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1001 Stories Collection

Goosey Goosey Gander

Warning contains geese
Added on 10th June 2020

Traditional nursery rhyme First recorded version 1780s

Small Worlds

Goosey goosey gander, Whither shall I wander? Upstairs and downstairs, And in my lady's chamber

The nursery rhyme is still well known, helped by its inclusion in Beatrix Potter's collection of Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes. It is a typical example of a well-known children's rhyme that has lost its original associations for a modern audience.

Where it came from

The meaning of this nursery rhyme is unclear but may refer to religious persecution of the Roman Catholics. Some think that it refers to the reformation under Henry VIII when wealthy Catholic families often had priest holes in which to hide members of the Catholic clergy, or that it refers to Oliver Cromwell's soldiers who marched in 'goose step' and hunted out Catholics. Alternatively other associations of the word 'goose', coupled with the mention of 'my lady's chamber', may indicate that the rhyme has a secondary layer of innuendo.

Where it went next

The first recorded instance of the rhyme is in Gammer Gurton's Garland or The Nursery Parnassus published in London in 1784.Beatrix Potter also included it in her book Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes.

Associated stories

The earliest printed version of the rhyme doesn't include the final four lines about being thrown down the stairs. Ilona and Peter Opie believe that the version that we now have may be an amalgamation with another nursery rhyme of around the same period about a crane fly which concludes with the lines about being taken by the left leg and thrown down the stairs.




Added on 10th June 2020

Traditional nursery rhyme First recorded version 1780s

Small Worlds