After The Fall
Most young children and adults are familiar with the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and now author/illustrator Dan Santat has created a story telling what happened after that great fall of Humpty’s.
No he didn’t remain a splatted mess unable to be repaired.
Instead, in this self-narrated tale, the famous egg relates how he undergoes a long process of healing and recovery that begins once those king’s men have done their best with glue and bandages.
Physical recovery is one thing, but Humpty is suffering from acute vertigo, so much so that he now sleeps on the floor beside his bunk bed and his favourite breakfast cereals stored on the top shelf of the supermarket are out of reach.
Worst of all though is that Humpty is an avid ornithologist and absolutely loved that erstwhile seat of his atop the wall from where he used to watch his feathered friends.
Eventually however he settles for a ground-level view and it’s while looking upwards one day that he spies in the sky something that gives him an idea.
After considerable trials and tribulations,
Humpty eventually fashions the perfect flier of a paper plane; not quite the same as being up in the sky with the birds but ‘close enough’ he tells us. But then the plane lands up on top of a wall. ‘Accidents happen. They always do.’ says our narrator.
Absolutely terrified but full of determination, slowly but surely Humpty climbs the wall.
As someone who is terrified of heights, I really felt for him as he faced his fear, finally making it to the very top of that ladder. Once there he says triumphantly ‘I was no longer afraid.’
That though is not quite how the story ends for then comes a final twist. Now the narrator has undergone an inner change that enables him to release himself once and for all; after all’s said and done, an egg doesn’t remain trapped in a shell for ever more: a right of passage must occur for something even better awaits …
This is so much more than just a ‘what comes next’ episode of a Mother Goose favourite.
Santal presents themes of fearfulness, anxiety, determination and ultimately, transcendence and transformation through the combination of his spare first person narrative and his powerful scenes, made so affecting through the changing perspectives and use of shadow.