Easter is just around the corner, and when you think of that time of year, what comes to mind? Bunnies. Chickens. Daffodils and sunshine and of course, eggs. When you think of eggs in a whimsical, fairy-tale setting, the story of Humpty Dumpty is bound to come to mind. It’s a poem that’s only four lines long, and yet has become a massive, instantly-recognisable pop culture icon.
It also is one of those things from your childhood that can come off as a bit creepy when you think about it as an adult. A children’s poem, a nursery rhyme that revolves around a sentient creature being smashed to pieces, unable to be reassembled. Several writers and artists have noticed that too, and have created their own versions of Humpty Dumpty that err more towards horror than humour. These are just a few of those versions:
Smarties Mini Eggs
Well, okay, this isn’t exactly what you’d call horror, and is an advertisement for children’s snacks, but there is something, well, rotten about this advert. Here, Humpty’s fall was no accident. He was sitting on the wall, minding his own business, when he gets spooked by a Mini Egg, causing him to plummet. Adding insult to injury, as he’s being carried away on a stretcher, the Mini Eggs laugh sadistically, even calling out “omelette”. The nice pastoral backdrop only makes this malicious act all the worse.
McFarlane’s Action Figure
This “Twisted Fairy Tales” figure is definitely not one for the squeamish; here’s a link if your stomach is strong enough. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the rhyme never actually says that Humpty was an egg (not even by yours truly) and that’s the direction this action figure takes. This Humpty is one of flesh and blood, not shell and albumen, and that’s fully revealed to us here. However, even with all these disgusting details, even with all the stitches and blood and worms, the most noticeable thing about this character is his cute little propeller beanie.
If you ever wondered what Humpty would be like if he existed in real life, this might give you an idea. I must say, however, that the “king’s men” anachronistically existing alongside helicopters and televisions make this a very surreal take on the rhyme. Unlike most versions, Humpty is put back together but you still feel bad for his predicament here, especially given that he’s fully conscious while broken in pieces. When he says “everything hurts”, you believe it.
WC Field’s Version
The most famous appearance of Humpty outside the rhyme was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and while he was arrogant there, it wasn’t exactly what you would call frightening. The same can’t be said for his appearance in 1933’s Alice in Wonderland, where he was played by none other than WC Fields. A giant rubber-faced egg with beady eyes and a gigantic smile that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat. It’s a wonder Alice stayed to chat.
The Big Over Easy
This is a spin-off of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and like that series, features several characters from literature interacting with each other and satirising the very nature of fiction itself, with “Amazing Crime Stories” being a true crime magazine that wants to outlaw bodies being discovered by people walking their dogs. This is a murder mystery about the circumstances of Humpty’s fall, where it might have been more than just the fall that killed him and he might not have been such a good egg after all. Not only does Humpty appear, but the case is being investigated by Jack Spratt and Mary Mary, with Solomon Grundy as a suspect and Wee Willie Winkie as another victim. It’s an interesting and entertaining read, as is its sequel.
When one thinks of “creepy Humpty Dumpty” this is most likely the first thing that came to mind. Certainly one of the most infamous renditions of the character, with him almost always coming up in discussions about unintentionally-disturbing children’s TV. He has the same beady eyes and wide smile as Fields’, but it’s even worse here. Like McFarlane’s, is a creature made of flesh, but is terrifying without resorting to excessive gore. A giant talking egg in the real world would be a frightening sight and this just proves it.