Goldilocks is exploring a new part of the forest.
Now, Goldilocks is a good little white girl, who has grown up in a family that knows its place in the world, and that place is on top. They have fine clothes and plenty of food. They live in a large house that is never too cold in the winter. Her parents tell her good stories at bedtime and teach her that God put them on the world to go out and show all those barbarian races how it is supposed to be done.
She heard the story of how her parents got on a big ship that sailed across the big scary ocean and came to a place far from their own home. Here, they saw a rich and fertile landscape, with beautiful hills and verdant forests. They cleared some trees and built the house. Sure, they had to shoot at some of the nasty creatures that shouted at them and waved some sticks. It seemed that they didn’t want Goldilocks’ parents to build there. But build they did, and soon they had a house and a farm, and all was well.
Fast forward a few years, and she’s off into the forest on her own, skipping with self-assured steps as she watches the morning dew sparkle off the spiders’ webs, listening to the happy calling of the birds as they feed their chicks in nests high above. She comes across a house. A very neat little house. It’s been a while since she ate her breakfast, and the smell coming out of the neat little kitchen is enticing.
She looks around, but sees nobody. The back door of the little cottage is ajar, and she opens it and walks in. On the table, she sees the source of the delicious aroma: three bowls of lightly steaming porridge. The house, on the other hand, is silent. Clearly, the family who live here have popped out for a walk while their breakfast cools. She tastes it. Indeed, the first bowl is far too hot.
Hang on a minute.
Did she just taste the porridge?
She walks into someone else’s house, without being invited in, and takes their food without even asking, let alone receiving permission. How on Earth did she reach the conclusion that this was an acceptable way to behave? Let’s follow a little longer.
So, she decides that one bowl is too hot for her, so she has a go at the next bowl. No too cold. Next bowl. Aaaah, perfect! This bowl is just right for her, so she eats the lot.
In someone else’s house, without their knowledge or consent, she’s just eaten their breakfast. In fact, as it turns out, she’s eaten their young child’s breakfast.
She’s not finished either. No, she’s decided that the chairs are there for her comfort, too, so she tries the first: no, too hard; the second: no, too soft; the third: perfect. Except she breaks it. Oh, no matter. It’s not hers anyway, and it serves the householder right for having a rubbish chair.
That porridge is sitting heavily in her stomach, though, and she’s tired. Undeterred, she decides that she should have a go at their beds now. Again, the theme repeats. Too hard, too soft, just right. She sleeps.
When the householders return, we see that they are a very different sort of family to the one we’re used to. They are bears. They’re not beautiful, pale-skinned girls with golden locks. Oh no. They are big scary bears with big sharp teeth and nasty snarling muzzles and stinky breath. Never mind that they keep their little (they’re poor, you see) house neat and trim, the fact remains that they are bears. Poor bears. Poor bears who have no right to be upset that someone has barged in without invitation, eaten their baby’s food, broken their baby’s chair and is currently sleeping in said baby’s bed.
It’s an outrage.
“Hooray,” we cheer, as Goldilocks makes her daring escape from the scary “others” and makes it back, safely, to her own people.
Meanwhile, back in the forest, the bears are left counting the cost. The parents give up some of their food so that the baby can eat at all. Father Bear re-makes the beds, and Mother Bear does her best with the chair, but Duck tape can only go so far, and it’s in a perilous condition. They eat their much-reduced meal under a shadow of foreboding. It will only be a matter of time before the golden-headed human comes back with big people, with guns and with fire to drive them out of their home. They’ve heard the stories and even given shelter to some transient refugees over the years. Now it’s their turn. Sadly, they contemplate their future and gaze at their child with pain in their eyes.
Credit for the idea of Goldilocks being a colonial story goes to Kei Miller, who was on Radio 4’s Start the Week, yesterday morning.