A couple of weeks ago Nimue Brown asked who among her readers would interested to review books on their blog. Although I’m by no means a blogger with a large audience, I am a voracious reader. So I applied and to my surprise, I was kindly added to the list. Last week I received my first book to review: Breaking the Mother Goose code by Jeri Studebaker. I find that when I make whimsical but heartfelt decisions quite like this one, the universe surprises me by what it throws my way. I have been working, reading and thinking about subjects related to the matters that are discussed in this book, the true origins and meanings of European myths. Breaking the Mother Goose code could not have come at a better time.
The book proposes the possibility that Mother Goose is a literary figure that was invented to hide the European Mother Goddess. She emerged in books and print at a time when every last remnant of a non-Christian culture was persecuted and almost completely eradicated. The author also asserts the idea that these fairy tales and nursery rhymes hide a treasure: a memory of a wholly different, pre-patriarchal society. The author’s style of writing is very accessible. She has read and researched widely but the book pleasantly lacks a scholarly tone. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was often amazed by the connections and conclusions the author draws. Some of the conclusions that are drawn, however, seem to belong to the realm of speculation. The author is upfront about this. Fairy tales are by their very nature an elusive beast, because they hail from an oral tradition. It is hard, if not impossible, to know their pedigree. However, in many parts of Europe, the influx of Indo-European people, allegedly bringing and spreading their patriarchal culture along with their languages, pre-dates these fairy tales by thousands of years. That is why I find it problematic to regard certain fairy tales as relics from pre-patriarchal times. The strict division between patriarchy and egalitarian societies is by no means an undisputed fact. The same goes for the assertion that the fairy tales are visions of shamanic experience or transcribed spells. I find these ideas very interesting, but they can not be proven. They scream for even wider exploration though! The author does build up a strong case for the fact that these fairy tales were deliberately hidden by Charles Perrault, the literary father of Mother Goose.
The one thing that did bother me was the lack of illustrations. Such a book most certainly deserves to be illustrated luxuriously, especially because there are many references in the text to depictions of goddesses and the literary character Mother Goose. Apart from that, anyone interested in fairy tales, pan-European cultural motives and Goddess religion will love this book.