A girl with a long name, Princess “Ani” or Anidori-Kiladra Talianna, was gifted with animal-speaking ability. She could communicate with and understand animals. Her aunt, had the same gift, and taught the girl the wonders of the gift and to appreciate it.
When the aunt passed, Ani was forced by her mother to not use her gift and to train to be a proper princess who could one day rule. As Ani lacked in the gift of people-speaking, she felt unfit to be what her mother wished she could be.
Then when her father the king passed, Ani was informed that she had been betrothed to a prince of Bayern, a neighbouring kingdom, and ordered to go there for her new life. The throne was then given to her brother instead, and Ani had no choice but to obey and marry the Bayern prince.
During her travel to Bayern, Ani’s lady-in-waiting Selia, who had the gift of people-speaking, convinced the guards to kill Ani and escort her to Bayern as the princess. Luckily, Ani escaped, although she had to leave her beloved horse Falada behind.
After some time of running, Ani fell unconscious in the garden of a kind forest lady named Gilsa, who took care of Ani and helped her form a new identity as Isi. Ani had to learn how to speak like a forest born, and to act like one, before she could go to Bayern capital. And as Ani, unlike the Bayern people, had yellow hair, she had to cover her hair and dye her eyebrows black.
Luckily, Ani found a place to work. She started to work as a goose girl, learning how to communicate with the geese by getting in touch with her natural gift again, and later on, discovered that she too had the gift of nature speaking. She could control the wind.
And there, Ani met Geric, a kind guard who visited her often and eventually fell in love with her, before one day breaking things off with her and disappearing.
One day, Ani’s friend Enna discovered her true identity, yet promised to keep it safe. However, Ani was discovered by her own guards, who were already manipulated by Selia, and got stabbed. So Ani fled back to Gilsa to recover, and meanwhile Enna told the other workers that Ani was the real Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna, and that the girl pretending to be her was the lady in waiting Selia. And when Ani came back to the capital, she found support in her friends who would be with her to confront Selia.
As it turned out, Geric was the prince who was betrothed to Ani, and when Ani got the chance to confront Selia and stop an attack she was planning on Ani’s kingdom, Geric trusted her enough to not let Selia get away.
In the end, Ani and Geric got their happy ending.
That was my short version of “what happened” in the book.
I remember reading it over a decade ago, and for some reason, the story is still fresh in the back of my mind. It feels as if I read it just last week, and I know it’s a good story when it’s that memorable.
Shannon Hale crafted an image out of the Brothers Grimm tale, and it worked for me. I personally loved the main protagonist Ani, given the personality she was written out with since page one. She was always the misunderstood, quiet child with remarkable gifts nobody truly cared about. And she wasn’t what was expected.
The relationships felt instant, for a lot of the characters, and despite feeling like there should’ve been more to each relationship (like Ani and Geric), I wouldn’t bet my money on any kid’s enthusiasm to read more pages as the book was already considered thick back in those days.
The pace felt a bit slow, and the ending felt like a clap to a really long song. However, despite a little bit and there of my criticism, one important thing that mattered was that the title served the book justice.
Ani was never appreciated in the way that she should’ve been due to her status as the princess. She was never looked upon in the right light. And for years she was kept away from using her gifts.
Then she finally found her happiness, truly being herself as the goose girl. As the goose girl, she found her confidence and her voice. She made real friends. She got to spend time focusing on her natural gifts. And as the goose girl she fell in love with Geric.
Every single thing that transformed Ani from the quiet, shy girl into a strong young woman, happened in the time she was a goose girl.
And that is one beautiful coming of age tale.
When you’re truly happy with your gifts, with what you’re given with, when you’re not trying to be something else you’re not, you find yourself. And in that moment, you blossom. Even if you’re just a goose girl.
The Goose Girl is a solid 7/10. I probably will read it again sometime soon, just for the fun of it. I’d recommend it to young girls, because behind that story is an inspiring message that’s important to us all, and to anyone, really, anyone who enjoys beautifully written fantasy with a tiny bit of romance. Seriously, the romance is tiny.