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The Real Mother Goose

Updated on September 11, 2011

The Origins of Mother Goose

Mother Goose is an old lady who reads to children, created around the 1600's as the character who introduced collections of rhyming poems and songs for children (which we now know as "nursery rhymes"). But who is the real Mother Goose? Who first created her, who wrote her stories? Was she ever a real person, and if not, where do her origins lie?

Discover all this and more as we step back into the 16th and 17th centuries to examine where Mother Goose and her rhymes originated, plus find lots of resources for learning all about Mother Goose history and teaching Mother Goose to preschoolers.

Photo Credit: Victorian illustration. Image in the public domain

Was there a Real Mother Goose?

As far as we are aware, Mother Goose is a fictional character created to tell stories and rhymes to children. There is no evidence of an actual Mother Goose, much as we like to imagine she may have once been real, although she does find her origins and influences in the culture and history of the period in which she was created (see further down the page).

Nor is there any one writer who was "Mother Goose", rather, there were many writers who took on the persona of Mother Goose to publish a collection of children's rhymes. This tradition continues today, with many modern Mother Goose collections still being published. Nursery rhymes tended to be passed down, folklore-style, with publishers printing many without author attribution.

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images

There are legends, however, of a real Mother Goose, and even a couple of graves that are still visited to this day! The legend of the "Boston Mother Goose" is based on a claim in 1860 that the original teller of tales was an Elizabeth Goose. This claim has been discredited, with dates not matching up and no volume by Elizabeth having ever been found. However, many people still visit the supposed grave. Elizabeth's gravestone has no marker, so visitors instead pay their respects to a grave marked "Mary Goose".

There is also a Mother Goose grave in London, England, where a Burial Register plaque at St. Olaf's Church reads "14 September 1586 MOTHER GOOSE". Interestingly, it is two entries above that of Samuel Pepys!

Who was the Original Mother Goose?

Although there is no one actual Mother Goose, there had to have been someone who started it all originally! However, no one knows for sure where and when Mother Goose did originate.

The earliest written mention of Mother Goose in relation to story collections was in a French periodical in 1650. It contained a line that translates as "like a Mother Goose story."

A Mother Goose reference was next found in 1697, once again in France. Charles Perrault published his collection of eight famous fairytales, including Cinderella and Bluebeard, under the title of Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals. The title page contained a picture of an old woman spinning and telling stories, and the wording translates as Tales of Mother Goose. Although not yet associated with nursery rhymes (which had not yet been invented), the stage was set for the idea of Mother Goose telling stories to settle in the minds of writers.

Perrault's book was translated into English in 1729, with the title page translation reading as Mother Goose Tales. The first known collection of nursery rhymes was published in 1744, and finally, in 1780, the first collection of nursery rhymes affiliated with the Mother Goose name was published, entitled Mother Goose's Melody - or Sonnets for the Cradle.

Photo Credit: Mother Goose: The Old Nursery Rhymes

Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Image in the public domain

Read The Real Mother Goose

The Real Mother Goose is a collection by Blanche Fisher Wright, and a favourite of parents who are now passing it on to their children having enjoyed it themselves!

The Real Mother Goose: Includes a Read-and-Listen CD (Dover Read and Listen)
The Real Mother Goose: Includes a Read-and-Listen CD (Dover Read and Listen)

Find classic nursery rhymes like Little Jack Horner, Little Bo-Peep, Humpty Dumpty and Georgy Porgy in this lovely Mother Goose collection. It contains pen and watercolor illustrations and is accompanied by a CD pf rhymes read by professional voices.

 

Have you read with Mother Goose?

Have you read a Mother Goose collection of rhymes? Did you have one of the classic editions as a child, and have you passed the tradition on to your own children or grandchildren?

Did you have a Mother Goose book?

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History of The Real Mother Goose

Mother Goose illustration, pre-1900. Image in the public domain

Mother Goose has a fascinating history, filled with witches and rhymes, fairytales and folklore. There is both speculation and fact, which always makes for an interesting tale!

You can find out the documented history of the real Mother Goose at these detailed and thorough links below.

Who was the Real Mother Goose?

This is part of the Mother Goose Society website, written by author Gloria T. Delamar, who founded Mother Goose Day.

Real Mother Goose Origins

Written reference and publication history of Mother Goose with dates

Identity of the Real Mother Goose and her Rhymes

Looks at the connections between Mother Goose and the witchcraft trials during the era of early nursery rhymes

The Secret History of the Nursery Rhyme

Hidden meanings and theories about nursery rhymes

The Real Mother Goose

Rhymes from the 1916 collection The Real Mother Goose

Keep the Tradition Alive with Mother Goose Toys

Walt Disney "The Truth About Mother Goose"

Two-part animated documentary-style story from Disney on the Truth about Mother Goose, with a history of Mother Goose rhymes, plus black and white animations from Disney's Mother Goose Melodies.

I hope you enjoyed finding out more about The Real Mother Goose, Please leave a comment before you go!

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Love Mother Goose. Lots of good information here. I love the fairy tales.

    • lemonsqueezy lm profile image

      lemonsqueezy lm 6 years ago

      Excellent lens about Mother Goose. I read her rhymes when I was young and have a collection for my kids too. *blessed*