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Humpty Dumpty Was an Emo Poser (and Other Lessons from Nursery Rhymes)

Humpty Dumpty Was an Emo Poser (and Other Lessons from Nursery Rhymes)

By kat_rosenfield

When we were wee, young and impressionable, our parents used to tell us traditional children's stories—the same stories, no doubt, that you heard from your own parents growing up. Lighthearted tales full of heroics, brief tragedies, and whimsical rhymes, these stories have been bedtime toddler-fodder for centuries—not only because they're highly entertaining for those under five, but also because they come with an important moral lesson that'll keep the kids on the right path. (And not, for instance, on the path that leads to putting a bullfrog in the microwave just to see what would happen.)

But now we're all grown up, and after taking another look at some of those tales, your SparkNotes editors have detected a disturbing undercurrent of Crazy that lurks beneath the obvious take-away. Don't believe us? Well, here, why not take a second look at...

The Story: Humpty Dumpty
The Synopsis: Humpty Dumpty, an egg, sits on a wall and then falls off. Attempts to reassemble Humpty prove futile.
The Moral: Eggs shouldn't be put on walls.
The REAL Moral: If you give an egg an idiotic name like Humpty Dumpty, it will become all despondent and emo and try to hurt itself.

The Story: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Synopsis: A bored shepherd's assistant tries to spice up his life by repeatedly shouting "Wolf!" when there is no wolf; when a real wolf finally appears, nobody believes him.
The Moral: Don't cry for help unless you actually need it.
The REAL Moral: Shepherding is really, really boring.

The Story: The Three Little Pigs
The Synopsis: Three individual pigs construct three individual houses out of straw, sticks, and bricks. A wolf demands entry to said houses; when the pigs won't let him in, he blows down the two less-sturdy structures and eats their screaming occupants alive. When he can't huff and puff and blow down the brick house, he tries to enter via the chimney and is burned to death by the savvy bricklaying pig.
The Moral: Put in the extra effort to build something sturdy, or you will die.
The REAL Moral: If you encounter a wolf in the wild, he will attempt to kill you by blowing on you.

The Story: Hansel and Gretel
The Synopsis: Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their evil stepmother. Lost and hungry, they discover a house made of candy and start eating it. The witch who lives in the house gets really mad, captures the kids, and fattens them up with the intent of eating them. Gretel outsmarts the witch and kills her by pushing her into the oven.
The Moral: Uh... we're not sure, but it's probably something like "don't eat people's houses."
The REAL Moral: Witches are so stupid that even a snot-nosed six year-old can outsmart them.

The Story: Rumplestiltskin
The Synopsis: In order to make himself appear more important, a man tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. This is a ridiculous lie, but the king is all, "Whoa!," and imprisons the daughter in his castle with the demand that she spin straw into gold or be killed. (Harsh much?) The girl despairs for her life, until an impish small person appears and promises to take care of it in exchange for her firstborn child. She agrees, but later changes her mind and finagles her way out of the agreement by guessing the imp's crazy name.
The Moral: Don't make promises you can't keep.
The REAL Moral: Short people can't be trusted.

Got another story with a crazy moral to add to our list? Tell us in the comments!

Related post: Alternative Fairy Tale Morals

Topics: Books
Tags: fairy tales, morals, nursery rhymes, bedtime stories

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About the Author
kat_rosenfield

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.