Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
From her mouth to our ears.
You see that kid sitting over there on the wall? The one wearing the Jester’s hand-me-down suit? The Jester also gave him that funny name. That kid is looking for his father. That kid is my son.
My father the King is a tyrant, and he has more bastards than any other king in our nation’s history except for one other King, a long time ago. (Maybe these Kings try to populate the land all by themselves.) I’m one of his bastards. My mama travels with the Players, and after I was born, she traveled on and left me here. Oh, the Players come back every year, and she always tells me about her adventures, like when they went to visit that Prince up north, the one who was pretending to be crazy and got killed in a duel. My father the King lets his sons take the name Fitzroy, but us girls? What do we get? We’re lucky we get to live in the palace. That’s thanks to the Queen, who is kind and protective of all the King’s children, legitimate or not. I’m part of her court. A minuscule part, but she knows who I am and has answered my prayers several times. I’ll never rise in society. But I’m making plans for my son.
First: how my son was born. I was out tending the garden one day, doing my assigned chores and humming that old tune about the blessed girl who served her god in so many ways. It was a bright, sunny day, and suddenly I felt this breeze that smelled like spices wrapping itself around me. I saw bits of gold in the air, they looked like bees and butterflies, all these buzzing bits of gold in the air. Then I heard a whispering in my ear, but I didn’t understand the words. More golden bits in the air. More whispered words I didn’t understand. And then I was carried away. Well, to make a long story short, nine months later I was a mother. I didn’t even have a boyfriend and now I was a mother! And no—don’t you have any evil thoughts: I’m not Jocasta and Oedipus doesn’t live anywhere near here.
The Jester’s my best friend. He knows a thousand stories. He likes to make up stories about everything that happens in the kingdom and he travels everywhere to sing them. He also listens to people everywhere he goes. Like, he once had a long conversation with another Jester from another kingdom, and he told that Jester not to let his old King go out in a storm—but, well, that’s another story, isn’t it. Some of the stories the Jester tells are about how gods put on disguises and come to earth and, as some poets tell it, “fall in love” with innocent girls—girls like me, the Jester says—normal, ordinary girls. But do those horny gods take those girls back up to whatever paradise they come from? Do they give those girls any honor? No, all they give those girls is sperm. That’s why so many fathers talk about “modesty” all the time: they want to protect their daughters from gods errant. And wandering heroes, too. And that’s why girls get really nervous around gods and their vicegerents on earth.
Well, what happened to me is what happened, and it’s done. But what happened to my son? Yes, he did take a great fall, and he got broken up really bad. That’s because of those Fitzroys. They think they’re better than anyone else, and their father the King just lets them run wild. Besides, they’re jealous of my son because he can read and write. So one day, when they saw my son sitting on the wall and writing a sonnet, they lit into him. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men? The knights were all out on quests or at tournaments or engaging in courtly love, and the councilors weren’t paying any attention to anything but the new laws they were proposing. The Jester found my son lying under the wall. He brought him to me, and then we took him to the Queen.
The Queen. She’s glorious and magical, more than a woman, really. In fact, there’s an old tale that our Queens have always been from Somewhere Else. (Funny name for a kingdom, eh?) But people who repeat that tale always speak like they’re afraid the Good Neighbor Faeries might be lurking nearby and will enchant them and send them to Somewhere Else. The Queen just laughs and ignores all that. She does what she can to help people who fall victim to her husband’s tyrannies, the knights’ demands, the councilors’ unjust laws, and the Fitzroys’ mischiefs. When we took Humpty to her, she laid her hands on him, recited some rhymes, ground up some spices, applied a paste to his broken body, and then wrapped him up with so many bandages that he was as round as an egg. We all thought that was funny.
She healed my son. I have plans for him now, and he’s agreeable to them. He’s going to go to the university and study philosophy. I bet he’ll be the smarted man in the land, my little Humpty. He says he’s going to write more sonnets, and then he’ll write some tragedies and some comedies and some Socratic dialogues, too. And I guess he’ll do whatever he can to find his invisible father. It may take a whole lot of philosophy to find that father! I can’t describe him, and no one’s ever seen him. Right now, my son is still studying with the Queen. She’s teaching him what men really need to know, which is how to be kind to all and respectful of women. Respectful not just of women. The Queen teaches us to respect each other and to respect all our kin on earth—the animals both domestic and wild and the plants and trees both domestic and wild, too. The earth itself.
Now it occurs to me to wonder……….what if Humpty hadn’t taken that great fall and if the Jester and I hadn’t taken him to the Queen? Would he have started acting like the Fitzroys just to protect himself? Would he have started studying the wisdom of the Queen?
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.