April 14, 2020

O is for Old

        (My theme for this year’s A to Z Blog Challenge is traditional English language nursery rhymes, and their block printed illustrations.  Don't forget that you can find all the other A to Z blogs on the Master List.)

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
So she gave them some broth without any bread,
And whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.

        In general I’m not much of one for “improving” the classics, and there are those who argue that it’s actually healthy to give children stories with a dose of manageable horror so that they can learn to grapple with negative emotions.  It has also been my experience that in general healthy children are far less horrified than adults by this sort of thing.  However, I did tweak this one in my book, because frankly it isn’t logical.  Anyone with so many children would surely want to make bedtime as easy as possible, and a beating isn’t much of a lullaby.  I know, I know, nursery rhymes are seldom logical, but unlike living in a shoe, which is delightful fantasy nonsense, this particular piece of illogic isn’t absurd enough to be fun.  So in my book I replaced the last two lines with these:
Mother Goose says she whipped them and sent them to bed,
But I think she told bedtime stories instead.

        And that’s what’s happening in my illustration (the first one in this post).  As far as I know, all the illustrations of this nursery rhyme show the outside of the shoe house, but I wanted to show the family inside, listening to their stories.  It’s a bit of a challenge to depict the inside of a shoe!  However, it is a lot of fun to imagine how to design a shoe house.  As for the shoes in different illustrations, there’s a fair variety of styles.  Most newer illustrations seem to use a boot, which certainly would be a larger house for this large family.  Some illustrations show a woman’s shoe, and others a man’s.  I modeled mine on a Doc Martens boot, not that you can really tell from the inside.
        Did you notice the boy peeking out from the space by the heel in the third illustration?
        There are plenty of other Old women and Old men in nursery rhymes.  Keep your eyes open for them.  Yes, there will be a quiz.
        I think the Old Woman may be reading bedtime stories about shoes.  Remarkable or magical shoes feature in a number of fairy tales: Cinderella’s glass slippers, seven-league boots, the 12 Dancing Princesses’ dancing slippers, Dorothy’s silver or ruby slippers, Puss-in-Boots… Can you think of any others?
        A final note for impressionable children: Be sure to wipe your shoes on the mat before entering a house, even if the house is a shoe, and take them off altogether if that’s what your parents or hosts prefer.

[Pictures: The Family Who Lived in a Shoe, rubber block print by AEGN, 2003;
Wood block print from Mother Goose’s Quarto of Nursery Rhymes published by McLoughlin Bros., nineteenth century (Image from International Children’s Digital Library);
Wood engraving from Mother Goose’s Melodies, published by C.S. Francis and Company, 1833 (Image from International Children’s Digital Library);
Color wood engraving by Philip Reed from Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes, 1963;
Detail from Nursery Rhymes, wood engraving by Gwenda Morgan, 1970 (Image from Kevis House).]


The Dream Girl said...

In of Enid Blyton's book they revisit this tale and its just so nice!
But I have read soo many books of her that I can't seem to remember which book exactly. I think it was The Magic Faraway series.
I owe it to her for my love of reading. She was and is definitely my favourite children's author!

Rob Z Tobor said...

I forgot about the the old woman who lived in a shoe I thought it was going to be . . .

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, And a merry old soul was he

Nice artwork again I love the figures in your picture.

Kathe W. said...

Loved this nursery rhyme and learned how to tie my shoes using a wooden shoe toy....looked like her home!

Kristin said...

This made me think of Buster Brown who lived in a shoe with his dog Tide, even though they were not in a nursery rhyme.

Wes Ikezoe said...

I absolutely love your A to Z challenge, and your site in general. You are a gifted artist, wise and witty writer, and a knowledgable researcher. I am slowly working my way through your site and having a wonderful, enjoyable, experience.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Dream Girl, I have actually never read any Blyton. I keep meaning to, but her books are not so readily available in the USA.

Rob, Old King Cole was F for Fiddlers! =)

Kathe, how fun to learn lace-tying on the Old Woman's house!

Kristin, I had forgotten about Buster Brown. I didn't know he actually lived in a shoe.

Wes, awwww, thanks! *blushes*

The Dream Girl said...

Oh that is such a bummer!
Maybe you can find it online?

M is for More Info

Celia Reaves said...

What a charming theme! I love your illustrations and enjoy reading all the old rhymes I remember from my childhood.

Lisa said...

Whenever I read this one to my kids I would say, "She kissed them all soundly and tucked them in bed!"

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

And when they moved out she moved into a ballet flat.
I am not a fan of whipping the kids either. It's kinda pointless, and normalizes the idea.

The Multicolored Diary

Jade Li said...

I like how you amended the nursery rhyme in your book. The kids in some of the other prints look scared and the mother looks less than kind. Why should kids get beaten before bed??

Sue Bursztynski said...

Anne, I loved Enid Blyton as a child, but as an adult, not so much. She is one of those authors whose work hasn’t aged well. You CAN get it in the US. In fact, the stories have been rewritten to suit the US market, the children in Faraway Tree have been re-named, for example, as has a character called Dame Slap, changed to Dame Snap. The Noddy stories were banned for years because someone decided that Noddy, the taxi driver in Toyland, was having a relationship with his friend Bigears, a character who lived in a toadstool. Don’t read them now, too late. You’ll notice things you wouldn’t have, as a child.

I did enjoy the Five Findouter novels. They were a bit subversive, with a policeman called Mr Goon(!) who was always trying to compete with the children in solving the mysteries, but never succeeded - and the dog, Buster, was always snapping at his heels. The leader, Frederick “Fatty” Trotteville, was a young Sherlock Holmes.

I do like your inside view of the shoe - well done!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Lisa, that's a good solution.

Zalka, that's definitely the way to downsize in a shoe! =D

Sue, that was the impression I'd gotten from looking at some of the info about Blyton. I am just curious, from a perspective of the history of children's literature. Thanks for the scoop!

Jenny said...

I think it's fun to see inside the shoe! I never liked reading this poem as is because the old woman was so mean. When I read it to my sons, I believe I changed it to hugged them soundly.

Deborah Weber said...

I am 100% in favor of your amended version of the tale and your fabulous illustration Anne. And as far as shoe houses go, I think a Doc Martens model is the way to go. Although maybe a spurred cowboy boot would give the kids a scary-yet-delightful built-in playground ride. I'm afraid you've sent me down a designing rabbit hole...

Shari Elder said...

Love all these illustrations. As for additional stories, how about the Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen, which makes me sad, so its not a story I return to. An a happier note, I also associate shoes with Pippi Longstockings, who wore boots sizes too big.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I like your illustration -- I've always wondered what it would look like inside the shoe!

An A-Z of Faerie: Occult

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Jenny, it definitely makes sense to adapt the rhyme to the tastes of the reader and listeners.

Deborah, I think you have a new career in front of you: shoe house and playground architecture!

Shari, good shoe story ideas. I don't really like The Red Shoes, either.