Once upon a time, there were three bears- a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear- who all lived in a cottage in the woods. One day, they made porridge for breakfast, but it was too hot to eat, so they decided to go for a walk in the woods while it cooled down.
Meanwhile, in the village, a pretty little girl with shiny blonde curls was acting far too naughty for her poor mother, so she was cast out of the house. With nowhere else to go, she set off into the woods, where she stumbled upon the Bears’ home.
‘What a charming cottage,’ she thought to herself, and let herself in.
The table was set for three with a big chair, a medium sized chair, and a small chair, each with a bowl of porridge.
First, she sat in the big chair.
‘This chair is too wide,’ she said, and wriggled out to try the next one.
‘This chair is too high.’ She hopped down and settled into the smallest.
‘This chair is just right.’
Comfortable, she turned her attention to the porridge, since she hadn’t eaten since her mother threw her out, and all that walking in the woods worked up an appetite.
She pulled all the bowls toward her and tasted from the big bowl first.
‘This porridge is too hot.’ She opened her mouth wide and fanned herself. Then she took a bit from the medium bowl.
‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said with a shiver. She paused before trying the third.
‘But this porridge is just right!’ Delighted, she finished the whole thing.
After she had filled her belly with delicious warm porridge, sleepiness overtook her. As she hopped out of the chair, one of the legs broke, but she shrugged and wandered into the next room to lie down. There, she found three beds. She climbed into the big bed and winced.
‘This bed is too hard.’
She moved onto the next and sank nearly to the floor.
‘This bed is too soft.’
But when she climbed into the smallest bed, she barely had time to think before her eyes drifted closed.
‘This bed is juuuust…’
In the forest, the bears collected berries and roots for their porridge, and when they filled their big paws, decided they’d been gone long enough and that it must be cool enough by now.
But when they returned home, they found the door open.
‘Someone’s been in the house,’ Papa Bear said, his ears picking up.
‘Someone sat in my chair!’ Baby Bear cried, pointing at the broken leg. ‘And someone ate my porridge!’
Alarmed, they all dashed into the bedroom.
‘And she’s sleeping in my bed!’
At the commotion, Goldilocks woke with a start, screamed at the bears in the room, and leapt out of the window. She ran all the way home to her mother and vowed to be a good little girl forevermore.
The earliest version of the story by Robert Southey, originally had a rude and disgraceful old woman breaking into the bears’ house. I should note that Southey’s tale is the earliest recorded, but an oral version or something similar may be much older.
Later, Joseph Cundall changed the old woman into a young girl, Silver-Hair, and the popularity skyrocketed. Turns out kids connected better with a child protagonist than an elderly one. (Representation, right? Who knew?)
My own version of the story came to me as I was writing the ending of Golden. I knew with Alois living a double life, he’d want some sort of bolt hole to run to, if he ever needed to get Johanne and Rosabel to safety. So the idea of Johanne, who happens to be blonde, sticking it out in Meg’s old cottage as practice intrigued me. I also had a dream one day of writing a girl bonding story for Johanne and Sulat to get the measure of each other, and a few errant scene ideas floating around my head fitted perfectly into this new arrangement. Then it morphed not just into Johanne trying out cooking and home repair and sleeping in a rope bed for the first time, but also Sulat teaching her about living like a peasant in a broader sense, and one or two other things. I had a mind once to have Alois teach Johanne to shoot, but I thought it much more fun to make Sulat do it.
So what do you guys think? Did hearing the story of Goldilocks as a child teach you not to wander into other people’s houses and eat their food?
I plan to have ‘Just Right’ ready and posted very soon- are you excited?