The New Humpty Dumpty, Is it Going Overboard?

Jodi - posted on 10/23/2009 ( 23 moms have responded )

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DON'T PUT HUMPTY DUMPTY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN



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 program 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."





What are your thoughts?

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Johnny - posted on 10/24/2009

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It's not as if kids can't figure out that bad things happen. Pretending that everything is always happy is really about adult guilt rather than the kids. I think they figure out that the world is not always fantastic pretty quickly on their own. Sanitizing things for children is one of my personal pet peeves. I get tired of hearing from people who never let their children watch the news or read the newspaper because they might hear about bad things like murder and drugs. No, it's better to have your kids be ignorant of the world they live in. My parents encouraged me to watch the news from a young age and I'm still stupidly optimistic and I haven't turned into a drugged out murderer yet.

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Katherine - posted on 11/15/2009

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Quoting Cathy:

This is so ridiculous. The nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty was based on the English Civil war. You can't rewrite history just because of the occasionly over sensitive child.

Humpty Dumpty was the nickname given to a powerful cannon sat on a wall of St Mary's Church, in Colchester. Colchester had previously been a Roundhead (Parlimentarians) stronghold. The Caviliers (Royalists) marched into town to collect supplies. When Cromwell heard he sent forces to retake it. Roundhead forces seiged the town, and the church wall was blasted with a cannon ball. 'All the kings men' with the help of 'all the kings horses' tried to move the fallen cannon to another wall but with no sucess. It's significant because it marked the end of the war, with Royalist forces surrendering shortly after.


Wow, and I bet a lot of rhymes or fairy tales have latent meanings.  That is interesting.

Katherine - posted on 11/15/2009

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You cannot change a timeless and well known, classic story to fit the needs of society. Let's change all of the fairy tales. The purpose is to teach a lesson, why not mold it to our expectations?

[deleted account]

I was at play group with my son the other day and came across the book "Monster Goose" (don't remember the author). This is their version of Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty Dumpty swam in the sea
Humpty's sunscreen was SPF 3
Because Humpty was so lightly oiled
Dear Humpty was soon hard boiled

I kind of like that version.

But I agree we over sanitize stuff for kids, they're not stupid they know bad stuff happens. I love Grimm's fairy tales (the originals, not the polished Disney versions) and I can't wait to read them to my son.

[deleted account]

They really are cool. There's a series called "The Classic Fairy Tales" which is a set of anthologies-Maria Tatar is the editor-they have quite a few versions of each fairy tale in them.

[deleted account]

I do a lot of work with fairy tales. Lots of versions claim to be "the" version-but we don't really know. The current scholarly supposition is that fairy tales are written versions of oral tales that may have existed for centuries among the lower classes before they were written down.

We have to remember that at the time the "original" versions of Perrault and the Grimms were written down, only the upper classes could read. Perrault created versions of the fairy tales that had clear morals at the end and were meant specifically to teach aristocratic children about the world they inhabited. The Grimms were actually scholars who wanted to record the folklore of the nation. They had previously written books on word etymologies and the systematics of language, and were surprised to see their fairy tale books criticized as not being child friendly-because they never meant them to be tales for children.

What we think is the earliest version of Red Riding Hood actually ends with Red getting away from the wolf (after jumping into bed with him naked) by telling him she has to go to the bathroom outside and tying the rope that had been around her leg to a tree instead, then running off. Red is a trickster in the story. But later, when Perrault gets ahold of the story, Red is "gobbled up" by the wolf, and we get a moral: "Children, especially attractive, well-bred, young ladies should never talk to strangers, for if they do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say 'wolf,' but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous of all." So Red is turned into a victim who must be wary of men. Her agency is totally taken away by the storyteller. Later, we get versions like Roald Dahl's, in which Red shoots the wolf and makes a coat out of his skin. So Red gets her agency back again.

It's fun to look at the different versions-they tell us something about society-about the people who wrote the tales and about who they were written for. In their older, lower class form, they were often used to teach mixed audiences about the world and provide a bit of fun and escapism. Perrault turned them into a "fun" way of teaching aristocratic children about the world. Now we seem to have turned them into something new again, making fun of the old tropes by re-rewriting the tales.

So I don't think we're bastardizing "Humpty Dumpty" by changing it, but I do think we're doing children a disservice by assuming that they cannot handle the original version.

?? - posted on 10/26/2009

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You know it's interesting that you say that Diana about how fairy tales have been altered through time and writing isn't sacred. When I was enrollled in D.E.S.K. (a distance eduation program in my area) I was given a book of fairytales, and it was about 500 pages long and it was 'original' fairy tale versions. From Beauty and the Beast, to Cinderella, The 3 Billy Goats Gruff and all sorts of other tales that have become huge disney movies and some unheard of as well.



I had no idea the "Beauty and the Beast" story in the book was the same story as the Disney Beauty and the Beast story until the very end, after reading the story there was an 'explaination' that came after every story that told where the story originated, and what the story has evolved into now. I'm sure the people who were first telling the beauty and the beast story as the version in the book, if they heard our version now that Disney has made popular they would probably say something along the lines of; "Huh? That's not the same story!"



I wish I could remember what the book was called exactly - unfortunately I left it in Montreal when I came back home and it wasn't in the 2 boxes of stuff my ex so graciously returned to me. Prick.

[deleted account]

Quoting Natalie:

Well, my mind went directly to the gutter upon reading the altered line. So um, I don't think it's better for that reason also =D



AHAHA! Mine did too-I'm so glad I'm not the only one!

[deleted account]

I think it's ridiculous to change it for fear of "psychological damage." I was actually just reading a study (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33402802) about how parents often make things more frightening for kids by focusing on things they might not otherwise have noticed or reiterating something frightening. I don't agree with everything the article says-for instance, the idea that comforting a frightened child is giving them positive reinforcement to be afraid-but I thinkt he study itself is fascinating. We appear to be making our children more frightened of the world by cushioning things.



On the subject of changing the rhyme, though-things have been written and re-written since we first started writing things down. Writing isn't sacred. So it's not the changing of the rhyme I take issue with-it's the reason for changing. If a text is going to be changed or re-written, I think the old form should survive and the new become its own work that says something new and interesting-like Maguire's Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz or like the many different versions of fairy tales.

Marabeth - posted on 10/24/2009

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of all the children's literature to alter they choose humpty dumpty! i've always felt a lot of the fairy tales were barbaric and obscene (and let me just say i have no problem with this). a wolf dresses in drag like an old woman to eat little red riding hood? a witch trying to lure children into her oven with her house made of candy? all of them are messed up, not just one.. not to mention the fact that they have all been cleaned up over time. it's just usually a generation or so of mothers that water down a fairy tale's nastiness. i like them scary and bizarre. the more twisted the better! `as long as the little ones don't have bad dreams :)

Jodi - posted on 10/24/2009

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Carol, I am with you!! My son will sit and watch news and current affairs (often in the mornings while he is getting ready for school), and it is a fantastic communication tool. It has enabled us to have a lot of discussions about a range of topics, from sex (he has done the sex ed, and sometimes news stories prompt questions, so its not a big deal to him to ask), drugs, alcohol issues, violence towards women (and anyone for that matter), bullying in schools, even religious issues.



Having said that, my daughter is still convinced she will be a princess when she grows up, LOL........but she is only 4, so that's pretty normal, nothing wrong with it. She'll thud back down to earth one of these days!!

?? - posted on 10/24/2009

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I think this is an issue all over the place - I've talked to my mom about this a lot. With old cartoons on TV... Teletoon Retro plays all the old cartoons that me and my siblings grew up with and now how they are deemed inappropriate for children because it gives children the wrong idea about life, unrealistic expectations, and false hope. All it gave me was a reason to stay in my jammies on saturday morning and an excuse not to get ready for school any earlier than I had too every other morning!!!



The road runner for example - people say that Wiley Coyote falling off canyons to live gives children an idea that they can be invinsible, and that he never catches the road runner teaches children that their dreams will always just be out of reach.



BS. Talk to your kids. That solves that problem!!!! I think there is a lack of parental involvement - even just ADULT involvement, education and overall common sense taught to children if things like the road runner, wiley coyote and humpty dumpty need to be censored to 'protect' the kids.



I dunno about the rest of the parents out there but I plan on making sure my child knows that if you fall off a wall, it's gonna freakin hurt and if you jump off a canyon YOU ARE GOING TO DIE and if you have a dream, ALWAYS chase it, even if it is just out of reach, if it means that much to you, you'll get it one day as long as its reasonable and even if it isn't - dreams are free, there's no harm in dreaming for lavish things, even if you know you won't get it.



I think there's some people out there that need to Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

JL - posted on 10/23/2009

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Quoting Natalie:

Well, my mind went directly to the gutter upon reading the altered line. So um, I don't think it's better for that reason also =D


Haha...When I read the OP heading I starting singing the HUMPTY DANCE. The humpty dance is your chance to do the hump...

Natalie - posted on 10/23/2009

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Well, my mind went directly to the gutter upon reading the altered line. So um, I don't think it's better for that reason also =D

Sharon - posted on 10/23/2009

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I'm sick of the over sanitization of children stuff.



And Cathy!! COOL!! I had no idea this was based in reality, thats nifty!

JL - posted on 10/23/2009

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Too many people over think crap especially when it comes to things targeted specifically to children. I say leave it as it is it does no harm at all. Children don't read that deeply into all this stuff anyways..it is the adults who do.



I get so tired of hearing people talk about how Sponge Bob has undertones of homosexuality..what...my 2 year old and 6 year old are not getting that when they watch it..no they just think it is funny and entertaining.



There are already people claiming the new childrens' movie Astro Boy is soaked with Marxism and meant to indoctrinate children with socialistic ideology. Please it is a modern take on Pinnochio and my kids will see it and just think of it as a cool movie. It just reminds me of all the ridiculous hysteria that came with Happy Feet. Both my kids saw the movie and neither of them started exhaling thoughts about how big business was evil and all the other crap claimed by some people.



My daughter repeats London Bridges and Ring around a Rosie and she has no idea about the theories to what those lyrics refer to, for her they are just songs that she plays playground games to.



Seriously, what good does it do to fill our children full of tales of a perfect environment and the idea that there is always a happy ending. How does that set them up to deal with the actuality that there are dangers out there and sometimes you will fail.

Jodi - posted on 10/23/2009

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Here is another article:



http://www.examiner.com.au/news/local/ne...



Someone needs to get a life I think. Personally, I find it ridiculous. I know that fairy tales and nursery rhymes can be a little dark when you really look at them, but kids don't see them that way!



Mary, you are so right. Sometimes when something doesn't end perfectly, it encourages our children to ask questions, and they do need to learn that life is not all about 'happily ever after', or getting everything you want, the way you want it.

Mary - posted on 10/23/2009

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Dear God...how ridiculous! I can honestly say that I was not scarred as a child just because all the king's horses and all the king's men could't put Humpty together again! I personally think it is a gentle way to reinforce to children that some things CANNOT be fixed...somthing they do need to learn!

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