Humpty Dumpty – A Modern Day Tale

I was lying in bed ill a few nights ago, struck down by a harsh case of “man-flu” when I started thinking (for no obvious reason) about the old story of Humpty Dumpty. In case you’d forgotten how it goes, here it is:

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!

And I started to think how different that would be if it was written in a modern day context. But first, let’s consider why it would be wrong and inaccurate in the eyes of modern law and life.

Firstly, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.” Why?

Ok, let’s start with the fact that a “humpty dumpty” in fifteenth century England referred to someone who was… obese. Yes, I said obese. The whole story is about a fat person falling off a wall. Maybe something for Benny Hill sketches but for poetry to teach to kids in nursery? We may as well just point out the window and say “watch out for the fat person falling, kids”. Not a very politically correct way of teaching I’m sure you’ll agree, or for referring to someone who is overweight. And how do we know whether or not Humpty Dumpty was overwieght because of a slow metabolism and not just a love of fifteenth century yum-yums? Either way, you couldn’t get away with using such a term in modern day poems so that’s got to go.

Then, of course, he sat on a wall. This was the fateful decision that led to Humpty’s eventual demise. Firstly, as an avid reader, I’m dismayed by the lack of detail. Which wall? Where was it? For all we know, it could be the great wall of China, Hadrian’s wall, or even the little one outside the local Gregg’s. There’s no detail about what material the wall was built from. Was it brick, was it slate? A minor point I’m sure you’ll agree, but this is the kind of thing that bothers me when I’m awake sneezing at 2am. More importantly though is how Humpty Dumpty managed to get near the wall in the first place.

Surely someone would have had to carry out a risk assessment at some point. That would clearly have had to include the risk of someone falling from the top of that wall. That being the case, as a control measure, the wall should have had some sort of barrier to keep away anyone who hadn’t undergone Working At Height training and had been issued with a working at height permit to work form. At the very least a warning sign would have been required to be displayed. Whoever owned the wall (the “responsible person” as the courts would later decree that he be known) would have been required by his insurance company to take all “Reasonable” precautions to insure that no one was injured as a result of climbing the wall. Cue a civil court case for compensation. At this point I should like like to inject the comment that the only wall most of today’s youth have ever sat on is probably a facebook wall.

Secondly, “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”.

Therein we get the first clue that the wall was high. All the more reason for the safety measures outlined above. Could it be have been avoided if the wall was properly lit? (OK we don’t know that the accident happened at night time, or that the dark played any role, but this is a bit of artistic licence… stay with me). If it was high enough that a fall could be fatal but it was a reasonable assumption that someone could get onto the wall, wouldnt someone in authority have decided that a safety net should have been in place to stop someone falling? We also haven’t considered the fact yet that Humpty Dumpty may have been sent there by his employer. If that was the case, he should also have been issued a safety harness by his employer. Could the wall have ha a structural fault that caused Humpty Dumpty to fall? By now, Humpty Dumpty’s team of personal injury lawyers are already celebrating.

Thirdly, “And all the Kings horses, and all the Kings men.”

Let’s start by glossing over the question of why an obese person falling from a wall would constitute enough of a national crisis to require the immediate attention of an entire nations military forces, and move straight on to the more pressing matter of the equal opportunities act. Under modern law, a monarch could not simply employ a military force made up entirely of men and horses. No, he would be legally and morally required to employ a large number of women. And possibly some highly trained badger’s. (Sergeant Badger?). Speaking of training, I think it’s reasonable to assume that “All the Kings horses” would also have had to undergone some basic first aid training. Someone would have to have been designated the “appointed person” and be responsible for looking after the first aid kit. In fact, maybe if the King had employed a few women, the story would have ended less tragically. From a purely strategic point of view, what if the entire military had rushed to Humpty Dumpty’s side, leaving all the key military area’s unguarded, and it turned out that the whole incident was a ploy by al-Qaeda to draw the army into one place, to leave a nuclear reactor unguarded, etc? And while they’re all with Humpty Dumpty, who was keeping an eye on the King? What a shambles.

And finally, “Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

All that effort gone to waste. Of course, at this point, someone would have had to take responsibility to look after his remains. And since up until now there has been no indication of Humpty Dumpty’s ethnicity or religion, he would have had to have been buried in such a manner that it wouldnt have been offensive to whatever religion or culture he was actually have been from. Personally, I like to think his mortal shell was disposed of like the kings of old, put onto a small boat on a river, pushed off then set alight by an impossibly accurately fired single burning arrow. By an archer with an upto date weapons permit who has properly risk assessed firing a flaming arrow in the middle of the crowd.

There’d probably have to be an assessment for cremating Humpty Dumpty out in the open if I’m honest.

But would that make such a good poem? Would children read it and remember it, sing it to each other in class? Let’s see.

“An overweight person with a slow metabolic system sat on a wall, despite the warning sign on its base, and without wearing the harness issued by his boss, The overweight person had a great fall (because there was no safety net to stop him).

And all the kings horses, badger’s, men and women with a fully equipped first aid kit, couldnt put the overweight person together again, So they burned him at sea after fully risk assessing the situation.”

What do you think? Catchy?

If this little exercise has taught us anything (and it may not have) then its the following:

  1. Life is not as simple as it used to be.
  2. Leave old nursery rhymes as they are.
  3. We have to make sure we follow todays legislation or we may be sued.
  4. If we are overweight, don’t sit on a wall, and
  5. Our bloggers have too much time on their hands.
Thanks. On a side note for those who love history, one of the commonly held origins of this story is the siege of Colchester in 1648 during the English Civil War, a battle between the Royalists and Parliamentary forces, the Roundheads. Its thought that Humpty Dumpty was the name of a huge, very heavy cannon placed on the defendant’s wall (still not facebook) next to St Mary’s Church. During the siege this stretch of wall was damaged by shots from a Parliamentary cannon, which caused the heavy Humpty Dumpty cannon fall from the wall to the ground. “Humpty Dumpty” was too heavy for “All the kings horses and all the Kings men” to lift back onto the wall, and the battle was lost after an 11 week siege. There is also an alternative rendition which seems to fit this version of the poem more:
Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty dumpty had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Could not place Humpty as he was before.




Leave a Reply