Why is Humpty Dumpty an egg?

There are commercials for some tax service that feature Humpty Dumpty (some also include the King’s men) that got me to thinking. We all remember the poem, right?

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.

No where does it say that Humpty is an egg. Are there other verses that I don’t know that explain this? Is there any Ye Olde English word meanings that got lost to the ages? Is there anything as disturbing as in the tax commercial when Humpty starts ‘bleeding’ yolk from the corner of his mouth? What about that poem has subjected me to that sight? Why, oh why is he an egg?

Probably because Carrol depicted him as an egg in *Through the Looking Glass. *

Humpty Dumpty was considered to be an egg before Lewis Carroll wrote about him:


The Master speaks.

So, no other verses. Just different versions of the same verse. If we go by Wiki, there is no real reason why he’s an egg. Except perhaps ‘egg’ is the answer to a riddle posed in the poem. Or in a version of the poem that was a riddle if we step into the wayback machine.

Yeah, nobody knows.

Well, a good riddle can only last so long. Way back before TV, radio, or readily available books, jokes, stories, and riddles were the evening’s entertainment. If the original fairy tales seem gruesome today, it’s because they were meant for adults.

I don’t know why the Humpty Dumpty riddle rhyme was chosen to survive so long in our Anglo-Saxon culture. Here’s a 16th century riddle rhyme that no one hears anymore:

What being born without hand, lip, or eye,
Yet doth run roaring through the world 'til it die?

sounds like fire

Or a hurricane/tempest after all we still talk of storms being born out to the east, west or whatever

Oh boy, riddles!

What’s the difference between your grandmother and your granary?

Wouldn’t work because hurricanes have eyes.

One stores a lot of old seed, the other’s my granny.

What’s the difference between your mother and a duck with a head cold, Trebek?

And the answer is “A fart.” I guess there’s a reason this one isn’t in the nursery rhyme books, but the kids would love it.

Sorry, no. But thanks for playing! :slight_smile:

one is one’s born kin, the other is one’s corn bin

I read the Dark Tower books! :wink:

Just an earlier version of the “Can of Worms” dilemma.

Even the King and all his men can’t put a broken egg back together.

Ah, a cross-cultural interest!

Thankee sai!

[sub]taps throat[/sub]

I’ve pondered the OP’s question before myself. The riddle nature of the story actually does help me accept good old HD as an egg. Culturally it does make sense, and it does serve as a teaching riddle/thought experiment: What things, once broken, can’t be fixed?

I like The Hobbit version better:

I just had a flash of a past life…

Sitting around the cooking fire early one evening

“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. What was he?”

“A cup”

"Wrong. Guess again. "

“No, he’s right. A cup sits up on a shelf and when it breaks you can’t fix it”

“I’ve heard this one before: it’s an egg”

Multiple voices: “Spoilers!”

“It’s not an egg, it’s a cup”

“You can fix an egg”

“No you can’t”

“My cousin had an egg that he broke and he was able to fix it”

“Anecdotes are not data”

“If a cup breaks when you drop it, the it’s not really a cup; it’s a glass”

“Oh, a no true Pict cup”

“Anyone who thinks it’s a cup is an ass”

Multiple voices: “No personal insults!”

… much later

“People who break egg cups are worse than Attila”

“We’re done here”

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