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A lovely retelling of a fairy tale about a wronged Princess with a special gift,
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This review is from: The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern) (Paperback)One of my very fave fairy tales as a very young Mir was "The Goose Girl". I especially loved reading aloud the rhymes--'Alas! alas! if thy mother knew it/Sadly, sadly, would she rue it," and "Blow, wind, blow." I was horrified in that particular, sensitive way of children that someone would decapitate a lovely horse such as Falada, the beloved, talking horse of the princess protagonist. Clearly, evil was afoot if such a dastardly deed was conscionable. I imagined Curdken's chase for his cap. (In my chikdhood's version of the tale, that was his name. In other versions--and in this retelling--it's Conrad's hat that goes rolling over hill and dale, sparking his pursuit. And I delighted in the horrible, terrible justice that befell the villainess. Just thinking about it makes me feel 6 all over again, feeling the magic of the story--all the stories--and how to a child, all this was so plausible: that a horse should talk, that the lock of hair should speak (some versions have drops of blook on a hanky), that a princess should command the wind, that justice would prevail.
Shannon Hale has taken that brief, bloody, magical tale that may be familiar to you and fleshed it out in a story written for a YA audience, but sufficiently skilled, lyrical, and well-plotted in the telling that an adult like me was engrossed and loath to put it down even to have supper.
In this retelling, the Princess Anidora-Kiladra (Anifor short) is a misfit in her own family. Even as a newborn she evidenced a strangeness: She didn't open her eyes for three days, not until her aunt (gifted with a special "speech") spoke her into wide-eyedness. This hint of a special power of speaking is hinted at from the opening, but develops beautifully. We see the not-well-loved child, Princess Ani, grow close to her aunt, who can speak to animals. She learns the language of swans, she learns some of the bird dialects, and she senses something latent in herself, something she cannot fully enunciate.
It turns out that out of political considerations (fear of war), the Queen--who has the gift of people speech, ie persuasive to humans) betroths Ani to the prince of the neighboring acquisitive, hawkish kingdom. En route (as in the fairy tale) Ani's lady in waiting, Selah, who is deceitful and potent in people speech, gains many of the guards to her side, and they mutiny. Ani must hide in the forest of this foreign land, where she is befriended by a forest widow and her son.
Ani ends up, as the Princess in the original tale, working as a goose girl for the king whose son she had been fated to marry. Without a persuasive gift of speech of her own, she is at the mercy of the powers around her. From privilege to the lowest echelon of society. A drastic change of status.
What will she do?
She ponders how to fix what has been damaged (and it's more than just her status). And, in the process, she begins to develop her gift. She learns goose speech, which is (surprisingly) not like swan speech. It's a gift that will serve her well. The start of a new journey of acquisitions--of insight, of power, of perspective, of friends, of confidence.
Through the treacheries and friendships and tests and hardships, she begins to understand what her privileged and curtailed palace life had kept her from learning. And she learns one very important thing: She can speak to the wind. The fairy tale glosses over this great gift. Hale develops it as part of the evolving plot and part of the evolving, maturing Ani.
We know, from the fairy story, that she will get her prince, and their romance develops believably and sweetly in Hale's tale, somewhat reminiscent of EVER AFTER, the film retelling of Cinderella. We sense that her trials will only make her a better future ruler, one who has walked in the shoes of the poor and oppressed and outcast and unjustly accused.
Because it is a fairy tale retold, we know the ending though not all the details of how to get there. The special pleasure here is in the details.
A marvelous, magical story. RECOMMENDED for young and middle-aged and old.
Mir of Mirathon blog
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 31, 2009 10:32:31 PM PDT
C. Eskelsen says:
I really, really didn't appreciate the fact that you chose to spoil the book for those who have not read it yet, by revealing major events in your review. You could have at least identified your review with a "SPOILER WARNING" for those of us who haven't read it. I hope you'll choose to go back and edit your review. I had only read the first chapter at a friend's house, and was very upset to have things revealed to me before I could even buy and read it for myself. Booo!
Posted on Jun 11, 2012 5:50:29 PM PDT
Duchess Mouse says:
I skipped to the end so I missed most of the spoilers; but I did want to know whether or not it was a book a 'grown-up' could enjoy reading as well. Thanks!
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