By Blanche Fisher Wright (Dover Publications) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Did you grow up with nursery rhymes like Little Bo-Peep or The Man in the Moon? Or maybe you sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Baa Baa Black Sheep.
On May 1, we celebrate the famous Mother Goose and all your favourite nursery rhymes.
Mother Goose float at the Toronto Santa Claus parade, 1930. (Wikimedia/Toronto History/CC BY)
Unfortunately, no. Mother Goose is an imaginary author of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Books in her name contain the popular nursery rhymes of other, sometimes unknown, poetry writers.
She is often illustrated in books as an old country woman with a tall hat and shawl that rides a goose, or as a goose wearing a bonnet and reading glasses.
Mother Goose is a recognized name in children's books and you have likely read or heard a Mother Goose nursery rhyme or story growing up.
Some say there are about 700 works that have been written over the centuries that are gathered in her books.
A lot of times the lyrical rhymes are sung like songs, which help children with their language ability. Have you heard: Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or Hey Diddle Diddle?
These are all Mother Goose rhymes that have a distinct rhythm and tune. It's hard not to recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star without singing it!
Other popular rhymes you may recognize are Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty and This Little Pig. Even tongue twisters like "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" are all part of the Mother Goose collection.
By Clara E. Atwood (A Book of Nursery Rhymes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mother Goose is so old that no one knows who exactly began this fictional character, or who she was insprired by.
Because Mother Goose nursery rhymes span several centuries, it is likely that there is more than one author — and we may never know who they are.
To give you an idea of just how old Mother Goose tales are, there are mentions of Mother Goose from as far back as 1626. That is over 375 years ago!
You would think she did, but no. The first known person to invent fairy tales is Charles Perrault of France. In 1697 he published a collection of folktales best known as Tales of My Mother Goose (originally Contes de ma mère l'Oye in French).
If it hadn't been for a book translation in 1729, English-speakers may have never known classic fairytales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood.
An illustration in the front of the English edition of the book shows an old woman telling tales to a group of children under a sign that says "Mother Goose's Tales." Some say this art is what started the Mother Goose legend.