Who is Humpty Dumpty and Why Does He Matter?
You may think you know Humpty Dumpty, the famous egg of nursery folklore, but there is much more to the story.
Here is the famous Mother Goose nursery rhyme we all know and most likely can recite by heart.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses
And all the King’s men
Cannot put Humpty together again!
The ditty began a long time ago in 1797 but with different words for the last three lines. Originally Humpty Dumpty read like this:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.
So, why the name Humpty Dumpty? For centuries, Humpty Dumpty had been a nickname for people who were considered “short, stout and dumpy looking.”
And Humpty originally was not necessarily considered an egg or pictured as one. First he was shown as a round portly gentleman. But over the years, the rhyme transformed into a riddle and the answer to the riddle was “an egg.”
Through the years Humpty made many literary appearances. For instance, he showed up in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass in 1872 sitting on a wall to argue with Alice about the meaning of words. In the illustrations, Humpty begins to take on the appearance of an egg
But it wasn’t until L. Frank Baum wrote his short story, Humpty Dumpty, in 1901 that Humpty’s back story as an adventurous egg was told. Baum also turned the simple rhyme Humpty into a riddle to win a princess, and changed the lines of the rhyme to the one we know today.
And if the name L. Frank Baum seems familiar to you, perhaps it’s because of a wonderful series of books he wrote that have been collectively come to be known as The Wizard of Oz.
Mr. Baum’s Humpty Dumpty is about an egg born to a Speckled Hen. She had laid 12 egg and she named the last one, Humpty Dumpty.
But because Humpty was so big, he was kicked out of the nest by his siblings so they could have more room. On his own, he runs into a little brown egg named Coutchie-Coulou. (Mmmmm, any relation to Couthchie, Coutchie Coo, I wonder.) He and Coutchie decide to seek out adventure. Unfortunately things don’t go well for Coutchie, but Humpty meets a beautiful princess. (Naturally!)
Well, the King happens to be riding by and Humpty wants a better view, so he asks the Princess to place him on a wall so he can see better. Sadly, you can guess the rest! Poor Humpty.
As for the beautiful princess, she was being pursued by many noble and wealthy men for her hand in marriage. And the King was unable to choose which man was worthy of her. So he threw out a challenge. Whoever could ask him a riddle he could not guess would get the hand of the princess.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
One handsome young man spoke Humpty Dumpty’s riddle. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it’s this ‘new and improved’ riddle-rhyme that brings Humpty Dumpty a new level of fame.
Humpty Dumpty is but one of L. Frank Baum’s whimsical short stories that have been turned in to Mother Goose rhymes. Others include Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Bo-Peep, Little Miss Muffet, Man in the Moon, Mistress Mary, Old King Cole, Sing a Song O’ Sixpence, Little Boy Blue, Little Tommy Tucker, Tom Tom the Piper’s Son, Little Jack Horner … and the iconic, The Woman who Lived in a Shoe … just to name a few!
Now you may be wondering why on earth is e-Royalty writing a story about Humpty Dumpty.
Well, some say that Richard III was called Humpty Dumpty for his supposed crooked back. As we know, Henry Tudor challenged Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field for the crown of England. As the story goes, during battle Richard III (H.D.) sat atop his horse (the wall). Unfortunately for Richard, he had a great fall from his horse. Tudor’s men surrounded him and killed him by hacking him to death. His men (the King’s men) couldn’t save him or put him back together. As a result, Henry Tudor claimed the throne as Henry VII.
Is that just a fairy tale too? Yes. There’s no real evidence at all that the Humpty Dumpty rhyme was ever written to mean Richard III. But the two names have been linked together through history … and we thought you should know why.