From the silly-childrens-stories department:
Humpty Dumpty was a blacksmith, working in the castle smithy for the King. The smithy, if one went looking for it, would be found between the soldiers’ barracks and the stables along the castle’s inner wall. Between the outer and inner walls lay the homes of many peasants and the fields that they tended. Within the inner walls lived the King himself and the gentry.
Not one of which was poor Humpty! Little more than a peasant himself, he was a short fellow who walked with a limp. The peasant-folk admired and respected him though, for it was he that they came to with their broken pitchforks and their bent hoes. As the King’s Blacksmith, Humpty’s duties were strictly to the King and in service to His Royal Army. Yet even when he had a full day’s work of making horseshoes and nails, mending swords and such, Humpty would always find a little extra time to help the common people.
His wife didn’t mind that he usually came home late, for she too enjoyed an excellent reputation among the peasants. They oft invited her to dine with them, as did she invite them quite frequently to sup with her family, and their children would play with the young Dumptys.
Some days when Humpty was simply overwhelmed by all the work, he would walk atop the inner wall until he came to his special place along the edge, where he would sit in silence and admire the lands around and beyond the castle. Surely even the King’s own view was not as scenic! The castle was built along the edge of a canyon with a rushing river at the bottom and beautiful rolling hills of green on the far side. Alone with the sound of the water and surrounded by all this beauty, he would calm quickly, and soon return home.
Humpty lived in his hut with his wife, Penelope. As his name suggests, they had quite a few children, the oldest of which were his son George and his daughter Sam. From the way that Sam had kicked and rolled and wiggled around in her mom’s womb, the Dumptys were certain that a boy would be born, and so they’d come up with the name early on. Boy, were they surprised when she was a girl! They decided to name her Samantha but always called her Sam. Humpty’s old father Grumpty lived in their house as well, and would spend his time watching over the kids while Penelope tended to the house and garden.
Young Sam was a lonesome child. She did not get along well with the other little girls, for in their games they pretended to be Maids and Maidens from the Castle Proper. Sam had no time for such games, as she found the most joy in building mud castles, grass fortresses and such. The little peasant boys mostly played pretend soldier, fighting and fencing with swords they’d made of wood, and bamboo rapiers. They weren’t yet of an age where they felt girls were fun to play with and in any event Sam did not like fighting, so she divided her free time between building things on her own and watching her father work in the smithy.
George, on the other hand, was rambunctious. A short boy like his father, he loved to play pretend-soldier and fight with the other little boys. He noticed that there was one boy who didn’t join the games, though he sometimes watched from the sidelines. George met this other boy and soon found that nobody would play with him because he was different than everybody else: he had been born with two anuses!
George thought that was weird, but didn’t see why this meant nobody would be friends with him. So the two became friends, and soon Anal Two (as the boys called him, for boys will be boys) joined in the fighting games with the rest of the little boys. Anal Two always thought highly of George for becoming his friend and helping him become part of the group.
THE KINGDOM GOES to WAR
The Kingdom was built on a plateau, below which was a lush, green valley. The castle itself was well-placed along the edge of the canyon, which was easier to defend since attackers couldn’t surround it. The inner wall protected the castle itself, the home of the King and the homes of his Royal Advisors, the Knight Commanders and the other gentry. The outer wall protected the homes of the peasants and the crops that they grew.
The herders, however, needed lots of land for their animals to graze. Since the early days, they lead their animals out onto the plateau. Eventually the time came when the plateau alone was not enough. The only place they could go was down in to valley, and sadly the valley was the land where the Tunnellers lived.
These were people who lived underground, their homes a network of tunnels and underground caverns. When the herders came from the Kingdom, the undergroundsmen soon found that heavy cattle would sometimes cause one of their tunnels to collapse, or worse yet a group of Tunnellers could find their dinner interrupted with a herd of sheep upon their heads!
With nowhere else to go, the herders had to use the valley for grazing. The Tunnellers became angry and eventually fought back by building pits and traps. Soon thereafter the herders asked the King to send soldiers who would accompany the herd in the day and keep watch over the grazing fields at night.
Clashes between the soldiers and the pit-diggers soon escalated into an all-out war between the Kingdom and the Tunnellers. The Kingdom became a very busy place, and Humpty would spend all of his time, day and night, repairing broken swords, catapults and other battle equipment and making new arrowheads for the war.
One day, Humpty had worked non-stop for three long days and three long nights in a row and was very, very weary. In his head the echoes of the hammer against the anvil would not stop pounding over and over again. All he could smell was sweat and hot iron. He had to get away, to take a walk, cool down and calm his nerves. He made his way along the wall, kicking at loose stones here and there, until he got to his usual spot. He sat down with a thump and rested his head in his hands.
Lo and behold, he was exhausted and soon fell asleep. As he slumbered there on the wall, he slowly started to lean forward until suddenly he slipped off the edge! Nobody knows if he ever woke up as he fell a great distance to the land below, and though the King’s Royal Mounted Search Party found him and his Royal Physicians tended to him as best they could, he never awoke again.
GEORGE DUMPTY and the FRENCH MINSTREL
It was a dark, dark day in the Dumpty household. Old Grumpty’s heart could not bear the loss of his beloved son, and he fell into a coma from which he never returned. Penelope wept with grief and could not stop crying, for she had loved Humpty with all her heart and soul. Many of the peasant-women came to comfort her and they soon became nervous when she would not stop weeping.
To make matters worse, George was uncertain and restless and kept running around. He would not stop asking, “What’s gone wrong, what has happened to my father?” Finally, unable to bear him any longer, the distressed peasant-women got fed up, turned on him all at once and told him to be quiet and go away!
Needless to say he was frightened out of his wits as he ran out of the house, out of the castle walls, across the plateau and finally to a grove of trees where he stopped because he could run no further. There he lay, panting from his mad dash and gasping and gulping for air until finally it hurt to swallow. His throat was parched for he had not had any water before the distressed gathering turned upon him; he had run far under the hot sun and was quite dehydrated.
Luckily for George, Anal Two had heard the tragic news and had gone looking for him. It was fortunate that Anal Two found George when he did, for no sooner had he given his greeting than from the bushes behind them they heard rustling, and a dark shape they did see. It was a small bear! The bear roared and growled, for this place was its home. Suddenly it attacked!
George, exhausted and dehydrated, could do little but stare as the bear made for his friend. As the bear closed in, Anal Two tripped on a root and fell backwards! Oh, no! With the bear above him and unable to run, Anal Two acted in desperation: he grabbed the bear above its paws and, keeping its sharp claws away from his neck, kicked up hard with his feet, throwing the bear away from him.
The bear landed with a thud, rolled backwards and curled into a ball. Anal Two jumped up and grabbed George’s arm, leading him out of the grove. Down the path they ran until they reached a cross-roads. Lo and behold, who should they meet but the French Minstrel! This French Minstrel was famous, for he roamed the land in search of stories that he would take back to his own homeland to tell to his people.
Still mighty shaken, George told his story: “Those crazy women, they shouted and yelled at me all at once! I ran here from the castle and was so out of breath and parched, and though I tried I could not swallow! I sat down and waited to catch my breath. Then Anal Two here, he came and found me, but we saw a bear! And Anal Two hit the bear so hard it curled into a knot! And then he lead me here.”
George had just finished his story when suddenly a mad watchman from the castle came running by wearing nothing but his watchman’s hat and a sheet wrapped around his waist! He was covered in lice, and as he ran by he swatted at himself in fits using a small book he was carrying. George and Anal Two just stared at each other while the French Minstrel’s gaze followed the crazy watchman, jaw dropped in amazement.
SAM DUMPTY SAVES the KINGDOM
Some years passed since that time, and the war was not going well for the Kingdom. The soldiers had a hard time fighting; their swords were bent and none of their carts and catapults would work anymore. Their horses couldn’t handle the hard terrain with broken horseshoes. The King ordered the gates of the Outer Wall to be closed and barred. They were on the defensive.
By this time Sam had been thinking hard about some things. She had some ideas, but every time she approached somebody to talk with them about it they would say things like, “What does a young woman know of man’s business? Would that your father were here today, then the smithy would be open and we could fight this war!” She soon learned she would get no sympathy nor bend any adult’s ear to hear her plans.
She sought out her brother George and his friend who nowadays was called by his real name, Tomas. The three of them discussed some of her ideas, and with a few nights’ collaboration had come to a plan that might work. The boys were helpful, for they had spent time with the work crews to rebuild much of the castle that was damaged in the war, and had learned new skills. Tomas, it turned out, had quite a knack for proposing unique and creative solutions.
Together the three of them spent a week learning to run the old closed-down smithy. They learned how to light the coals, blow the bellows, bend and shape hot iron. For the rest of that month they worked, the boys coming during the evenings and nights when the work crews rested. Sam spent most of her free day-time going over their plan in her head, thinking of refinements and improvements. At night she worked hard with the boys.
Soon the shelves of the smithy were filled with the fruits of their labour: they had yards and yards of chain; long stakes; a tough sledgehammer; an odd device that looked like a boat’s anchor; a miniature catapult; and two round rings. They had also spent time braiding many lengths of twine together into two long, sturdy ropes.
One morning, Sam and the two boys, each carrying some of the things they’d made, climbed and walked along the edge of the castle wall, the very same one that Humpty had walked in days gone by. When they came to the place where Humpty had fallen, Sam stopped. She fell to her knees and cried, her hair falling across her face. Tomas and George looked on in sympathy, their hearts saddened. Then George went to his sister and gave her a great hug. As Tomas looked away, I do believe Sam saw him wipe away a tear.
The trio proceeded to the very end of the wall where it met the canyon. There they put down their load and went to work. George pounded in a stake with the sledgehammer. Tomas assembled the mini-catapult. Sam coiled up the two ropes and tied one of them to the stake. The other end of this rope she tied to the anchor.
They made ready the catapult with the anchor sitting in its basket. Then they launched it, and the anchor flew across the canyon and landed on the far side. They pulled it back towards them but it did not catch on anything, and they dragged it back all the way to the edge and it fell into the canyon.
By the rope tied to the stake they hauled it back up. They made ready the catapult again. Using what they learned from the catapult’s first throw, they aimed it carefully so that the anchor would land on the far side of some boulders. They launched the catapult and once more the anchor sailed through the air. It struck a boulder and alas, it fell right on the top! They knew would not hook if they hauled it back.
Then Sam had an idea: she grabbed the rope and gave it a mighty flick which travelled in a wave down the rope but did not move the anchor. The boys caught on, however, and soon all three of them were waving the rope up and down causing waves to run down its length. Suddenly the anchor twitched, slid, and then fell on the far side of the rocks! They gave it a long, hard yank and it stayed fast.
Next came the most scary task of all: someone would have to crawl along the rope, across the canyon to the other side. Sam volunteered, for although she was frightened of falling, she knew that she was the lightest and so would put the least strain on their rope and anchor.
The second rope she tied around her waist, strapping the sledgehammer and a stake to her stomach at the same time, which made her weight the equal of one of the boys. The boys held fast to the other end of the second rope, looping it around the stake but also tying it around George’s waist and standing ready to save their friend should the worst happen.
Slipping one of the rings over her arm and up to her shoulder, Sam started her journey across by hooking her legs overtop of the rope. Then, upside-down, she reached backwards along the rope with her hands. Hanging under the rope, she would pull her legs close, reach back, and in this way she proceeded across the canyon. Moving along very much like an inchworm, she reached the other side in safety where, for a moment, she lay back to catch her breath.
Sam used the sledgehammer to drive her stake into the ground on the far side. She untied the second rope that had been ’round her waist, slipped it through the ring and lashed it to the stake. The boys secured their end to their stake, drawing the rope tight. Now Sam went to the anchor behind the boulders and untied the end of the first rope which she brought back, looped through the metal ring and tied to her stake. Finally, she took up the slack on this rope and made a tight knot on the ring.
Everything became easy from here on: they now had enough of the second rope so that they could tug the metal ring back and forth across the first rope. The boys ran back and each grabbed a length of chain from the smithy, bringing two more stakes and the other ring as well. They soon had two lengths of chain running side by side across the chasm, each with its own ring and enough rope on either side to send the ring to and fro.
It was not long before others saw what they had done: they now had the makings of a bridge across the canyon! More people came to help build the bridge, bringing rope and planks. Soon it became clear to everyone that the people of the Kingdom had a way to reach a new land full of fertile ground for farming and grazing.
Seeing this, the Tunnellers, tired of battling, their lands as torn from war and their people as saddened and weary as the Kingdom’s own, raised high the white flag on a staff and sent a messenger of peace unto the Kingdom. The King greeted the leader of the Tunnellers and a truce was made.
The Kingdom would send their farmers and their herders to grow their crops and raise their animals on the other side of the bridge, and the land of the Tunnellers would be recognized as a sovereign territory. In a gesture to end any ill will between their peoples, the King gave the Tunnellers gifts of seed and young animals and apologized for their earlier transgressions.
And so the story comes to a close. The trio were recognized for their skills and intelligence. At a special banquet in their honour, the King called them forth and bestowed upon them a Royal Commendation. In the years to come they played an important role in helping to build up the far side of the bridge and soon it was famous across the land as the Kingdom of the Canyon.
THE FRENCH MINSTREL
But what of the French Minstrel that George and Tomas met so long ago? Why, as it turns out he had spent some years wandering the lands. He came to the Kingdom on his journey home and for a fortnight he stayed near the castle. In the old pub, rebuilt after the war, he sang songs and enjoyed a remarkable new drink made of a mix of brandy and ale.
The bartender called his new drink Humpty Dumpty in honour of the late blacksmith. By strange coincidence, one of the stones he’d kicked from the wall on that fateful night had accidentally broken a large jug of brandy left sitting near an open keg of ale. Later the bartender found it, experimented, and the rest is history.
In his stay at the pub, the French Minstrel learned what had happened to George’s father that day he’d met the two boys many years ago. He wrote a short story to honour George and his friend:
Little man borne of little man, waits by himself, cannot swallow
Little man borne of little man, by degree of stammering crazy women
Anal two who knots bears, anal two who leads to the crossroads
Strike from a louse, small book, all watchmen wearing a girdle
Of course, his story sounds a bit different told in French:
Homme petit d’homme petit, s’attend, n’avale
Homme petit d’homme petit, à degrés de bègues folles
Anal deux qui noeuds ours, anal deux qui noeuds s’y mènent
Coup d’un poux tome petit tout guetteur à gaine
Copyright © 2006 Josh Audette. All rights reserved.
 The classic Mother Goose rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” (of course!)
 The Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty, from which we learn of the Ale, and of the bilingual phonetic variation used in software management, no less, “to show the issues involved in crossing over from the oral world typical of implicit knowledge to the written world of explicit knowledge”. This inspired much of the story you just read.
Not surprisingly, so did some ale. Me like the loco-juice.