Mother Goose

Last updated
The opening verse of "Old Mother Goose and the Golden Egg", from an 1860s chapbook Mother Goose riding.jpg
The opening verse of "Old Mother Goose and the Golden Egg", from an 1860s chapbook

The figure of Mother Goose is the imaginary author of a collection of French fairy tales and later of English nursery rhymes. [1] As a character, she appeared in a song, the first stanza of which often functions now as a nursery rhyme. [2] This, however, was dependent on a Christmas pantomime, a successor to which is still performed in the United Kingdom.

Contents

The term's appearance in English dates back to the early 18th century, when Charles Perrault’s fairy tale collection, Contes de ma Mère l'Oye, was first translated into English as Tales of My Mother Goose. Later a compilation of English nursery rhymes, titled Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle, helped perpetuate the name both in Britain and the United States.

The character

Mother Goose's name was identified with English collections of stories and nursery rhymes popularised in the 17th century. English readers would already have been familiar with Mother Hubbard, a stock figure when Edmund Spenser published the satire Mother Hubberd's Tale in 1590, as well as with similar fairy tales told by "Mother Bunch" (the pseudonym of Madame d'Aulnoy) in the 1690s. [3] An early mention appears in an aside in a versified French chronicle of weekly events, Jean Loret's La Muse Historique, collected in 1650. [4] His remark, comme un conte de la Mère Oye ("like a Mother Goose story") shows that the term was readily understood. Additional 17th-century Mother Goose/Mere l'Oye references appear in French literature in the 1620s and 1630s. [5] [6] [7]

Speculation about origins

In the 20th century, Katherine Elwes-Thomas theorised that the image and name "Mother Goose" or "Mère l'Oye" might be based upon ancient legends of the wife of King Robert II of France, known as "Berthe la fileuse" ("Bertha the Spinner") or Berthe pied d'oie ("Goose-Footed Bertha" ), often described as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children. [8] Other scholars have pointed out that Charlemagne's mother, Bertrada of Laon, came to be known as the goose-foot queen (regina pede aucae). [9] There are even sources that trace Mother Goose's origin back to the biblical Queen of Sheba. [10]

Mary Goose's gravestone in Granary Burying Ground is shown to tourists in Boston, Massachusetts. Mother Goose Grave Boston.jpg
Mary Goose's gravestone in Granary Burying Ground is shown to tourists in Boston, Massachusetts.

Despite evidence to the contrary, [11] it has been stated in the United States that the original Mother Goose was the Bostonian wife of Isaac Goose, either named Elizabeth Foster Goose (1665–1758) or Mary Goose (d. 1690, age 42). [12] She was reportedly the second wife of Isaac Goose (alternatively named Vergoose or Vertigoose), who brought to the marriage six children of her own to add to Isaac's ten. [13] After Isaac died, Elizabeth went to live with her eldest daughter, who had married Thomas Fleet, a publisher who lived on Pudding Lane (now Devonshire Street). According to Early, "Mother Goose" used to sing songs and ditties to her grandchildren all day, and other children swarmed to hear them. Finally, it was said, her son-in-law gathered her jingles together and printed them. No evidence of such printing has been found, and historians believe this story was concocted by Fleet's great-grandson John Fleet Eliot in 1860. [14]

Iona and Peter Opie, leading authorities on nursery lore, give no credence to either the Elwes-Thomas or the Boston suppositions. It is generally accepted that the term does not refer to any particular person. [15]

Nursery tales and rhymes

Frontispiece from the only known copy of the first English translation, 1729 Houghton FC6.P4262.Eg729s - Perrault, frontispiece.jpg
Frontispiece from the only known copy of the first English translation, 1729

Charles Perrault, one of the initiators of the literary fairy tale genre, published a collection of such tales in 1695 called Histoires ou contes du temps passés, avec des moralités under the name of his son, which became better known under its subtitle of Contes de ma mère l'Oye or Tales of My Mother Goose. [16] Perrault's publication marks the first authenticated starting-point for Mother Goose stories. An English translation of Perrault's collection, Robert Samber's Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose, appeared in 1729 and was reprinted in America in 1786. [17]

Associated rhymes were once believed to have been published in John Newbery's compilation Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the cradle [18] some time in the 1760s, but the first edition was probably published in 1780 or 1781 by Thomas Carnan, Newbery's stepson and successor. Although this edition was registered with the Stationers' Company in 1780, no copy has ever been confirmed, and the earliest surviving edition is dated 1784. [19] The name "Mother Goose" has been associated in the English speaking world with children's poetry ever since. [20]

Pantomime

In addition to being the purported author of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose is herself the title character in one recorded by the Opies, only the first verse of which figures in later editions of their book. [21] Titled "Old Mother Goose and the Golden Egg", this verse prefaced a 15-stanza poem that rambled through a variety of adventures involving not only the egg but also Mother Goose's son Jack. There exists an illustrated chapbook omitting their opening stanza that dates from the 1820s [22] and another version was recorded by J. O. Halliwell in his The Nursery Rhymes of England (1842). [23] Other shorter versions were also recorded later. [24]

All of them, however, were dependent on a very successful pantomime first performed in 1806, and it is only by reference to its script that the unexplained gaps in the poem's narration are made clear. [25] The pantomime was the work of Thomas John Dibdin and its title, Harlequin and Mother Goose, or The Golden Egg, signals how it combines the Commedia dell'arte tradition and other folk elements with fable – in this case "The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs". [26] The stage version became a vehicle for the clown Joseph Grimaldi, who played the part of Avaro, but there was also a shorter script for shadow pantomime which allowed special effects of a different kind. [27]

Dan Leno as Mother Goose Danleno.jpg
Dan Leno as Mother Goose

Special effects were needed since the folk elements in the story made a witch-figure of Mother Goose. In reference to this, and especially the opening stanza, illustrations of Mother Goose began depicting her as an old lady with a strong chin who wears a tall pointed hat and flies astride a goose. [9] Ryoji Tsurumi has commented on the folk aspects of this figure in his monograph on the play. [28] In the first scene, the stage directions show her raising a storm and, for the very first time onstage, flying a gander – and she later raises a ghost in a macabre churchyard scene. These elements contrast with others from the harlequinade tradition in which the old miser Avaro transforms into Pantaloon, while the young lovers Colin and Colinette become Harlequin and Columbine.

A new Mother Goose pantomime was written for the comedian Dan Leno by J. Hickory Wood in 1902. This had a different story line in which the poor but happy Mother Goose is tempted with wealth by the Devil. [29] This was the ancestor of all the pantomimes of that title that followed, adaptations of which continue to appear. [30]

Because nursery rhymes are usually referred to as Mother Goose songs in the US, [31] however, children's entertainments in which a medley of nursery characters are introduced to sing their rhymes often introduced her name into American titles. Early 20th century examples of these include A dream of Mother Goose and other entertainments by J. C. Marchant and S. J. Mayhew (Boston, 1908); [32] Miss Muffet Lost and Found : a Mother Goose play by Katharine C. Baker (Chicago, 1915); [33] The Modern Mother Goose: a play in three acts by Helen Hamilton (Chicago, 1916); [34] and the up-to-the-moment The Strike Mother Goose Settled by Evelyn Hoxie (Franklin Ohio and Denver Colorado, 1922). [35]

Sculpture

In the United States there is a granite statue of a flying Mother Goose by Frederick Roth at the entrance to Rumsey Playfield in New York's Central Park. [36] Installed in 1938, it has several other nursery rhyme characters carved into its sides. [37] On a smaller scale, there is Richard Henry Recchia's contemporary bronze rotating statue in the Rockport, Massachusetts public library. There Mother Goose is depicted telling the tales associated with her to two small children, with twelve reliefs illustrating such stories about its round base. [38]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nursery rhyme Traditional song or poem for children

A nursery rhyme is a traditional poem or song for children in Britain and many other countries, but usage of the term only dates from the late 18th/early 19th century. The term Mother Goose rhymes is interchangeable with nursery rhymes.

Humpty Dumpty Nursery rhyme character

Humpty Dumpty is a character in an English nursery rhyme, probably originally a riddle and one of the best known in the English-speaking world. He is typically portrayed as an anthropomorphic egg, though he is not explicitly described as such. The first recorded versions of the rhyme date from late eighteenth-century England and the tune from 1870 in James William Elliott's National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs. Its origins are obscure, and several theories have been advanced to suggest original meanings.

Charles Perrault French author

Charles Perrault was a French author and member of the Académie Française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from earlier folk tales, published in his 1697 book Histoires ou contes du temps passé. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, Cendrillon ("Cinderella"), Le Maître chat ou le Chat botté, La Belle au bois dormant, and Barbe Bleue ("Bluebeard").

Harlequinade

Harlequinade is a British comic theatrical genre, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "that part of a pantomime in which the harlequin and clown play the principal parts". It developed in England between the 17th and mid-19th centuries. It was originally a slapstick adaptation or variant of the Commedia dell'arte, which originated in Italy and reached its apogee there in the 16th and 17th centuries. The story of the Harlequinade revolves around a comic incident in the lives of its five main characters: Harlequin, who loves Columbine; Columbine's greedy and foolish father Pantaloon, who tries to separate the lovers in league with the mischievous Clown; and the servant, Pierrot, usually involving chaotic chase scenes with a bumbling policeman.

Jack and Jill (nursery rhyme) Nursery rhyme

"Jack and Jill" is a traditional English nursery rhyme. The Roud Folk Song Index classifies the commonest tune and its variations as number 10266, although it has been set to several others. The original rhyme dates back to the 18th century and different numbers of verses were later added, each with variations in the wording. Throughout the 19th century new versions of the story were written featuring different incidents. A number of theories continue to be advanced to explain the rhyme’s historical origin.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater English language nursery rhyme

"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" is an English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 13497.

Old Mother Hubbard Traditional song

"Old Mother Hubbard" is an English-language nursery rhyme, first given an extended printing in 1805, although the exact origin of the rhyme is disputed. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19334. After a notable nursery success, it was eventually adapted to a large variety of practical and entertaining uses.

Little Jack Horner Nursery rhyme

"Little Jack Horner" is a popular English language nursery rhyme that has the Roud Folk Song Index number of 13027. First mentioned in the 18th century, it was early associated with acts of opportunism, particularly in politics. Moralists also rewrote and expanded the poem so as to counter its celebration of greediness. The name of Jack Horner also came to be applied to a completely different and older poem on a folkloric theme; and in the 19th century it was claimed that the rhyme was originally composed in satirical reference to the dishonest actions of Thomas Horner in the Tudor period.

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep English nursery rhyme

"Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" is an English nursery rhyme, the earliest printed version of which dates from around 1744. The words have not changed very much in two-and-a-half centuries. It is sung to a variant of the 1761 French melody Ah! vous dirai-je, maman.

Babes in the Wood Traditional childrens tale

Babes in the Wood is a traditional English children's tale, as well as a popular pantomime subject. It has also been the name of some other unrelated works. The expression has passed into common language, referring to inexperienced innocents entering unawares into any potentially dangerous or hostile situation. A number of child murder cases have been referred to in the media as the Babes in the Wood murders.

Pease Porridge Hot Nursery rhyme and clapping game

"Pease Porridge Hot" or "Pease Pudding Hot" is a children's singing game and nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19631.

Pantomime Genre of musical comedy stage production

Pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season. Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing. It employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story more or less based on a well-known fairy tale, fable or folk tale. Pantomime is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.

Rock-a-bye Baby English nursery rhyme and lullaby

"Rock-a-bye Baby" is a nursery rhyme and lullaby. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 2768.

Hop-o-My-Thumb

Hop-o'-My-Thumb (Hop-on-My-Thumb), or Hop o' My Thumb, also known as Little Thumbling, Little Thumb, or Little Poucet, is one of the eight fairytales published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (1697), now world-renowned. It is Aarne-Thompson type 327B. The small boy defeats the ogre. This type of fairytale, in the French oral tradition, is often combined with motifs from the type 327A, similar to Hansel and Gretel; one such tale is The Lost Children.

Marie-Jeanne LHéritier

Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier de Villandon was an aristocratic French writer and salonnière of the late 17th century, and a niece of Charles Perrault.

Mother Goose is a figure in the literature of fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

"There was an old woman lived under a hill" is a nursery rhyme which dates back to at least its first known printing in 1714. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 797.

Puss in Boots Italian fairy tale about a cat

"Master Cat or the Booted Cat", commonly known in English as "Puss in Boots", is an Italian and later European literary fairy tale about an anthropomorphic cat who uses trickery and deceit to gain power, wealth, and the hand of a princess in marriage for his penniless and low-born master.

<i>Histoires ou contes du temps passé</i>

Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités or Contes de ma mère l'Oye is a collection of literary fairy tales written by Charles Perrault, published in Paris in 1697. The work became popular because it was written at a time when fairy tales were fashionable amongst aristocrats in Parisian literary salons. Perrault wrote the work when he retired from court as secretary to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister to Louis XIV of France. Colbert's death may have forced Perrault's retirement, at which point he turned to writing. Scholars have debated as to the origin of his tales and whether they are original literary fairy tales modified from commonly known stories, or based on stories written by earlier medieval writers such as Boccaccio.

Charles Deulin (1827–77) was a French writer, theatre critic, and folklorist who is most known for his contemporary adaptations of European folk tales. Among his many stories are "Cambrinus, King of Beer", "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", "The Enchanted Canary", and "The Nettle Spinner'.

References

  1. Macmillan Dictionary for Students Macmillan, Pan Ltd. (1981), p. 663. Retrieved 2010-7-15.
  2. See, for instance, item 364 in Peter and Iona Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, 1997.
  3. Ryoji Tsurumi, "The Development of Mother Goose in Britain in the Nineteenth Century" Folklore101.1 (1990:28–35) p. 330 instances these, as well as the "Mother Carey" of sailor lore—"Mother Carey's chicken" being the European storm-petrel—and the Tudor period prophetess "Mother Shipton".
  4. Shahed, Syed Mohammad (1995). "A Common Nomenclature for Traditional Rhymes". Asian Folklore Studies. 54 (2): 307–314. doi:10.2307/1178946. JSTOR   1178946.
  5. Saint-Regnier (1626). Les satyres de Saint-Regnier – ... Saint-Regnier – Google Books . Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  6. Labrosse, Guido de (21 September 2009). De la nature, vertu et utilité des plantes – Guido de Labrosse – Google Boeken . Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  7. Pièces curieuses en suite de celles du Sieur de St. Germain – Google Boeken. 1644. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  8. The Real Personages of Mother Goose, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1930, p.28
  9. 1 2 Cullinan, Bernice; Person, Diane (2001). The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. New York: Continuum. p. 561. ISBN   978-0826415165.
  10. Parker, Jeanette; Begnaud, Lucy (2004). Developing Creative Leadership. Portsmouth, NH: Teacher Ideas Press. p. 76. ISBN   978-1563086311.
  11. For, Written (4 February 1899). "MOTHER GOOSE – Longevity of the Boston Myth – The Facts of History in this Matter – Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  12. [ Displaying Abstract ] (20 October 1886). "MOTHER GOOSE". THE New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  13. Wilson, Susan. Literary Trail of Greater Boston. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000: 23. ISBN   0-618-05013-2
  14. Hahn, Daniel and Michael Morpurgo (1983). The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (e-Book, Google Books). Oxford University Press. p. 400. ISBN   9780199695140 . Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  15. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Oxford University Press 1997; see the section "Mother Goose in America", pp. 36–39
  16. Jansma, Kimberly; Kassen, Margaret (2007). Motifs: An Introduction to French. Boston, MA: Thomson Higher Education. p. 456. ISBN   978-1413028102.
  17. Charles Francis Potter, "Mother Goose", Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legends II (1950), p. 751f.
  18. "Mother Goose's melody : Prideaux, William Francis, 1840–1914" . Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  19. Nigel Tattersfield in Mother Goose's melody ... (a facsimile of an edition of c. 1795, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2003).
  20. Driscoll, Michael; Hamilton, Meredith; Coons, Marie (2003). A Child's Introduction Poetry. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. p. 10. ISBN   978-1-57912-282-9.
  21. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, pp. 373–4]
  22. Available as a PDF from Toronto Public Library
  23. Google Books, pp.32-4
  24. "Diploma thesis" (PDF).
  25. Jeri Studebaker, Breaking the Mother Goose Code, Moon Books 2015, Chapter 6
  26. Dibdin, Thomas (August 21, 1860). "Harlequin and Mother Goose;or, the golden egg! A comic pantomime". London. hdl:2027/iau.31858004934059.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. "Mother Goose; or, Harlequin and the Golden Egg: an original shadow pantomime". August 21, 1864 via Google Books.
  28. Ryoji Tsurumi (1990) "The Development of Mother Goose in Britain in the Nineteenth Century", Folklore 101:1, pp.28-35
  29. Caroline Radcliffe, p. 127–9 "Dan Leno, Dame of Drury Lane" in Victorian Pantomime: A Collection of Critical Essays, Palgrave Macmillan 2010
  30. Michael Billington’s Mother Goose review, The Guardian, 12 Dec. 2016
  31. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, p. 1
  32. Marchant, J. C. (August 21, 1908). "A dream of Mother Goose :and other entertainments /". Boston. hdl:2027/hvd.hxdltb.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. "Miss Muffet lost and found: a Mother Goose play". August 21, 1915 via Hathi Trust.
  34. "The modern Mother Goose .. : Hamilton, Helen. [old catalog heading] : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming". Internet Archive. Chicago, Rand McNally & Co. 1916.
  35. "The strike Mother goose settled .. : Hoxie, Evelyn. [from old catalog] : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming". Internet Archive. Franklin, Ohio, Eldridge Entertainment House. 1922.
  36. Raymond Carroll, The Complete Illustrated Map and Guidebook to Central Park, Sterling Publishing Company, 2008, p.26
  37. Illustrations at Central Park in Bronze
  38. "Mother Goose genius design"