Goldilocks and Three Bears in Pictures

The story of Goldilocks and three bears is often credited to Robert Southey, who published it in 1837, but in 1951 an earlier version, credited to Eleanor Mure was found. Of course, neither of both is the oldest, because several stories with almost identical plot circulated centuries before.

Anyway, the Robert Southey’s Goldilocks is definitely the most influential of all and most of the illustrations presented in this post, the biggest online collection of public domain pictures of Goldilocks and three bears in the world in one place, are closely related to this version.

We know how it goes – a girl enters the home of the bears, eats their food, tries their sits and sleeps in their beds. Yes, plural. That’s the point. One plate of porridge or one chair or one bed is not good enough for her. She is an intruder and a fine example of a juvenile delinquent. While some later versions tried to turn the relations around and introduce Goldilocks in the home of the bears with a mission to cultivate them, we should probably look for the explanation of the story in its older variations.

Before Goldilocks, it was a Silver Hair. Silver Hair was not a young girl but an old lady with similarly improper behavior. And before the old lady, we had a fox. He did the same thins as the old lady and the young girl after but didn’t escape. The fox was thrown out of the window!



This illustration is work by John Dickson Batten (1860-1932) and was published in Joseph Jacobs’ More English Fairy Tales in 1894.

Next picture is his too. It was actually published before – in 1890, in Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales illustrating The Story of Three Bears which is actually Southey’s version with a little old woman intruding the home of the bears.


John Dickson Batten is not the only artist who illustrated the same or closely related story at more then one occasion. Here is a series of illustrations signed by Harrison Weir (1824-1906):







This story was published in A Treasury of Pleasure Books for Children a collections of tales rewritten by Joseph Cundall (1818-1895) and illustrated by John Absolon (1815-1895) and Harrison Weir who’s work are the pictures above. Book was published by Grant and Griffith in London, 1850.

Weir illustrated almost the same story again a decade and a half later. This time it was a part of the fairy tales in the book titled Little Red Riding-Hood, published by Routledge & sons in 1865, featuring nine fairy tales. Here is The Three Bears, illustrated by Weir:







As we can see, illustrator changed the color of the hair of the girl. She has gold locks now, like we are still used today.

In 1873 the same story was presented in Routledge’s nursery tales together with some other ones. The illustrator is uncredited, what was very often in those times, but we know Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810-1896) worked on engravings. He may be one of the authors, maybe it was one of his workers or maybe the drawings were a collaboration. Let’s see the result:









This book was published by George Routledge & Sons in London around 1873 and already used engravings on metal which simplified the printing process and made books much more accessible to wider audience.

Next illustrator used almost the same scenes to illustrate the story of Goldilocks, this time actually named in the title. His name is Alfred W. Cooper. We don’t know much about him. He supposedly died in 1901 and was from Great Britain.







The book was published by Frederick Warne and Co, London, in 1883, and consists of several fairy tales, nursery rhymes and similar child-oriented texts. It has a full page illustration on every other page.

Let’s see what Crane created in 1873 (10 years before and for the same publisher) . Don’t forget he designed his books as well -typography, binding, overall design, all borders, details, everything went through his hands.


The book is obviously of much better quality already and this is thanks to revolutionized printing system by Edmund Evans who cleverly used printing plates to achieve very professional effect still with only four colors what meant low price, accessible to masses.

If we were forced to mention only one person who did the most for the development of picture books for kids in unique media, this would be Evans. H also understood the power of well-known name on the cover. Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott were his major stars.








Frederick Warne & Co. published the same story again in the beginning of 20th century, this time with much clearer design and even better quality of printing. The technology in this area made huge progress in just a few decades. This is a scene with Goldilocks falling asleep in the bet of the little bear in L. Leslie Brooke‘s version of The Three Bears:


We can see much more clear lines, many different shades of colors, a lot of details and overall impression is very close to the look of the modern picture book as we expect it today.

Leonard Leslie Brooke used a combination of pen and ink and color illustrations for this book. To see all pictures he created for The Story of Three Beat, follow next link:

To be continued.

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