Mother Goose in Prose
L. Frank Baum
5:15 h
Level 3
Mother Goose in Prose is a collection of twenty-two children's stories based on Mother Goose nursery rhymes. It was the first children's book written by L. Frank Baum, and the first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. It was originally published in 1897 by Way and Williams of Chicago. The book opens with an introduction by Baum that traces the history of Mother Goose. It is followed by the original text of a nursery rhyme with a broader story to establish its literary context.

Mother Goose in Prose

L. Frank Baum

Sing a Song o’ Sixpence

Sing a song o’ sixpence, a handful of rye,
Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie;
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King?

IF you have never heard the legend of Gilligren and the King’s pie you will scarcely understand the above verse; so I will tell you the whole story, and then you will be able to better appreciate the rhyme.

Gilligren was an orphan, and lived with an uncle and aunt who were very unkind to him. They cuffed him and scolded him upon the slightest provocation, and made his life very miserable indeed. Gilligren never rebelled against this treatment, but bore their cruelty silently and with patience, although often he longed to leave them and seek a home amongst kinder people.

It so happened that when Gilligren was twelve years old the King died, and his son was to be proclaimed King in his place, and crowned with great ceremony. People were flocking to London from all parts of the country, to witness the festivities, and the boy longed to go with them.

One evening he said to his uncle,

“If I had sixpence I could make my fortune.”

“Pooh! nonsense!” exclaimed his uncle, “a sixpence is a small thing. How then could you make a fortune from it?”

“That I cannot tell you,” replied Gilligren, “but if you will give me the sixpence I will go to London, and not return until I am a rich man.”

“The boy is a fool!” said his uncle, with anger; but the aunt spoke up quickly.

“Give him the money and let him go,” she said, “and then we shall be well rid of him and no longer be obliged to feed and clothe him at our expense.”

“Well,” said her husband, after a moment’s thought, “here is the money; but remember, this is all I shall ever give you, and when it is gone you must not come to me for more.”

“Never fear,” replied Gilligren, joyfully, as he put the sixpence in his pocket, “I shall not trouble you again.”

The next morning he cut a short stick to assist him in walking, and after bidding good-bye to his uncle and aunt he started upon his journey to London.

“The money will not last him two days,” said the man, as he watched Gilligren go down the turnpike road, “and when it is gone he will starve to death.”