Scrimmage Over Her Image

Not only have authors and publishers debated how Mother Goose’s rhymes should appear, they have also differed in their portrayals of Mother Goose herself.  By analyzing how images of Mother Goose are portrayed, it may be possible to gain some insight in to which of the many Mother Gooses each illustrator identified with.
Kate Greenway, ill., <I>Mother Goose</I> (London and New York: Frederick Warne, 188?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Kate Greenaway, ill., Mother Goose (London and New York: Frederick Warne, 188?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Acclaimed illustrator Kate Greenaway depicts a pretty milkmaid as the beloved rhyme maker. This image promotes the idyllic and soothing nature some of Mother Goose’s lullabies are meant to inspire.
<i>Mother Goose</i> (New York: McLoughlin Bros, 1877?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Mother Goose (New York: McLoughlin Bros, 1877?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Other illustrators opt to highlight the darkly whimsical nature of some of the rhymes.  Here, Mother Goose is shown in witch-like garb, pointy hat and broom in hand, riding a goose. By choosing this image, the illustrator could be identifying with the more traditional, and often somewhat sinister, fairy tales accredited to Mother Goose.
<i>Mother Goose's Rhymes, Jingles and Fairy Tales</i> (Philadelphia: H. Altemus, 1869), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Mother Goose's Rhymes, Jingles and Fairy Tales (Philadelphia: H. Altemus, 1869), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Here, we see a milder adaptation of the witchy image.  Although Mother Goose still dons the pointy hat, she more closely resembles a grandmotherly figure.  This could be a representation that suggests the wizened nature of the text, implying that the stories contain grains of truth that aged generations bestow on the young.
The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (Boston: G.W. Cottrell, 187?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The Only True Mother Goose Melodies (Boston: G.W. Cottrell, 187?), accessed at J. Murrey Atkins Library, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

This illustrator chose to show Mother Goose in the most literal sense — as a goose.  This could indicate that the illustrator viewed the rhymes within the book as nonsensical pieces intended only for entertainment.
The inconsistency of Mother Goose’s portrayal reinforces the notion that her stories, rhymes, and legacy are constantly being reassessed and reinterpreted.
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