Wednesday, January 29, 2014

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So we received this booklet in the mail from the government, titled 'Raising readers for life'. It had tips on how to encourage kids to read, and some sample stories to read with your child. Xena started flipping through it and came to a page with a picture of Humpty Dumpty. The interesting shape of his head, coupled with the cracked skull, immediately caught her attention.

She asked me who it was. I was torn. Humpty Dumpty's is not a happy story. I have never told Xena any story that has a sad ending. All the stories I make up or read to her have a happy ending with a nice moral of the story (and a bonus), such as how one should help their friends (and not reject food), or how one should be safe on the roads (and not reject food) or how one should keep their hands clean (and not reject food), or how one should say 'please' and 'thank you' (and not reject food). I was wondering if she was ready for a story where all the king's men and all the king's horses were unable to help poor HD and had to leave him in that very distressed state. I was also very sure she'd ask me why they didn't try scotch tape. (It is her firm belief that her mommy is a magician who can fix anything with scotch tape.)

The tragedy in the story of HD is not even a hidden one, such as the story of Jack and Jill, which is really about the beheading of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette's, and 'Ring around the rosy', which is really about people dying of the plague. HD's story is in-your-face tragic. His cracked skull is out there, staring at you. So was Xena, staring at me, waiting for me to tell her the story of Humpty Dumpty. I stared right back at her. Was she old enough? Was the time right to stop being overprotective and tell her about the harsh realities of life?

In the end, I did what every mature and sensible parent would do.

Lied my ass off.

When Viv came home from office, she was all ready, excited to tell him the new story she had heard today. And this is how it went. (It was all in Hindi, but I have translated it into English.)

Viv - What did you do today?
Xena - Mommy and I read the story of Humpty Dumpty!
Me - Do you want to tell Poppy the story of Humpty Dumpty?
Xena - Yes! There was a Humpty Dumpty... He wanted to sit on the wall...
Me - And then?
Xena - And then his mommy said, "You can sit on the wall but you have to hold it tightly with both hands."
Me - Then?
Xena - He sat there for a while, and then released one hand...
Me - What happened then?
Xena - He fell down from the wall and bumped his head... and got hurt... and it was very painful... and his mommy took him to the doctor.
Me - Then?
Xena - The doctor fixed his bump... and gave him some medicine...
Me - And...?
Xena - And told him to listen to his mommy...
Me - And then?
Xena - Humpty told his mommy that he would hold the wall... and the swing... tightly with both hands... Then he would not fall and he would not bump his head! End of story!
Me - Very good!
Viv - Errr....

PS: If you really want to know who (or rather, what) Humpty Dumpty really was, click here.


Arun said...


But what happens when Xena finally hears the usual Humpty Dumpty story? :)

Arun said...

Stories Xena won't be told any time soon:)

1. Hansel and Gretel (the witch fattening them up to eat them is too negative a message).

2. Little Red Riding Hood (in most versions, the wolf eats the grandmother that LRRH is going to visit.)

3. Peter and the Wolf (the wolf eats the duck, though supposedly if you listen carefully, you can hear the duck quacking in the wolf's belly). This was one of my childhood favorites, though I always wished the duck had not been eaten (and still do). IMO, Sergei Prokofiev's music for Peter and the Wolf is a great introduction for a child to Western Classical Music.

Arun said...

See what I mean?

humblog said...

Jack and Jill PG version

jack and jill went up the hill,
to fetch a pail of water.

God knows what they did up there,
they came back with a daughter.

Lekhni said...

In most current nursery rhymes Humpty Dumpty is depicted as an egg, which makes the whole breaking thing easy to explain.

But you're right on the topic of inappropriate nursery rhymes. Forget the backstories, in many cases even the lyrics are violent,sexist etc.

Arun said...

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!
When the King's cavalry fled the fray,
Scotch tape came and saved the day!