Fairy Tale Facts: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Once upon a time, there was a old lady (or maybe it was a little girl) who found a house in the woods that belonged to three bachelor bears (or maybe it was a family of bears?).

That’s right, today we’re taking about Goldilocks and the Three Bears!

Goldilocks and the Three Bears (or The Story of the Three Bears as it was first known) is a British fairy tale from the 1800s, first published in a volume of work by Robert Southey in 1837. The story follows an old woman who finds a house belonging to some bears, breaks in, and basically destroys all their stuff (bowls of porridge, chairs, and beds) in a quest to find the things that are “just right” for her. It’s a short tale, with an interesting ending where the old woman (who is considered by the narrator to be a bad ugly person deserving of time in jail) jumps out a window when discovered by the bears and is never heard from again.

Photo by Lena Derevianko on Unsplash

And it wouldn’t be a post about Goldilocks and her adventures if I didn’t share a fun fact or three.

The Magic Number

The number three features heavily in the story, with three bears and three sets of (three) objects Goldilocks interacts with. This rule of three is something of a trope in literature: the first option or object being one extreme, the second being another (often opposite) extreme, and the third being a sort of happy medium. This has even carried over into science, with the Goldilocks principle and Goldilocks Zone drawing their names from the story.

Photo by Magic Bowls on Unsplash

Goldilocks and Silver-Hair

Interestingly, the story itself has been through three distinct versions. The first, as described above, featured an old criminal woman, sometimes called Silver-Hair, and a trio of bachelor bears. The second version, which was published about 12 years later, changed the old woman to a little girl called Goldilocks. Goldilocks has a kinder fate, often being rescued by a parent and vowing to be better behaved. In the 1850s, the bears started to evolve as well. First they were brothers, then brother and sister with a young friend, and finally two parents and a child.

With a Twist

There aren’t a ton of adaptations of this story, mostly because it’s short and there’s not a lot to play with. That being said, tune in next week for my review of Carrie Anne Noble’s “Gretchen and the Bear”!

Until next time, word nerds!

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