There’s no growing up in the English-speaking world without learning Humpty Dumpty’s rhyme. The rhyme, a tale about a giant egg, dates back to England somewhere in the 18th century.
The common text of the rhyme is particularly short compared to others on our list, which makes it more memorable. But what about the rhyme’s origins? The answer may vary, depending on where you look.
King James and His baby
One origin story of the rhyme says that the Cradle is actually the Royal House of Stuart and tells the tale of King James VII’s son. Legend has it that he was switched with another baby at birth to provide a Roman Catholic heir for the king.
In this version, the wind refers to the Protestant force. As grim as this may sound, it's not even the darkest of the origin tales.
The last theory behind where Rock-a-bye Baby comes from a supposed grim seventeenth-century ritual.
To perform the practice, grieving mothers who’d lost newborns would put the child's body in a basket, hang it from a tree and let the wind rock it to see if they’d come back to life. Unfortunately, most of the time, the child's dead weight would break the branch.
The Early Version
The earliest version of the rhyme, which was published in 1797, goes like this: "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Four-score Men and Four-score more, Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before."
The later versions aren’t so different. In fact, the two lines are exactly the same in the popular spin, which ends in “All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.”
Tale or Ale?
There was also a drink called a Humpty Dumpty in the 17th century, which was made of brandy that was boiled with ale. It was also slang for a clumsy short person, in those times.
Some say the rhyme was originally created as a riddle, though no one is certain. There are many who believe it had something to do with a cannon that was a part of the English Civil War, as well, and there is a spoof version of the rhyme, written in 1956, based on that theory.