Is Humpty Dumpty even an Egg?
As most of you may recall your childhoods, you may have memories of singing about a giant egg sitting on a tall wall, sometimes eating ice-cream, sometimes doing nothing in particular, and by the end of the rhyme, he falls over and ‘cracks’ and nobody can save him. Quite a grim picture if you think about it. There’s a reason why the rhyme is so grim, and we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s first make sure Humpty Dumpty was really an egg. “Of course he was”, you might say but for that, I say let’s revisit the rhyme.
Here are the the famous humpty dumpty lyrics.
“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. “
You might notice, nowhere does it say that Humpty Dumpty was a giant egg, or that he cracked. The reason why you have a picture of an egg in your head, is because in most children’s books, the rhyme was accompanied by a picture. Which is what you associated the rhyme with. The last line of the above mentioned version of the rhyme also suggests that Humpty somehow “fell apart”, which is why he needed to be put together. But, if you were to look up an early version of the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, you might find a slight difference in the last couple of lines. Here’s a copy of the 1810 version of Humpty Dumpty song, first printed in Gammer Gurton’s Garland.
“Humpty Dumpty sate on a wall,
Humpti Dumpti had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before. “
This version was accompanied by a picture of a fat kid, hence the concluding line saying “Couldn’t place Humpty Dumpty as he was before” suggesting that nobody was able to make the fat kid sit back up after he fell over.
The story behind the rhyme
While there are numerous stories suggesting different origins for the famous childhood rhyme, we’ll visit the most popular and seemingly accurate one. Humpty Dumpty is believed to be made in the image of King Richard III. Why him, and not some other King? That’s due to one main reason – King Richard III may have had a slightly hunched back. Scientists have also confirmed this as a fact when they found his skeleton underneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2012, and analysis of his skeleton revealed that he had severe scoliosis, meaning one of his shoulders was higher than the other.
But did King Richard III die by falling off a wall? Figuratively, yes. In the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Richard III died by falling off his horse, which was supposedly called “Wall”. He was also the last King to die in battle. The aforementioned skeleton also showed multiple wounds to the skull, bashed in quite brutally.
If one were to take this version of the origin story to be canon, it would seem that Humpty Dumpty was an homage to King Richard III.
There is another theory, (later debunked to be untrue) which is quite interesting to look at. It says that Humpty Dumpty was a nickname given to a massive cannon, propped up on one of the walls of the town’s church, in Colchester, England. The cannon was placed there as a defensive measure during Colchester’s siege in 1648. But when the top of the church tower was hit by enemies, the cannon tumbled to the ground and fell apart. While this is a quite compelling theory, the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes pointed out that the cannon story originated in a spoof published by Oxford Magazine in 1956.
While there might be numerous other theories floating out there, these were the two most convincing ones.
To read more such fun articles and intriguing news pieces, make sure to subscribe to the newsletter over at internationalinside.com.