because there is, in countries like England and Australia, a strange panic about children.

    “The idea is that children should be protected against all risk and in this case they are seeing a psychological risk. On the contrary, it’s a psychological strengthening you gain from this material.”

    Dr Factor, an honorary senior research fellow at the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne, says unnecessary changes have been made to children’s tales for generations.

    And she says those who “bowdlerise” children’s literature do have good intentions, but they are missing the cultural and historical point of nursery rhymes and fairytales.

    “Their intentions are always admirable – the path to hell is paved with good intentions. They are hoping to make sure children aren’t frightened but of course they are omitting the purpose,” she said.

    “[Nursery rhymes] are not there as a cotton ball to protect children from the world. They are a way of exposing children to the world from the safety of someone’s lap.”

    Dr Factor says scary tales are meant to teach children about dangers in the world.

    “Fairytales are full of very grim life experiences – dead parents, being left in the woods, there’s tricksters and dangers – and what they do for children is a whole number of things,” she said.

    “It’s a way of approaching the world for children in symbolic ways so they do gain some understanding of the world but they don’t actuallty have to go out and experience the big bad wolf or whatever.

    “They are about courage, resilience, quick-wittedness, patience and they are all about hope.”

    Tags: arts-and-entertainment, books-literature, community-and-society, family-and-children, human-interest, australia, united-kingdom, england


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    Comments (13)
    Add your comment
    23 Oct 2009 5:13:54pm

    So now kids will think if they sit on a wall and fall off someone will automatically make them happy again?

    At least the original version had a safety message…

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    David L:
    23 Oct 2009 5:23:14pm

    anti bacterial spray for the young mind….

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:18:05pm

    why are we so determined to raise the softest generation EVER?

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:24:36pm

    Bring back Max and Moritz and cut off their thumbs for pilfering, I say!

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:20:28pm

    Must be GM eggs with mutation capabilities…

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    Round Objects:
    23 Oct 2009 5:23:36pm

    Paul Kelly will have to re-write his Adelaide song.

    All the king’s horses,
    All the king’s men,
    Would make me
    Happy again, in Adelaide.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:23:44pm

    That’s pretty pathetic and confusing – seriously, what child has ever been distressed or unnerved by this rhyme? I never got the point/moral of it either, it was just wordplay to me, same with Itsy-Bitsy Spider. What about Rock-a-bye Baby? That’s got a kid in a cot falling from a tree. That’s more scary for a baby, will they censor that?

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    23 Oct 2009 5:24:44pm

    Once again the thought police are doing their best to set up the next generation for failure. Not only do they not want children to learn history and the history of politics through nursery rhymes and stories, they want them to be totally unprepared and incapable of dealing with normal life experience.

    I don’t believe those that ‘sanitize’ are well-meaning at all. They are mischief makers at best.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:26:58pm

    When I was young I don’t think I tought much of the story anyway. Only when I was older did I begin to analyse it. It’s stupid to say that nursery rhymes teach children lessons.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    Nick L.:
    23 Oct 2009 5:27:04pm

    Being familiar with the way the British think about things, the child safety message of not sitting on high walls through fear of falling off is second only to the previous inadequacy of “all the kings men and all the kings horses”. For British royalists, the Kings men, whoever they are, simply cannot be seen as being unable to achieve anything because it reflects badly on the British royal family. Humpty Dumpty would likely be banned in Thailand where it is illegal to criticise the King. At least in good old Australia you can still get the raw and uncensored Humpty Dumpty, complete with a G rating.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:27:41pm

    Couldn’t agree with Dr Factor more. Our job as parents is to give a safe place where children can find out about their world, from its most beautiful to its most ugly.

    Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are a wonderful way that kids and parents together can explore the “scary” parts of life – what would YOU do if you were lost in a forest – what happens when something or someone you love is broken beyond repair?

    If children can’t ask and explore these questions in the safety of their parent’s or carer’s lap, we leave them adrift when these things inevitably happen.

    We need to realise that children are resilient, they are explorers of a new world they have been born into, and our job as parents and adults is to be the patient guide, not the overprotective nurse.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:28:06pm

    I am as bewildered as anyone I guess. This article includes all the reasons why I should be bewildered. I would have hoped the story might have included arguments from the other side just to make me an incy wincy bit less bewildered.
    Or should I simply assume there is no sensible counter argument?

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

    23 Oct 2009 5:28:15pm

    Actually reminds me of that Ricky Gervais act. Ricky Gervais Humpty Dumpty – check it out on youtube. Hilarious.

    Reply Agree (0) Alert moderator

  61. bequirox October 28, 2009 at 3:42 am #

    This reminds me of a friend. Her dentist told her that her son’s thumb sucking was starting to damage his teeth, so she asked her friends on facebook for ways to wean him. She got lots of great ideas, then a giant scolding by someone who told her if her 2 year-old is sucking his thumb, it’s because he needs to and if she makes him stop before he’s ready, she’ll traumatize him for life. What a bunch of bologna! If anything, now is the time to make him stop! I don’t’ know about you, but I sure don’t remember anything from that age and I’m certainly not traumatized about any of it.

  62. Ali October 31, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    I know I’m coming to this a bit late, but this has been completely taken out of context. I’m in the UK, and my daughter *adores* Something Special, especially the character Mr Tumble, who was dressed up as Humpty Dumpty for that section of the show. And I know the Independent just wrote that article, but the show was made 2003-04 – its not like it just happened. Plenty of kids have been watching this for ages, and no fuss was kicked up. And it was never really about the nursery rhyme anyway, it was about Mr Tumble – dressed as Humpty Dumpty – not being about to do stuff and then getting sad, so the ‘kings horses and kings men’ tickled him with feather dusters to cheer him up. The Humpty Dumpty bit always struck me as a sideline to what they were really doing. Anyway, I think the whole fuss is pretty irrelevant, I agree that we shouldn’t be taming down nursery rhymes for the kids, mine have always heard the real versions alongside whatever else they might see, but this was more about the character being sad and then being cheered up than being Humpty Dumpty who fell off a wall and got broken into bits.

  63. TON November 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    I think we do not want our children to experience the culture from which danger may be made. Leading to injury may not be easy to fix (broken arm) is not possible to change (broken neck). Far better than they know the government. (All his horses and all his men) will take care of them.


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