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Mother Goose Magic

Apr 30, 2020

May 1 is Mother Goose Day!

“Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon, the little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon!” Is this just a silly, nonsense rhyme? So many of these rhymes that we may remember from early childhood are credited to Mother Goose, but who was Mother Goose exactly?

May 1 is Mother Goose Day, a celebration of the oral tradition of children’s rhymes. While the exact identity of Mother Goose is lost in time, some believe she was a 17th-century Bostonian woman who invented rhymes, games and chants to entertain her grandchildren. Her catchy rhymes were said to be so popular that her son-in-law decided to publish them, and Mother Goose was born. Others argue that Mere l’Oie actually dates back to 10th century France, and credit Queen Berthe, wife of King Robert the second, known as Berthe pied d’oie, famous for her storytelling that enraptured both adults and children. We will never know the exact origin of this oral tradition, but Charles Perrault, the 17th century founder of the fairy tale genre, is the first publisher of a written Mother Goose collection of rhymes and folk tales in 1697. This collection became popular in France and was soon translated into English. This translation introduced not only the Mother Goose rhymes but the famous fairy tales of Perrault, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

Many of us will remember hearing these rhymes when we were young, recited and sung to us by our parents and grandparents. The oral tradition of singing rhymes is a wonderful way for children and parents to bond. Singing to babies is something that transcends cultures. Around the world, parents sing to their babies to calm and entertain them. Singing is the first language lesson we give our children and is at the very beginning of their development of language recognition, and a step on the way to reading and writing. A child’s ability to hear all the parts of a word are enhanced by listening to poetry and song, and nursery rhymes are at the foundation. Researchers have found that babies develop the ability to process sound in the womb and have determined that day-old infants can identify rhythmic patterns. Babies are born loving to hear singing, especially the voices of their parents!

Mother Goose rhymes stay in our head's, nonsense or not! We may not even realize that they are the rhymes of Mother Goose. Baa, Baa Black Sheep and Humpty, Dumpty Sat on a Wall, This Little Piggy are rhymes that we may fondly remember being sung from childhood. These little ditties awakened our love of language, sense of humour in early childhood and have stayed with us throughout our lives, travelling on through the generations.

Blog post contributed by Sue from our Sunnyside branch.