This is a continuation of the interview I had with Professor Enrique Muchogusto, a controversial musicologist and folklorist from Spain, whose mission—or one of whose missions—is to demonstrate the harm that well-meaning but ignorant parents inflict on their helpless children
ME: Professor, it seems that you are particular sensitive to these matters.
MUCHOGUSTO: The pity it is that so few of you Americans are. I know what you are thinking—something along the lines of “well, Rock-A-Bye Baby is famously cruel, but surely it’s one of the very few like this.” No, not at all. There are many others.
But we need not confine ourselves to lullabies. Let us look at nursery rhymes, for example. Note what should be a clear directive to be gentle—the word “nursery”. Small children are to hear these rhymes, are they not? How then can one justify such a one as Humpty Dumpty?
Humpty Dumpty, as the illustration in any collection of these “nursery rhymes” shows, is an egg. Let us begin. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Leaving aside entirely the question of whether or not an egg can sit, let us examine the hidden implications of this image. I think you will agree with me that the egg did not climb the wall by itself. I think you will further agree that if you give an egg rope, pitons, croutons, carabiners, packs, boots, belays, climbing harnesses, helmets, crampons, slings, runners, webbing, lack lines, ice axes, and six months of training by Sir Edmund Hillary brought back from the great beyond precisely for this purpose, the egg—any egg— will remain entirely unable to climb a wall—any wall. We are forced to conclude—alarming as the conclusion is—that someone put that poor egg on a wall. Someone took helpless Humpty Dumpty and put him—he is usually portrayed as a male egg—on a wall!
As if this were not callous enough, this sadist—possibly the same monster who carried the baby up into the tree top—placed Humpty in a precarious location at the edge of the wall, the outcome of which is traumatic, not merely for the hapless egg, but for the child who must hear of this trauma: Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. No ordinary garden wall this. No. It was a wall such that a fall from it must be considered great. Let us not even speculate as to the height of this monstrous wall.
All the king’s horses—Let us pause here for a moment. Horses have no call whatsoever to be at this scene, whether the king’s or the police department’s or the little girl’s with the pigtail who lives on a farm just outside of town. Common sense suggests that horses could become skittish at the scene of the accident and might even paw the ground, or worse carelessly step on pieces of eggshell.
Permit me an aside. This being America, why bring a king into this? It will only baffle the child.
And all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. On hearing this, any child of near normal intelligence must think, “So there must be someone who can put a broken egg together again otherwise the king’s men wouldn’t have tried. I’m going to break some eggs until I learn to put them together again. I’ll surprise Mommy.” The sad outcome of this line of thinking will be, at a minimum, a scolding, and one can imagine some ignorant parents actually spanking the poor child on seeing the kitchen floor slathered in broken eggs, if they don’t have a nervous breakdown first.
“What in heaven’s name have you been doing, child!”
“Don’t cry, Mommy. I’m trying to put them together again like the king’s men tried to do.”
And yet the average American parent has no qualms about reading this so-called “nursery rhyme” to small children. Is it any wonder that there is so much violence in this country?