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Duchnowski: Harry Dumpty deserves a nursery rhyme, too

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 7, 2014 12:51 p.m. CDT
(Monica Maschak –
The sculpture of Harry Dumpty, which sits outside the DeKalb Public Library, was created in 1997 by sculptor Brent George and intended to be the less-well-known brother of popular nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty.

I know something about sibling rivalry: Both my younger brothers are (or at some point, were) fluent in a foreign language and have advanced degrees. They are very comfortable traveling abroad, they always seemed to get better grades than I did in high school and, well, I’m at times prone to insecurity.

Struggle as I might to maintain my maturity, I know I would be jealous if one of them was the subject of a famous nursery rhyme, no matter how unflattering some might find the rhyme, and I was left sitting on a wall outside a library.

I think that might be what happened to Harry Dumpty, the bronze sculpture sitting outside the DeKalb Public Library at 309 Oak St.

Library spokeswoman Edith Craig said artist Brent George, formerly of DeKalb, created him in 1997, named him Harry Dumpty and said he was Humpty’s brother. If you look at the book sitting open next to Harry, you’ll see both his name and the sculptor’s. Craig said that’s pretty much where Harry’s backstory begins and ends.

As I was lamenting that lack of easily discovered information about Harry, Dana Herra, editor of The MidWeek and Valley Life, suggested Harry was the lesser-known brother because he never fell off the wall.

Indeed, I thought, he’s made of bronze. If he were to fall, he probably wouldn’t need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to do anything except perhaps heft him back on his rather small feet and fill in the divot he left. I wondered how much Harry weighed, but it’s rather rude to go around asking strangers’ weight.

But, as libraries are meant to be places that capture and expand the imagination – and one brother really doesn’t deserve more renown than the other – I figured I’d offer my own nursery rhymes for Harry Dumpty.

From where do you think Harry Dumpty comes? Perhaps after watching his rather tipsy and thin-skinned brother’s early demise, Harry developed a thicker exterior, buried himself in academia emblematic of the tie he wears and the book bearing his name, but outlived the rest of his foolish, egg-shaped family. Stately, but lonely, he sits outside the library, reading about his former adventures.

Harry, Harry, quite contrary,

Why sit there so silent and cold?

With your work done, have you no one

To read your book when you’re old?

That’s rather depressing, though. If I focus on his large round face, I see a bit of a stately man-on-the-moon, grounded but looking toward the horizon. Perhaps he’s the philosopher of the family, not one to fall off the wall because he never bothered to look down.

O, Harry, traveler of the mind

What do you see, sitting so still and so firm?

Young men chase the horizon, silly girls babble about each other

But old men, wise men, look deep and far in life’s final term.

But nursery rhymes are meant to be silly, right? Maybe something like this is more fitting.

Hey, diddle, riddle,

An egg for a middle

A face without a head,

Humpty fell down

And broke his crown

So Harry just sat there instead

What do you think? What little stories can you make up for Harry, brother of Humpty?

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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