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Who was mother goose?

May 21, 2004

No search of history books or population records will uncover a Mother Goose. No such person ever existed. "Mother Goose herself was originally a stock figure for a teller of tales," said John Nelson, curator of the Hager House and Museum in Hagerstown. "She was based on an old French peasant woman who watched over the village geese."

The term "Mother Goose" has been traced to a line - "Comme un conte de la Mere Oye," which translates to "Like a Mother Goose story" - in Loret's 1650 "La Muse Historique," according to the Mother Goose Society at www.librarysupport.net/mothergoosesociety on the Web. Charles Perrault in 1697 used the phrase in a published collection of fairy tales, the frontispiece of which showed an old woman spinning and telling stories with a placard on the page reading "Contes de la Mere l'Oye" ("Tales of My Mother the Goose"), the Web site states.

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The placard was translated to read "Mother Goose's Tales" when Perrault's collection was rewritten in English in 1729, Nelson said.

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