For generations, the cautionary tales of the grown-up world wrapped up in nursery rhymes have been a normal part of childhood. Children have somehow managed to cope with a world where mice are blind, blackbirds are baked in pies and old women live in shoes.
But the BBC has triggered amazement by changing the words of Humpty Dumpty on one of its children's programmes to give the accident-prone character a happy ending. A programme on the broadcaster's children's channel CBeebies featured a singalong feature in which, instead of being unable to "put Humpty together again", all the King's Horses "made Humpty happy again".
The new version of Humpty Dumpty was broadcast on Friday in the CBeebies programme Something Special, presented by Justin Fletcher. Something Special is aimed at children with special needs, although it is popular with all under-fives. The BBC insisted the nursery rhyme was not modified because of its target audience.
A BBC spokesman insisted yesterday that the original nursery rhyme had been changed for "creative" purposes. Humpty Dumpty featured in a number of "sketches", she added. The original nursery rhyme could be seen in full on the CBeebies website.
But the Labour MP and former minister Tom Harris, who watched the programme on Friday with his two sons, aged five and three, said it was "pathetic" that CBeebies felt the need to rewrite one of the most famous nursery rhymes in an apparent attempt not to upset children.
The MP for Glasgow South said yesterday: "For goodness sake. Obviously children will find it far too violent, distressing and horrific that Humpty should not be put together again."
Mr Harris claimed there was a trend of CBeebies giving its young viewers a more sanitised version of the world.
In a recent episode of the CBeebies cookery show Big Cook Little Cook, the tale of Little Miss Muffet ended with the girl befriending the spider, rather than running away in fright.
Mr Harris added: "This is what happens when adults try to make these kinds of judgements."
A BBC spokesman said yesterday: "We play nursery rhymes with their original lyrics all the time and the small change to Humpty Dumpty was done for no other reason than being creative and entertaining."
Earlier this month a survey by the reading charity Booktrust found that a fifth of parents do not read nursery rhymes at all to their children.
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