Friday, May 27, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

This is another popular story with an interesting history. In fact there was a story by Robert Southey in 1837 about three bears, but the human character was an angry, gray-haired old crone who broke into the bears' home. This version (a-hem!) bears strong (suspiciously strong) similarities to a story about an old woman and three bears that had been published six years previously. Of course, in this earlier version, the bears proved to be disturbingly vindictive toward the old woman. They set her on fire, try to drown her, and ultimately are only able to kill her by impaling her on a church steeple...ugh! Twelve years later, another story appeared, this time by Joseph Cundall, who has turned the old woman into a little girl with silver hair (later golden hair, thus "Goldilocks"). 

Some of you may wonder why it's taken me so long to include this story in my collection. Well, the truth is, I had a hard time making the whole breaking-and-entering thing plausible. Just barging into someone else's house is pretty much universally held to be a no-no, so I needed to figure out how that could be reconciled with the character's otherwise sweet and loveable, Shirley Temple-esque demeanor. The answer came from, of all places, "Fractured Fairy Tales," about which I have written before. In one of their versions of Goldilocks, they establish the character as being "careless with other people's things!" I happen to have a close relative who has this same shortcoming, so that helped immensely.

Goldilocks was a little girl with pretty golden hair, which is good, cuz otherwise it’s be pretty silly to call her “Goldilocks,” don’tcha think? And though she had many good qualities (smart, pretty, good sense of humor, impeccable fashion sense and she always did the dishes when it was her turn) she also had one glaring, irrefutable bad quality: She was very, very careless with other people’s things. Any friend who lent her a doll or a book or something invariably regretted doing so because she treated other people’s things so badly. If she broke the spine of a book or the head came off a friend’s doll, she just thought “Well, at least it wasn’t mine.”

She lived with her family in a lovely house on the outskirts of a wide wood, and one day, she decided she would go and explore the woods. She wandered deep, deep into the forest, taking note of the beautiful flora and fauna around her. But time passes quickly when you’re having fun, and it seemed like she had just begun when she realized it was getting close to suppertime and she had to head home…unfortunately, by now Goldilocks was very, very much lost in the woods. Suddenly, the beautiful flora and fauna seemed strange and sinister and she just wanted to go home.

But, having no compass, no map and no way of knowing where she’d already been, poor Goldilocks just kept getting loster and loster…where we will have to leave her for the time being, for elsewhere in the forest was a house just as quaint and lovely as Goldilocks’. The only real difference was that it had no front porch, a larger chimney, an extra guest room on the main floor…Oh! And the people who lived there were actually bears.

A family of bears, in fact. A Poppa Bear, a Momma Bear, and a Baby Bear (well, more of a Little Kid Bear, but “Baby Bear” sounds better, so it’ll have to do) who were just sitting down to a dinner of porridge. Now, you might not like porridge for dinner, but bears happen to love it, especially with lots of honey, which, as I’m sure you know, bears like on pretty much everything, which is why you should never order a pizza with a bear.

But when Poppa Bear tasted his first spoonful of porridge, it was so hot it burned his tongue. “YOW!” he cried. “This porridge is much too hot!”

So the bears decided they would go for a quick walk in the woods while they let their dinner cool. And no sooner had they left then Goldilocks arrived. Overjoyed at seeing a house in the middle of this dense forest, Goldilocks rudely ran inside without even knocking or asking permission. And, when she saw several bowls of porridge sitting on the table seemingly waiting for her, she was doubly excited and she sat down in front of the first bowl of porridge took a big spoonful and—

“YOW!” she cried. “This porridge is much too hot!” And she was so excited that she dropped the bowl and spilled it all over the table. So, she moved onto the next bowl, to which she added some cold milk to make it cooler. “No,” she said. “Now it’s too cold.” So she turned to the last bowl added slightly less milk and took a bite. “Ahh! Now this is juuust right!” And she finished the whole bowl in a flash.

But she ate too fast, and it upset her tummy, so she wanted to sit down and relax a bit. She tried to sit in the great big arm chair, but it was too big. Then she saw a little chair by the fireplace, but it was too low. Finally her eye (and then the rest of her) fell on a comfy-looking rocking chair which was juuust right. Unfortunately, she rocked too fast and broke the chair.

Of course, Goldilocks didn’t worry too much about that (after all, she thought, it’s not as if it were my chair) especially because eating all that porridge after such an exhausting trip through the woods had made her sleepy. So she went upstairs to see if she couldn’t find someplace to lie down.

You’ve probably guessed what she found upstairs. Three beds. The first bed was too hard. The second bed was too soft. But the third bed was juuust right and she climbed in and fell fast asleep.

It was about this time that the bears came home and were shocked to see the state of their house. “Someone’s been eating my porridge!” said the Poppa Bear. “Yes, and someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Momma Bear. “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Baby Bear, “And they ate it all up!”

“And look!” said Poppa Bear. “Someone’s been sitting in my chair, too.” At first, Momma Bear wondered how her husband could possibly know that, until she saw her own chair, the one by the fireplace and said, “Someone’s been sitting in my chair.” And when Baby Bear saw the broken pieces of wood in the spot where his chair used to be, he said, “Someone’s been sitting in my chair and they broke it!”

Since they couldn’t find the culprit downstairs, the bears went upstairs to the bedroom. Well, bears, as you probably know, always make their beds in the mornings, so it was clear to them that—“Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!” said the Poppa Bear. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed, too,” said the Momma Bear. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed,” said Baby Bear. “In fact, someone’s still sleeping in my bed.”

All this commotion had effectively woken Goldilocks up and when she saw three bears glaring angrily at her she was more scared than she had ever been in her life. Poppa Bear was about to give her a stern lecture about the importance of being respectful of other people’s property, but he never got a chance to, because the minute he opened his mouth to speak, Goldilocks thought he was going to try to eat her and she ran like the dickens out of the house, through the woods and found her way home in record time.

Of course, there would have been no need for a lecture after what Goldilocks had experienced. After that day, she was always very careful with things that didn’t belong to her and her friends and family now knew that they could lend her their favorite toys, games, books and things without fear. As for the bears, well they learned that it’s kind of stupid to go for a walk in the woods without even locking your front door and, for extra measure, they installed a home security system. So they too lived happily, and securely, ever after.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:
  • "Faerie Tale Theatre" (TV) This episode stars John Lithgow, Tatum O'Neal and Donovan Scott.

NEXT WEEK:  "The Heir to the Throne"

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