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Goose Girl Grimm Analysis Essay

If you've ever come across Grimms' Fairy Tales, then you might already know the story about a goose girl. Not familiar with it? No worries—this just means you're in for a few more surprises than readers who are. Lucky you, right? But even if you have read the Grimm brothers' tale, don't go thinking you should just skip over Shannon Hale's 2003 novel, The Goose Girl—this book takes the original short story and really runs with it.

This is the story of a reluctant princess who can speak to animals, but gets overtaken by her lady-in-waiting and forced into hiding as a goose girl in a far off kingdom. Out of luck and her element, our main girl—Ani—has a whole lot to figure out, and at the ripe old age of sixteen, she's got to do so all by herself. It's a process, for sure, but along the way Ani learns to make peace with who she is, and comes to see the world around her a lot more clearly.

Sounds like a pretty fun read, doesn't it? And we're not the only ones who think so. This book has received all kinds of praise, including winning a Josette Frank Award, being named an ALA Popular Paperback, and becoming a Beehive Award finalist—to name just a few.

Part of The Goose Girl's success is due to the fact that this book hangs out in tried and true territory—those Grimm brothers have been making an impression on readers for generations—but its popularity is ultimately thanks to the flair Hale brings to this story about a goose-loving, horse-talking princess who slums it for a while after her identity is stolen.

So if you're interested in visiting the world of magic and fairy-tales again, we suggest you grab a copy of the book. At least now you won't have to wait for bedtime to read it like you did when you were a kid.

Chances are decent that at some point you've asked yourself one of these big, million dollar questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I fit in?
  • Who are my real friends?
  • Why are my parents always on my case?

We know what it's like to try to figure out who you are and what kind of person you want to be in the world, especially when you're in middle and high school. And when it comes down to it, The Goose Girl isn’t a story about a princess nearly so much as it's a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl facing these very same questions.

While most of us have no idea what it's like to be a princess who's expected to stop talking to animals and get on with ruling the country, we all know what it's like to negotiate the pitfalls of adolescence and the pressures of outside scrutiny (whether it's under the watchful eye of hopeful parents, strict teachers, coaches, or peers)—and Princess Ani knows exactly what this feels like too.

She might be a crown princess with the keys to a kingdom, but she's really just like all of us. Instead of trying to figure out who she wants to be while still pleasing her parents though, Ani's got an entire kingdom watching her to boot. And you thought your parents were rough.

Fairy Tale Friday: The Goose Girl

August 28, 2009 at 12:00 amCorey

Recently at a used book store perusing their fine wares, I came across Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I was intrigued and even more so when I learned that it was a retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s The Goose Girl.

In The Goose Girl, a princess is tricked by her wicked maid into becoming a goose tender while the maid takes her place as princess. Of course, the princess’ true goodness shines through, the King finds her and dresses her in finery, and she ends up marrying her prince after all while the wicked maid is “put stark naked into a barrel lined with sharp nails, which should be dragged by two white horses up and down the street till she is dead.” (That’d be the Brothers Grimm for you.)

In Hale’s Goose Girl, there is a whole involved subplot involving the princess’ aunt, the princess being passed over in the line of succession, and the princess’ desire to speak to animals. Those things aside, the princess is still shipped off to marry a prince and her maid still betrays her and takes her place. What changes is that Hale’s princess then gathers a band around her, saves her own kingdom from war, actually fights the evil maid, and, interestingly, only ends up with her prince after it is revealed that he is secretly her good friend from the forest while she was a goose keeper.

The differences in these two stories got me thinking about what we value in our fairy tales and which values get passed on to our children in different versions written in different times. To me, girl off the street, comparing these two stories shows a huge shift in values away from the submissive princess whose goodness inevitably shines through (with her not taking any action and the King doing everything) to the princess who wholly takes control of her own destiny, saves her kingdom from destruction, rails against segregation and then marries only for love, not just because he is her prince. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising considering the whole feminist movement in between the one version and the other, but the specific ways in which Hale’s Goose Girl chose to deviate from the Grimm’s The Goose Girl still shocked me.

Bearing these two versions in mind, which would I read to my daughter? Just because I like some girl power in my books, does not mean that I would less desire my children to know the importance of goodness. Similarly, just because I want my children to be good, does not mean that I don’t want them to stand up for themselves. Hale’s princess is in charge of her life, but her innate goodness is taken away from her. Meanwhile, the Grimms’ princess is good, but ineffectual. Which should be passed on? Should either be shoved aside for the other?

I think this is probably a problem that any re-told fairy tale from the nineteenth century encounters. Just because we have advanced into such “enlightened” feminism (or any other modern value), does that mean Victorian values must be eradicated, or at least downplayed, in our modern fairy tales?

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Entry filed under: Fairy Tale Friday. Tags: Brothers Grimm, shannon hale.

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