The beloved tales of Mother Goose are childhood favorites born in a slender volume of literature published in 1697 by Charles Perrault. Like the Grimm brothers, Perrault was an intellectual fascinated by local folklore, mythology and stories. During his life, he was a member of the French Academy, a respected and knowledgeable professor who published papers comparing ancient literary texts to his contemporaries work and finding them lacking.
The Stories of Mother Goose
In 1697, he published a book of eight tales called Tales of Mother Goose. Each of the eight stories he favored, retelling them in the same traditions they'd been recounted in for generations. While none of the stories he told were fresh or original, they were familiar to the audience and Perrault's little volume gave them a legitimacy with his fellow intellectuals and more.
Perrault chose tales that were well known at the time of the original publication and remained influential in fairy tales in subsequent centuries. These first Mother Goose tales included:
* Little Red Riding Hood
* Blue Beard
* The Master Cat (Puss in Boots)
* The Fairies
* The Little Glass Slipper (Cinderella)
* Ricky of the Tuft
* Little Thumb
* The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
Ricky the Tuft
Of all the tales in the original Mother Goose, the tale of Ricky the Tuft did not travel the centuries well to be reinvented by the Brothers Grimm or by Walt Disney. In Ricky the Tuft, a queen gives birth to a hideously deformed son, despite her great love for the boy, she could not help but worry for his future as he was so very ugly. A fairy present at the birth promised the queen that despite his unsightly appearance, the prince would be shrewd and witty and have the ability to share that part of his intelligence with whomever he did love.
In a neighboring country, another queen gave birth to twin daughters, as different as night and day. The eldest was fair and exquisitely beautiful while the youngest was as ugly as her sister was lovely. The same fairy blessed these children, promising the mother that the beautiful one would be empty-headed and stupid to offset the gift of her lovely looks while the younger sister deeply clever.
So it came to pass, when the eldest was a young woman, she was painfully stupid and tolerated only by the goodwill of her people. But she was not so stupid that she wasn't aware of her failings. During a sojourn in the woods, she cried of her own heartbreak when she met Ricky the Tuft. When she explained why she was so sad, the young prince offered her his love and promised it would solve all her problems. She only had to agree to marry him. She asked for one year and he agreed.
During the subsequent year, the princess grew quite clever and her life much rejuvenated. Many princes came to pledge for her hand, but she found them all too slow or less witted than she would care for. When the year passed and she encountered Ricky again, he awaited their wedding, but she was still uncertain. When Ricky shared with her the fairy's gifts bestowed upon each of them at birth (the fairy gave her the ability to make whatever she loved as beautiful as she), the princess shared her love with Ricky and he grew quite handsome.
The moral of the tale was that love always finds beauty, depth and intelligence in the one who is loved.
Perrault's Mother Goose
Over the centuries, new stories have been added to the beloved collections of Mother Goose's Fairy Tale, all offering a moral or a meaning so that younger generations can appreciate the lessons of their ancestors. While few readers would recognize Perrault's name, they are familiar with the matronly Mrs. Goose and her nursery rhymes.