Monday, 9 September 2013

Humpty Dumpty and Bo-Peep

Origins of Old Nursery Rhymes. No.2. Humpty Dumpty and Bo-Peep

Shock Horror: Humpty Dumpty wasn't an egg.

There is the verse about Humpty Dumpty which tells of his fall from the wall and the inability of "all the king's horses and all the king's men" to put poor "Humpty together again"; and lots of folks would have us believe that this is merely a riddle, the ready solution of which is "an egg." Really however, the rhyme is based on the career of a bold, bad baron who lived in the days of King John. Originally he was very powerful, but at length disaster overtook him, and he was never able to regain his former enviable position.

 News Flash: Bo-Peep was not a girl.

Bo-Peep was not a maiden, as one would suppose, but a holy friar in the days of the Anglo-Saxons. The contraction "Bo" is a very bad form of the Anglo-Saxon word for "messenger," and it was the business of this friar to go round collecting money for the monasteries. "Sheep" represented the contributions, and the fact that"Bo-Peep had lost her sheep" implied that contributions were very slack. "But some day, no doubt," continues the rhyme, "they will all come home, bringing their tails behind them" - "tails," of course, referring to the much cherished contributions.