Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Real Mother Goose

I had a copy of this book as a child. Of all the books I owned, I think it is safe to say that this is the one I read the least. My parents would pull it off the bookshelf every once in a while and try to get me into it, but I always resisted. Why? Take a look. What do you think is happening in that picture?

It’s obvious, right? A nefarious witch (is there any other kind?) is abducting a baby. She is flying away on a magic goose that she has brutally enslaved. Her shifty eyes, pointy hat, buckled shoes, and bony, wrinkled fingers are dead giveaways. (Seriously: look at those hands. Not just the effects of old age.)

According to my parents, my impression was inaccurate. She is, rather, a kindly old lady (possibly of Pilgrim origin) who is simply taking the baby out for a ride. Their primary arguing point was flimsy: “Look how happy the baby is,” they said, “If she was a witch, would the baby be so happy?”Such failure of logic drove me crazy. It was clear that the baby was stupid. He (she) didn’t know that s/he was being abducted. History (Hansel and Gretel) had taught me that witches could be compelling creatures. Why should this witch be any different?

Still my parents persisted. “She’s just Mother Goose. Mother Goose isn’t a witch.”
Oh isn’t she? Clearly their knowledge of witches was not as extensive as mine.
After a while, I stopped trying to convince them. The whole thing made me trust them a little less, though. If they couldn’t tell witches from Pilgrims, then I had to be on my guard. If our family was ever called upon to make such a distinction, it would be Up To Me. I just hoped they wouldn’t encourage me to get into any baskets with elderly ladies.
I remembered what almost happened to Toto, even if they didn’t.

I'd be interested to know: does anybody else have memories of scary pictures in books for kids?

Note: The baby looks like a bit of a greaser. A young Lenny maybe, from Laverne and Shirley?


Blogger Gordon Merrick said...

Have you ever considered the possibility that she was just made that way?

8:56 AM  
Blogger betsytacy said...

Oh, how sad. Perhaps I am guilty of witchism?

12:25 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Peterson said...

I can't remember illustrations that scared me, but Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers always disturbed me. Mr. Rogers with his controlled, honeyed voice and Capt. Kangaroo with his yellow hair with the dutch-boy bangs and up-curls over his ears. What were these characters capable of?

5:11 PM  
Blogger betsytacy said...

I'm pro Mr. R these days, but he *is* a little too measured, a little too pleased ...and Captain K. is just bizarre. The gray-blonde hair, the bangs, the red jacket with piping. What the hell kind of captain is that?

7:56 AM  

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