“Breaking the Mother Goose Code: How a Fairy-Tale Character Fooled the World for 300 Years”, by Jeri Studebaker

Reviewed by Geraldine Charles

"Breaking the Mother Goose Code"

It is a long time since I enjoyed a book packed full of ideas, research and analysis quite so much, and a great deal of that pleasure has to be down to Jeri’s writing style, which is engaging, witty and never dry or boring. I was sorry to get to the end of the book, having enjoyed even the appendices, and was thrilled to have the bibliography as a brilliant resource. No doubt I will start again at the beginning, this time with Google open by my side as one thing I did regret was a lack of illustrations in such a very visual book.

It occurs to me that maybe Mother Goose is not quite so well-known in Britain as in North America: perhaps the name is used more there for what we Brits simply call fairy tales and nursery rhymes?

I don’t necessarily agree with every bit of interpretation and Jeri herself is careful to point out when she is speculating. However, much of this type of work and research has to begin from a place of intuition and speculation, the personal remains political as far as Goddess research is concerned. Exploring these liminal places needs careful research, speculation — and intuition; the archetypes may be available to us all but they’re not always so easy to access and have been culturally interpreted and obscured to greater or lesser extents. The idea of coded messages hidden within fairy tales bothers me a little, but the messages are clearly there—maybe not put there in full consciousness but there nevertheless.

As a child, I inhabited a world where myth, folklore and goddess archetypes were jumbled together, and on reaching the age at which children are supposed to put such things aside, to join the “real” world of work and study, I managed to sneak an edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales intended for adults past a drowsy librarian. Reading this left me with an indelible knowing—that there’s an alternative version of reality, a land that would never be accepted in any academic setting, but one we all know; a place of different truths, where the maps are not set but variable and no matter how much people who want “power over”, hierarchy and to keep women in their supposed place try to censor and sanitise, the beloved fairy tales remain as signposts and clues to a different reality.

But somehow I forgot that other world for years, and thought of fairy tales mostly in feminist terms, noting, for example, that princesses often stay put in the family castle while princes wander about in search of a bride – evidence that sovereignty, the land, was passed down through the female line and not the male. Ideas which are still valid, but only part of the truth— that much goddess knowledge and wisdom could be passed down through fairy tales and rhymes ostensibly intended for young children, but which speak to us all. Thank you, Jeri, for reminding me of these alternate worlds!

Overall? I’m excited and inspired. Whatever the “truth” of the stories, of hidden codes and meanings, the book is a fantastic framework for future research and thought and I know I will refer to it many times.

“Breaking the Mother Goose Code” is published by Moon Books and available from Amazon.
Geraldine Charles

Geraldine Charles

Geraldine is the founder and editor of Goddess Pages. She is also a Priestess of the Goddess, a founder member of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple and a former Glastonbury Goddess Conference ceremonialist.
A web designer and all-round computer person, Geraldine is responsible for a number of websites. In her spare time she writes articles and poems, loves researching Goddess in mythology and also produces artwork on her beloved computer. She also runs an online correspondence course called "Getting to know the Goddess". 
Geraldine Charles

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