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Who was Mother Goose?

Is Mother Goose a make-believe person? Did such a lady ever live? I'm sure we all agree she never soared into the air on a goose, and it's certain she didn't travel about on a broom, but I've often wondered about the character in the tall hat, the billowing cape, and striped stockings. Maybe you have, too. There are a great many nursery rhymes, so Mother Goose, if she did exist, was a busy writer indeed! I decided to look into the mystery, and found there are at least two stories about this charming and funny lady. I will tell you what I discovered, and you may decide which story you think is true.

Grandmothers are sometimes splendid storytellers, and in the 1700s in the American city of Boston lived such a grandmother. Her name was Mrs. Elizabeth Goose! When she was a young woman she married a man with 10 children, and then had six more of her own. You can easily see that numerous grandchildren visited her as a regular thing.

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One of her daughters had a husband who enjoyed the art of making books, so as a special project he collected her stories together and called this book ``Songs for the Nursery or Mother Goose Melodies.'' It must have made Mrs. Goose very happy. Unfortunately, there are no copies of this volume, which might prove that Elizabeth Goose was a real person. So now that we have information on the possible American Mother Goose, let's look into the French story. Many people think Mother Goose was from France and lived even before the Boston storyteller. The French writer specialized in rhymes first published in 1697. These were collected by Charles Perrault in a book called ``Tales of Mother Goose.'' It told about a lady who dressed in a skirt covered with roses and wore black buckled shoes. In the Perrault book were prose tales. One was called ``The Sisters Who Dropped From Their Mouths Diamonds and Toads,'' which had a great sense of humor!

Some history buffs believe Charles Perrault took the best from many storytellers and turned them into his French Mother Goose. Which of the tales do you like best, the American or French? Did Charles make up the whole thing?

Did you know Mother Goose rhymes are sometimes based on famous people in history, and often are riddles or have double meanings? Although the riddles in a Mother Goose book are fun, they can be difficult to figure out, for they were written so many, many years ago.

Jack and Jill were definitely pretend names of noted persons, and it's doubtful that an ``Old Woman'' lived in a shoe house, ... although I love the idea! I've heard Humpty Dumpty was someone with a number of problems, but I'm sure he was not an egg!

In case you don't know, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary was ``Mary, Queen of Scots,'' and the ``pretty maids all in a row'' were the Queen's Ladies in Waiting. But that's another story!

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