Friday, December 22, 2006

Mir Reviews THE GOOSE GIRL by S. Hale

Note: I wrote this a couple months ago and forgot to post it. I left it in draft form in my blogger list.

I was a rabid devourer of fairy tales and myths in my youth. As soon as I learned to read (early), I was gobbling up Rumpelstitskin, Bearksin, Beauty and the Beast, Mother Holle, Allerleirauh, Cinder-Maid, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Edith Hamiltons GREEK MYTHOLOGY and Bullfinch's MYTHOLOGY were my sickbed companions (and I was abed with illness often.) My mother and two sisters would take turns telling me bedtime stories, cause one was never, ever enough. I didn't care if they told me Sleeping Beauty three times in a row, I just wanted to hear the stories.

One of my very fave fairy tales was "The Goose Girl". I loved reading the rhymes ( ’Alas! alas! if thy mother knew it/Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.’) and I was horrified that they decapitated Falada, the beloved horse of the princess protagonist. I imagined Curdken's (in my version, others have Conrad) hat rolling over the land, and Curdken chasing after. 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 and fleshed it out in a story written for a YA audience, but sufficiently skilled and enjoyable told 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, 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.

BUT...she begins to learn goose speech (not like swan speech, as one would have thought). And through the treacheries and friendships and tests and hardships, she begins to understand what her special power is: She can speak to the wind. She can control the wind. First to just get that cap off Conrad (the jealous goose boy), but also, eventually, to fight goose thieves, and beautifully in the climactic battle.

We know, from the fairy story, that she will get her prince (and their romance develops believably and sweetly), but she will be a fine queen, caring about the poor and third class citizenry among whom she has lived and labored.

A marvelous, magical story. RECOMMENDED.

Shannon Hale has also written two books related to THE GOOSE GIRL, and I've bought both. In ENNA BURNING. we follow a friend of Ani's, Enna, who has control over the element of fire. Wind/Ani, Enna/Fire. The third books has "river" in the title, but the blurb doesn't indicate that the element of water is controlled by the protagonist. Pity. I guess earth may be last? (Or not)

1 comment:

Tap said...

There is something called quarry-speak in The Princess Academy, but it's more like a transmission medium than the form found in The Goose Girl, etc.

Also, since I was wondering about it, I didn't catch anything that suggested Mount Eskil was in the same world as Bayern, but I could have missed it. There weren't any really blatant references, though.