Mother Goose

Mother Goose

Mother Goose, name associated with nursery rhymes. Most English nursery rhymes have been ascribed to Mother Goose. The origin of the name is still a matter of dispute. Some trace it to a French collection of tales by Charles Perrault (1697) that had the subtitle Contes de ma mère L'Oye [tales of mother goose]. This name has in turn been traced to Queen Goosefoot, Charlemagne's mother (see Bertrada), who was a patron of children. Others claim an American origin in Mother Goose's Melodies, published 1719 in Boston by Thomas Fleet, whose mother-in-law was said to be Elizabeth Vergoose. A collection of Mother Goose rhymes was published by John Newbery in London in 1765. The subject matter of the rhymes has been linked by some scholars to actual events in English political history.

See The Annotated Mother Goose, ed. by W. S. and C. Baring-Gould (1970); study by S. K. Abbey (1967).

Fictitious old woman, reputedly the source of the body of traditional children's songs and verses known as nursery rhymes. Often pictured as a beak-nosed, sharp-chinned old woman riding on the back of a flying gander, she was first associated with nursery rhymes in Mother Goose's Melody (1781), published by the successors of John Newbery. The name apparently derived from the h1 of Charles Perrault's collection of fairy tales Ma Mère l'oye (1697; “My Mother Goose”). The persistent rumour that Mother Goose was an actual Boston woman is false.

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Mother Goose is a well-known figure in the literature of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Mother Goose is best known in the United States, in the United Kingdom and other English speaking nations. She is often prominent in Mother Goose stories, also more commonly known as "nursery rhymes" . Most people in the UK now only know Mother Goose as a title for a Christmas pantomime; besides the pantomime called "Mother Goose", the rhymes have formed the basis for many classic British pantomimes.

Who was Mother Goose?

Mother Goose is the name given to an archetypical country woman, who is supposedly the originator of the Mother Goose stories and rhymes. Yet no specific writer has ever been identified with such a name, of which the first known mention appears in an aside in a versified chronicle of weekly happenings that appeared regularly for several years, Jean Loret's La Muse Historique, collected in 1650. His remark, ...comme un conte de la Mere Oye ("...like a Mother Goose story") shows that the term was already familiar.

In spite of repeated facts, there are doubtful reports, familiar to tourists to Boston, Massachusetts that the original Mother Goose was a Bostonian wife of an Isaac Goose, either named Elizabeth Foster Goose (1665-1758) or Mary Goose (d. 1690, age 42) who is interred at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street. According to Eleanor Early, a Boston travel and history writer of the 1930s and '40s, the original Mother Goose was a real person who lived in Boston in the 1660s. 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. 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, her son-in-law gathered her jingles together and printed them.

In The Real Personages of Mother Goose (1930), Katherine Elwes Thomas submits that the image and name "Mother Goose", or "Mère l'Oye", may be based upon ancient legends of the wife of King Robert II of France, Berthe la fileuse ("Bertha the Spinner") or Berthe pied d'oie ("Goose-Foot Bertha" ), called in the Midi the reine Pedauque who, according to Thomas, is often referred in French legends as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children. The authority on the Mother Goose tradition, Iona Opie, does not give any credence to either the Elwes Thomas or the Boston suppositions.

The initiator of the literary fairy tale genre, Charles Perrault, published in 1695 under the name of his son a collection of fairy tales Histoires ou contes du temps passés, avec des moralités, which grew better known under its subtitle, "Contes de ma mère l'Oye" or "Tales of my Mother Goose". Perrault's publication marks the first authenticated starting-point for Mother Goose stories.

In 1729 there appeared an English translation of Perrault's collection, Robert Samber's Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose, which introduced "Sleeping Beauty", "Little Red Riding-hood", "Puss in Boots", "Cinderella" and other Perrault tales to English-speaking audiences. These were fairy tales. John Newbery published a compilation of English rhymes, Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle (London, undated, c.1765), which switched the focus from fairy tales to nursery rhymes, and in English this was the prime connotation for Mother Goose until recently.

The first public appearance of the Mother Goose stories in the New World was in Worcester, Massachusetts, where printer Isaiah Thomas reprinted Samber's volume under the same title, in 1786.

Maurice Ravel wrote Ma Mère l'Oye, a suite for the piano, which he then orchestrated for a ballet.

"Old Mother Goose"

In addition to being the purported authoress of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose is herself the title character of one such rhyme:

Old Mother Goose,
When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air
On a very fine gander.

Jack's mother came in,
And caught the goose soon,
And mounting its back,
Flew up to the moon.

The transition from a shadowy generic figure to one with such concrete actions was effected at a pantomime Harlequin and Mother Goose: or, The Golden Egg in 1806-07, Ryoji Tsurumi has shown; The pantomime was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 29 December, and many times repeated in the new year. Harlequin and Mother Goose: or, The Golden Egg, starring the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi, was written by Thomas Dibdin, who invented the actions suitable for a Mother Goose brought to the stage, and recreated her as a witch-figure, Tsurumi notes: in the first scene the stage directions show her raising a storm and, for the very first time, flying a gander. The magical Mother Goose transformed the old miser into Pantaloon of the commedia dell'arte and the British pantomime tradition, and the young lovers Colin and Colinette, into Columbine and "Clown". Played en travesti by Samuel Simmons— a pantomime tradition that survives today— she also raises a ghost in a macabre churchyard scene,

Reading, Viewing, and Listening to Mother Goose On-line

Web technology has enabled Mother Goose enthusiasts to provide free access to beautiful Mother Goose art and audio recordings. Some sites have the verses, some sites have the verses with art and audio, and some sites provide play and education activities. See External Links.

Other examples

  • Books by L. Frank Baum and illustrator W.W. Denslow in the late 1890s featured Mother Goose and Father Goose.
  • Tales of Brother Goose by Brett Nicholas Moore, a book of short stories published in 2006, satirizes Mother Goose stories with modern dialogue and cynical humor.
  • "Mother Goose" was once told as a moral teaching story to small children in Africa.

List of Adaptations of Mother Goose

The classic Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes revamped with a distinct motif by modern authors.

  • The Space Child's Mother Goose by Frederick Winsor: Mother Goose for scientific children.
  • eNursery Rhymes by Mother Mouse: Mother Goose in the computer nursery.
  • Nursery Rhymes Old and New: Mother Goose meets Mother Mouse face to face.
  • Mother Goose Tells the Truth About Middle Age by Sydney Altman: Mother Goose for baby boomers.
  • New Adventures Of Mother Goose by Bruce Lansky: Mother Goose with the violence abridged.
  • Christian Mother Goose by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker: Mother Goose gets religion.
  • The Inner City Mother Goose by Eve Merriam: Urban Mother Goose.
  • Black Mother Goose Book by Elizabeth Murphy Oliver: Ethnic Mother Goose.

Regionally flavored Mother Geese.

  • The Alaska Mother Goose: North Country Nursery Rhymes by Shelley Gill
  • An Appalachian Mother Goose by James Still
  • Tutu Nene: The Hawaiian Mother Goose Rhymes by Debra Ryll
  • Texas Mother Goose by David Davis
  • Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes Texas Style by Vicki Nichols

See also

Notes

External links

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