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.