Mother Goose: A History

Mother Goose--Human

A depiction of Mother Goose in her human form.

Mother Goose Pic

One of the various renderings of Mother Goose as a goose.

Origins of Mother Goose are unknown, but in literature she is depicted as either an elderly woman or as a goose figure, sometimes both. Mother Goose collects and tells stories for children. These stories often have a rhyme scheme giving a sing-song quality to the poetry and can often have a moral or a lesson attached to it. Other poems are done in jest or to have fun and laugher to entertain the child audience. The figure of Mother Goose herself is unknown if she is based off of a real person or created by an anonymous author, giving characterization to the collection of children’s rhymes and stories that follow in a book.

Mother Goose whether in human or goose form, is given a very humble, country, peasant type of appearance, which gives way to the tone of the tales and rhymes that appear as well as informing the artwork that go along with each piece. By having such a humble appearance and disposition, the poetry is allowed to take on a nostalgic, humble, and simple appearance despite any magical, otherworldly, and humorous elements.

Mother Goose’s earliest appearances date back to the 17th century along with other popular children’s works such as Mother Hubbard. The first confirmed publication of Mother Goose can be attributed to Charles Perrault who is also known for his other children’s stories, particularly, his fairy tales. Mother Goose later became synonymous with English Children’s poetry, and makes the migration to the New World, appearing in the Americas in the 18th century.