Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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"Goldilocks and the Three Bears"
Short story by Robert Southey
Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1918, in English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel
Original title"The Story of the Three Bears"
Genre(s)Fairy tale
Published inThe Doctor
Publication typeEssay and story collection
PublisherLongman, Rees, etc.
Media typePrint
Publication date1837

"Goldilocks and the Three Bears" is a 19th-century English fairy tale of which three versions exist. The original version of the tale tells of an impudent old woman who enters the forest home of three anthropomorphic bachelor bears while they are away. She eats some of their porridge, sits down on one of their chairs, breaks it, and sleeps in one of their beds. When the bears return and discover her, she wakes up, jumps out of the window, and is never seen again. The second version replaces the old woman with a young, naive, blond-haired girl named Goldilocks, and the third and by far best-known version replaces the bachelor trio with a family of three. The story has elicited various interpretations and has been adapted to film, opera, and other media. "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" is one of the most popular fairy tales in the English language.[1]

Illustration in "The Story of the Three Bears" second edition, 1839, published by W. N. Wright of 60 Pall Mall, London

Literary elements[edit]

The story makes extensive use of the literary rule of three, featuring three chairs, three bowls of porridge, three beds, and the three title characters who live in the house. There are also three sequences of the bears discovering in turn that someone has been eating from their porridge, sitting in their chairs, and finally, lying in their beds, at which point is the climax of Goldilocks being discovered. This follows three earlier sequences of Goldilocks trying the bowls of porridge, chairs, and beds successively, each time finding the third "just right". Author Christopher Booker characterises this as the "dialectical three" where "the first is wrong in one way, the second in another or opposite way, and only the third, in the middle, is just right". Booker continues: "This idea that the way forward lies in finding an exact middle path between opposites is of extraordinary importance in storytelling".[2]

This concept has spread across many other disciplines, particularly developmental psychology, biology, economics, and engineering where it is called the "Goldilocks principle".[3][4] In planetary astronomy, a planet orbiting its sun at just the right distance for liquid water to exist on its surface, neither too hot nor too cold, is referred to as being in the "Goldilocks Zone". As Stephen Hawking put it, "Like Goldilocks, the development of intelligent life requires that planetary temperatures be "just right'".[5]

Plot of the Story[edit]

  1. Introduction: The Three Bears live in a house in the forest. They have three dishes of porridge, three seats, and three beds.
  2. The Bears' Outing: One morning, after Mother Bear makes porridge for breakfast, they find it too warm to even consider eating. The family chooses to take a stroll in the forest while the porridge chills off.
  3. Goldilocks Arrives: Goldilocks happens upon the house while the bears are away. She is interested and chooses to go in.
  4. Testing the Porridge: Inside the house, Goldilocks tracks down the three dishes of porridge. She tastes from every bowl, finding Father Bear's excessively hot, Mother Bear's excessively cold, but Baby Bear's perfect. She eats all of Baby Bear's porridge.
  5. Sitting in the Chairs: Goldilocks then tracks down the seats. She attempts every one, finding Father Bear's excessively hard, Mother Bear's excessively delicate, yet Baby Bear's perfect. Be that as it may, she breaks Baby Bear's seat when she sits in it.
  6. Rest Time: At last, Goldilocks finds the rooms and evaluates the beds. Yet again Father Bear's is excessively hard, Mother Bear's is excessively soft, yet Baby Bear's is perfect. She nods off in Baby Bear's bed.
  7. The Bears Return: The Three Bears return from their walk and promptly notice the progressions in their home.
  8. Discovery: They find the eaten porridge, the broken chair, and lastly Goldilocks sleeping in Baby Bear's bed.
  9. Goldilocks Wakes Up: Frightened to think of herself as found, Goldilocks awakens, leaps out of bed, and takes off through an open window.
  10. Conclusion: The bears are perplexed yet return to their life, maybe a little savvier about security. Goldilocks probably learns an example regarding others' property.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Elms 1977, p. 257
  2. ^ Booker 2005, pp. 229–32
  3. ^ Martin, S J (August 2011). "Oncogene-induced autophagy and the Goldilocks principle". Autophagy. 7 (8): 922–3. doi:10.4161/auto.7.8.15821. hdl:2262/73233. PMID 21552010.
  4. ^ Boulding, K.E. (1981). Evolutionary Economics. Sage Publications. p. 200. ISBN 9780803916487.
  5. ^ S Hawking, The Grand Design (London 2011) p. 194

General sources[edit]

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