Jump to content

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"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 Cats"
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, blonde-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


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 the climax of Goldilocks being discovered occurs. 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, Buddhism, 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]

See also





  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