Humpty Dumpty

Dex: You did some great work tracking down the first occurance of the rhymn in print but you only quoted the riddle. Did the answer; “An Egg”, immediately follow in the source you quote or are you just assuming that “An Egg” is the answer?

Couldn’t a pint glass of the above drink also qualify as the answer to the riddle?

Link to Mailbag article: Why is Humpty Dumpty portrayed as an egg?

The answer “an egg” was cited in the early sources.

I don’t disagree, certainly seems to me that there are lots of answers that could fit, as you suggest… anything that can sit on a wall, fall, and break irreparably. Heck, “my hard drive crashing” could be an answer as far as I’m concerned. But the tradition for H-D is, egg.

[Note: This message has been edited by CKDextHavn]

When I saw the Humpty Dumpty answer it caused an old question to pop up. I don’t ask for an answer…but a gentle push in the right direction to find out myself would be appreciated.
Because “Cole” is an old (or middle) English word for “Cabbage”…does the rhyme about Old King Cole refer to…well, cabbage?

There was a King Coel in third century Britain. The rhyme first appeared in England around 1703. Respect for the monarchy wasn’t that great at the time. The last 60 years had seen the execution of one king and the exile of another. The current monarch was the less than impressive hag, Queen Anne. Perhaps the idea of a cabbage headed king added to the imagery of the rhyme. I don’t know how many 18th century Britons were aware of the 3rd century monarch.

My resource on Mother Goosery rhymes is THE ANNOTATED MOTHER GOOSE, by Wm. S. Baring-Gould. Wonderful book, although sometimes he’s a bit skimpy on info, but it may be that there’s not much factual info available. Anyway, he pretty much backs up PapaBear.

Baring-Gould says that Old King Cole appeared in print for the first time around around 1708. However, it is known that the rhyme (and others) were composed and sung for a long time first being printed in a nursery rhyme book. There is a 1729 History of Great Britain that mentions three kings of this name, so probably more Britons in that era were aware of the ancient kings than we’d find today. The King Cole of the jingle is believed to have reigned in 3rd Century. He was supposedly a brave and popular man who ascended the throne on the death of Asclepiod. There is a large earthwork, assumed to be a Roman ampitheatre, at Colchester, popularly known as “King Cole’s kitchen.”

His daughter was reportedly well-skilled in music (according to Geoffry of Monmouth), so he might not have always needed his fiddlers three.

“Cole” meaning cabbage, does come from the Latin colis (combined with the Dutch word sla meaning salad, to give us coleslaw). Baring-Gould does not discuss whether King Cole was therefore a satiric rhyme about some King being called a Cabbage. However, the existence of three actual kings named Cole seems to rule out your fanciful (but funny!) idea.

On the topic of Cole, Sir Henry Cole is associated with the invention of the Christmas card, in 1843. One of the joys of working for Cecil is the interesting facts one finds on the way to looking up other (unrelated) stuff.

Also, in some traditions, King Cole (or Coel), for whom Colchester is legendarily named, was the father of St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. He figures briefly in Dorothy L. Sayers’ excellent chronicle play, “The Emperor Constantine”.

John W. Kennedy
“Conpact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

just another suggestion for a place with similar riddles: Books 3 and 4 of Stephen King’s gunslinger series (Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass)

“Fain was mad. He knew he was mad, but being mad, he did not care” -Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time series

If you’re comparing Stephen King to either Tolkein or Carroll, then this gonna move over to the BBQ pit for flames. The major difference is that both Tolkein and Carroll could write.

Since we’re talking about eggs here, you all might find it interesting to know that the Medici family of Florence helped build their fortune by controlling Italian sources of eggs. When a large number of eggs were found near Volterra, the Medicis formented a war to conquer the city.

Not really, but some guy on the Alum thread said that about alum, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it myself.

OH MY GOD! i can’t beleive i know the answer, ok… i was told the story and i can vaguely remember it. there was some war going or between the towns people and the king. the king put together the portable bridge contraption (called humpty dumpty) that would sit on one wall of the river and fold out and end up on the other end, and the army would cross. welll the towns people stayed up all night digging in the river widening the river 3 feet. so the next morning they set up the drige and it just fell into the river snaping, and no one could fix it. so “humpty dumpty sat on a wall. humpty dumpty had a great fall. all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put humpty together again”

i can give you the email address of the institution where i heard the story.

Yeah, Rupert, why don’t you give us some sort of citation. Otherwise, you know, it’s just another wild-ass story… I could make up half a dozen “origin” stories, easily.

How long were you in the institution? Are you sure you’re cured?