The Goose Girl

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"The Goose Girl"
Illustration by Heinrich Vogeler
"The Goose Girl"
Author Brothers Grimm
Original title "Die Gänsemagd"
Country Germany
Language German
Genre(s) Fairy tale
Published in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales — Grimms' Fairy Tales)
Publication type Fairy tale collection
Publication date 1815


The Goose Girl is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. It was first published in 1815 as no. 3 in vol. 2 of the first edition of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales — Grimms' Fairy Tales). Since the second edition, published in 1819, The Goose Girl has been recorded as Tale no. 89. [1]

The story was first translated into English by Edgar Taylor in 1826, then by Margaret Hunt in 1884. Andrew Lang included it in The Blue Fairy Book in 1889.

Synopsis[edit]

A widowed queen sends her daughter - who is betrothed to a prince in a far-off land - to her bridegroom. She sends her with a waiting maid. The princess's horse is named Falada, and he is magical for he can speak. The princess is given a special charm by her mother that will protect her as long as she wears it. She then mounts Falada while her maid servant mounts her nag and off they go.

The princess and her servant travel for a time, then the princess grows thirsty. She asks the maid to go and fetch her some water, but the maid simply says: "If you want water, get it for yourself. I do not want to be your servant any longer." So the princess has to fetch herself water from the nearby stream. She wails softly: "What will become of me?" The charm answers: "Alas, alas, if your mother knew, her heart would break in two." After a while, the princess gets thirsty again. So she asks her maid once more to get her some water. But again the evil servant says, "I will not serve you any longer, no matter what you or your mother say." The servant breaks her goblet, leaving the poor princess to drink from the river by her dainty little hands. When she bows to the water her charm falls out of her bosom and floats away.

The maid takes advantage of that. She orders the princess to change clothes with her and the horses as well. She threatens to kill the princess if she doesn't swear never to say a word about this reversal of roles to any living being. Sadly, the princess takes the oath. The maid servant then rides off on Falada, while the princess has to mount the maid's nag. At the palace, the maid poses as princess and the "princess servant" is ordered to guard the geese with a little boy called Conrad. The false bride orders Falada to be killed as she fears he might talk. The real princess hears of this and begs the slaughterer to nail Falada's head under the doorway where she passes with her geese every morning.

The next morning the goose girl addresses Falada's head under the doorway: "Falada, Falada, thou art dead, and all the joy in my life has fled", and Falada answers " Alas, Alas, if your mother knew, her loving heart would break in two.." On the goose meadow, Conrad watches the princess comb her beautiful hair and he becomes greedy to pluck one or two of her golden locks. But the goose girl sees this and says a charm: "Blow wind, blow, I say, take Conrad's hat away. Do not let him come back today until my hair is combed today." And so the wind takes his hat away, and he cannot return before the goose girl has finished brushing and plaiting her hair.

Conrad angrily goes to the king and declares he will not herd geese with this girl any longer because of the strange things that happen. The king tells him to do it one more time, and the next morning hides and watches. He finds everything as Conrad has told. That evening, he asks the princess to tell him her story. But she refuses to say anything because of her oath. The king suggests that she might tell everything to the iron stove. She agrees, climbs into the stove and tells her story while the king listens from outside.

As the king is convinced she has told the truth he then has her clad in royal clothes. He presents her to the false princess at dinner that evening, but the false bride does not recognize the princess in her fine new dress. The king tells her about a servant who has done what she has done and lets her find an appropriate punishment for the wrongdoer. The false bride answers that she should be thrown into the dungeon and never allowed to see the light of day ever again, while the King announced that she has chosen her own punishment, and she is then sent into a dungeon.

After that, the prince and the princess are married and then reign over their kingdom for many years.

Variants[edit]

The story uses the false bride plot with a good-hearted princess being seized by her maid and turned into a common goose girl. It is Aarne-Thompson type 533. Another tale of this type is The Golden Bracelet.[2] These motifs are also found, centered on a male character, in Child ballad 271, The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward[3] and the chivalric romance Roswall and Lillian.[4]

In the thirteenth century, the tale became attached to Bertha Broadfoot, the mother of Charlemagne.[5]

Adaptations[edit]

  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale is an adaptation of the tale in the form of a novel.
  • The Goose Girl was one of the many folktales used in Emma Donoghue's novel" Kissing The Witch". The tale was titled "The Tale of The Handkerchief."
  • Harold MacGrath adapted the story into a novel, which was then developed into a 1915 American silent film starring Marguerite Clark.
  • In Germany, two film adaptions of the story were made during the silent era, one in 1910 and the other in 1927.
  • "The Goose Girl" is a 1990 German animated short film directed by Paul Demeyer
  • The story was also adapted into a live-action German film during 1957 which was imported to the U.S. By Childhood Productions who also adapted other fairy tales into films.
  • Adrienne Rich's 1974 poem "The Fact of a Doorframe" references the Goose Girl.[6]
  • The story was also used in a fractured fairy tale novel titled "Goose Chase" by Patrice Kindl
  • The Fairy tale was shown in the 1960's television show Jackanory during Season 1, Episode 38 and was read by Dilys Hamlett
  • The tale was adapted into a novel titled Thorn by Intisar Khanani

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Household tales, "The Goose Girl"
  2. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to the Goose Girl"
  3. ^ Helen Child Sargent, ed; George Lymn Kittredge, ed English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Cambridge Edition p 586 Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 1904
  4. ^ Laura A. Hibbard, Medieval Romance in England p292 New York Burt Franklin,1963
  5. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories", Essays Presented to Charles William edited by C. S. Lewis p 53 ISBN 0-8028-1117-5
  6. ^ The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New 1950-1984. (London & New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1984)

External links[edit]