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Humpty Dumpty Should Have a Great Fall

Humpty Dumpty Should Have a Great Fall

(or at least an elevation)

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When a child first hears of the tragedy of Humpty-Dumpty, the child may react in several ways:

1) The child will laugh at the funny sounds.

2) The child will cry. (Why did he fall? Couldn’t a doctor help him?)

3) The child will be puzzled. (Who was Humpty Dumpty? Was he a person, or an egg? If he was a person, why wasn’t he more careful not to fall? If he was an egg, why was he on the wall in the first place, and what did all the king’s horses and men care so much about a broken egg?)

To the thoughtful child, Humpty Dumpty and his ilk are enigmas. The child may assume that since these characters and their stories are introduced right at the onset of his or her education, sung to beautiful music and accompanied by beautiful colored illustrations, they must be important. What is the significance of the mishaps of Jack and Jill? Who was Old Mother Hubbard? Who were her children? Why did she have only a dog? Why was her cupboard empty?

As the years pass, Humpty Dumpty does fall into the background. Yet it may leave a bothersome impression on the mind, which might be relieved only by chancing upon a scholarly volume entitled something like “The Psychological Significance of Nursery Rhymes (Annotated).” Here Humpty Dumpty receives his full due. Humpty Dumpty, it seems, evolved from a political spoof among English Lords or commoners, many, many years ago. Ditto for many other of the nursery rhymes.

You see, there was once, perhaps, a Lord Dumpty, who failed in his political aspirations. Is this a heritage for our kids?

There is no such thing as a “meaningless” nursery rhyme. If it is nonsensical, it fills a child’s mind up with nonsense. Many, however, are violent, foolish or misleading. That which enters semiconsciously into the young mind (or any mind) will emerge later in actions.

Our children deserve better “background music” for the most impressionable and formative time of their lives.

From an article by Yaffa Leba Gottlieb, originally published in Di Yiddishe Heim
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Fruma Mehl Cleveland , OH via Chabadofcleveland.com June 28, 2013

2013-2005 Where did eight years go? Why is there a revival in the interest of this nursery rhyme now? There is a revival of superheroes albeit Superman who was created by the imagination of 2 Jewish teenagers 75 years ago. Reply

SKM UK June 28, 2013

hidden light In absolutely everything is a hidden light of the divine. If we chose to hide rather than discover the hidden we will never reveal the treasures that are before us. We should train our children to be explorers. To see Hashem in all things and find the hidden sparks of light within the created world in which we dwell. We cannot if we wanted to avoid the world we live in, our children's eyes heaven forbid may see forbidden things, despite our best efforts.They may hear unpleasant things, they may have difficult experiences to face. We have to encourge our children to find the light hidden in darkness. To see nothing as accidental, but that everything has purpose and potential for good. We have to give our children the satisfaction of seeing the perfection and beauty in and through the life they have been given. To know that Hashem in full control and all things work for good, and train our children's every thought, word and deed to serve Hashem. SKS Reply

Anonymous Niwot, CO June 27, 2013

Humpty Dumpty I also heard from one Shakespeare scholar that the ditty was a sort of "advertisement" of the day for Hamlet. As a teacher, I agree with Susan about the fun of nonsense. Children offer us many opportunities to let go and enjoy; and I feel that children pick up much from the adults sharing in the experience. If fear or even enthusiastic questions arise, teachable and nurturing moments add to the joy and dignity of being human at any age and bonding with each other to make our experiences meaningful. And fun and nonsense are great ways to bond....a very subtle and teachable moment we have taken into our adulthood from our parents and meaningful adults of our own childhood. Reply

Graham Wells June 26, 2013

Humpty Dumpty There are many myths legends about Humpty Dumpty
One is Humpty Dumpty was a big round mortar cannon to big and heavy for the castle turret it was placed on When it fired its cannon shot it fell to ground and smashed taking part of the turret wall with it Reply

Susan Levitsky June 23, 2013

You read too much into it Children are used to being confused. Everything is new to them and most children don't stay up nights wondering about Humpty, and they certainly don't burst into tears over it. If they do, I would wonder what makes them so fearful. It's a nursery rhyme. I had a book of happy Mother Goose rhymes which put a happy spin on all the sorry tales. I knew both versions and didn't think much about them. I think Bible story are much scarier.
Even if some of the nursery rhymes were based on history, it really doesn't matter, because many of the bases for the rhymes are disputed. Ring around the Rosy may or may not be about the black plague and Humpty may have been a politician or not. Maybe a rhyme is just a rhyme. Kids are more open and flexible in their thoughts than psychologist would have us believe. Why can't we let children be children with all the imagination it has without making every single moment a teaching opportunity? Nonsense can be fun. Reply

mendy mermelstein August 30, 2005

Reply to Thomas again (& to anyone else) "Search my son and thou shall find..." Believe me it's out there. Thank G-d, we have been blessed to live in a generation that has available to it a dazzling array of children's interest products for all age groups... We DO have choices; we absolutely must make the most of what we have to provide our children with an antidote to the poison we with in the past 10, 20 & 30+ years... Reply

Thomas Karp August 28, 2005

To Mendy again And a todah rabbah to you. Still, Mendy, chabad.org is for adults (though there is nothing wrong in very young Jews' perusal of this site).

What I think Jewish kids need (and it's long overdue) are superheroes in the comic books and stories that are distinctly Jewish.

All kids start out in life developing their imaginations, before they grow up (hopefully) to deal with the weighty matters related to life and reality.

Sure, comic books and children's stories (nursery rhymes) are fantasy, and you want to raise a child to grow up (once again, hopefully) to able to live in reality; but the first part of a child's mind that real develops is it's imagination. This precedes knowledge and wisdom, discerning reality; and Jewish kids are often deprived in this area because all of the imaginary superheroes of the childrens' stories are always goy, and the Jew is often not even presented as a decent person.

To feed the imagination of a child is food for the soul of it's mind:kosher. Reply

mendy mermelstein August 26, 2005

THANK YOU, MR. KARP Your observation is correct especially since it's just about impossible to remove one's self entirely from the pernicious effects of today's media. But let us appreciate & thank those special people, of whom chabad.org is among the most professional, for providing us with proper media outlets so that one should **not** keep his head in the sand (unfortunately, I feel the need to do that too), should keep abreast of world events & daily developments, & respond if necessary the way a Jew should respond. Yes, there are plenty of heroes & good Jewish role models! "It's all in the presentation"... Reply

Anonymous Sacramento, CA/USA August 25, 2005

Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty is a brilliant depiction of a corrupt person in power, such as many that we see today. The wall is his lofty position above the common people. The fall is his dishonesty. The king's horses and men are all the mechanisms he uses to try to cover up his lies. Ultimately, it doesn't work, hence the inability of these entities to put him back together.

Some others: "Jack and Jill" is about two young lovers who go up the hill to fetch something alright, not exactly a pail of water, but perhaps effectively symbolized by one. The crown is their dignity. In "Little Red Riding Hood," the big bad wolf was originally the lecherous hunter who lurked in the forest. Eventually the story evolved so that the hunter became the hero. "Little Red Riding Hood" was a warning to young women not to go alone into the forest. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales are, admittedly, better suited for adults than for children. Reply

Thomas Karp August 25, 2005

To Mendy mermelstein It is admirable that you maintain a Torah-based home without TV and the net, but of course it's obvious that you still used the net to reach out (without the net, of course, there would not be chabad.org). Yes, TV and the net are egregious sources of idolatrous distractions for a Jewish home, and of course it would be an improvement if many more Jews would not peruse them during Shabbos. And then there's the general content, which is so often against G-d. The thing is though that even observant Jews cannot distance themselves completely from these things, and the issue here is how children's stories are presented to the kids. What Jewish kids too often lack are positive role models in the media (and the children's stories and rhymes). The gentile is almost always the hero, rarely if ever the Jew. I don't think Jews should want to take away the heroes of gentile kids, but instead strive to give their own kids an equal chance of having heroes to inspire them in their comic books. Reply

Thomas Karp August 25, 2005

To Michael Teper The general consensus is that indeed Humpty Dumpty did come from the English civil war between Charles 1 and Oliver Cromwell, but that 'he' was not actually a person, but a cannon place on the wall of one of King Charles' fortifications, which the Cromwellian forces manged to bring down to a 'great fall'.

Kids, and in this instance, Jewish kids, do need better 'background music', particulary if you want them to persevere later in life as Jews.

However, Ms. Gottlieb makes too much of an ado about nothing of it; there being much worse influences on kids then Humpty Dumpty and Mother Hubbard.

Much worse, and especially nowadays. Reply

mendy mermelstein brooklyn, ny usa August 23, 2005

it's the parent's choice We can let the chips fall where they may when it comes to our children;
but it behooves any morally minded parent to be especially vigilant & zealous as what kids are exposed to today, be it an inocuous nursery rhyme, a slimy radio or magazine ad (figuring we're intelligent enough to realize that t.v. & the net are not even to be found within our walls) or even a billboard, it's our choice to let our children grow up with monsense or much worse. If we are commited to raising children the way our ancestors would have hoped their generations turn out, it's absolutely imperative that we screen witha watchful eye what our kids are absorbing, & censor wherever humanly possible any paraphenelia not in line with our Torah values. Reply

lou elkins, ar. August 23, 2005

humpty - dumpty Shalom. For what its worth, HD may refer to richard the 3rd of England. while not a true hunchback he did have a problem in that area. Also his horse was named Wall. He died in battle august 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, age 32 and the last of England's kings to fight in battle.
Be safe, Reply

Michael Teper Toronto via chabadmt.com August 22, 2005

Re: Humpty Dumpty Background for Yaffa Gotlieb re: Humpty Dumpty

The rhyme about Humpty Dumpty came from the English Civil War. In one of the battles, one of the defenders of King Charles I's fortifications was a particularly round-bellied soldier, who was very effective against the Parliamentary (i.e., Cromwellian) forces. One day, a Cromwellian musketeer successfully shot this fellow, and he fell mortally wounded to his death from a high tower. Thus came the rhyme

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.

It was a bit of propaganda from an English war of about 350 years ago. Reply

Anonymous August 22, 2005

True, we should be very careful about what our children are exposed to, whether the messages are explicit or implicit. Many nursery rhymes have surprising meanings, for example, the song "ring around the rosy", which is about the black plague. I would just like to point out that nursery rhymes serve a role in children’s language and phonemic awareness development. The rhythm and patterns of the sounds prepare children to become better readers. So maybe we need some more Jewish poetry for children? Reply