for the Goose Girl fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical
references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations
which appear on the Goose Girl Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated
Goose Girl to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.
I have included the Grimms' notes to the tale as translated by Margaret Hunt followed by SurLaLune's textual annotations.
The Grimms' Notes For the Tale
From Zwehrn. This beautiful story sets forth in incidents which are all the more impressive by reason of their simplicity, the nobility of royal birth which maintains itself even in servitude. By no fault of her own she has lost what her mother gave her for her protection. (Voices come from the drops of blood elsewhere; see Dearest Roland, No. 56. Compare also Clemens Brentano's Gründung Prags, p. 106, and notes, 45). The oath which has been extorted from her weighs her down, but she still knows magic words which have power over the wind, and she is filled with thoughts of proud humility every morning beneath the dark gate by her conversation with the horse, which has remained faithful to her even in death. Wise horses which can speak, appear in other stories (compare Ferenand Getrü, No. 126). The cut-off head (like Mimer's) retains the gift of speech. We may even quote Tacitus (Germ. 10) "proprium gentis equorum praesagia ac monitus experiri-hinnitus ac fremitus observant." It is remarkable that the old Norsemen were in the habit of fixing up the heads of sacrificed horses in the belief that they could thus injure their enemies (Saxo Gramm. 5. 75). Compare Suhm's Fabelzeit, 1. 317. A similar custom prevailed among the Wends. They believed they warded off epidemics by fixing up these heads, Prätorius (Weltbeschreibung, 2. 163). It is also well known that human heads were set upon the battlements or on poles (Haupt's Zeitschrift, 3. 51, notes). In the Eyrbyggia Sage, 219, there is the head of a dead man which sings. The incident of a beautiful woman having golden or silver hair occurs very often; it is a sign of royal lineage (No. 114); frequent mention is also made of the combing this hair, and of how light streamed from it just as if the sun were shining. Unfortunate princesses comb and spin just as often as they tend cattle. Kürdchen may be a contraction of Conrädchen, but we are also reminded of chorder, horder, a shepherd. The rhyme is rather halting, in gangest instead of gehest, we have the Norse ganga (as in hangest for hähest). We have also heard-
"Alas! my foal that thou hangs't there!"
"Alas! fair maid that thou goes't there!
If thy mother knew thy grief and pain,
Her heart would surely break in twain."
"Sich schnatzen," when applied to the hair, means flechten, to plait (in the Norse, snua, wenden, winden, schnüren); thus, too, Schnatz is the plaited hair-the bride goes to the church in Schnatz (see Estor's Teutscher Rechtsgelahrth; Hofmann's Oberhessische Wörterbuch, part 3; and Schaum's Braunfelsische Alterthümer, p. 45. In the Wetterau the word is specially applied to Sunday fineries). Sich aufsetzen and Aufsatz are also used to express dressing and arranging the hair. The woman who narrated this story used rätersel as feminine, as the earlier rätersch is known to have occurred.
A close examination of the Carlovingian myth of Bertha, the betrothed wife of Pepin, who is supplanted by her waiting-maid, and spins and weaves in the mill, would fully prove that our story, which in its chief incident manifestly corresponds with that myth, is much more ancient, more beautiful, and more simple. See Fr. Wilh; Val. Schmidt's valuable essay, in the 3rd vol. of Boiardo's Roland, p. 1., 42. In connection with this the name of Falada (the middle syllable is short) is specially remarkable, because Roland's horse Valentich, Falerich, Velentin, is in the Heimonskinder, Pfälz. MS. 68a, called Volatin; and Wilhelm von Oranse's horse is Volatin, Valatin, Valantin, in Türheim. In Swedish, see the Volkssagen und Volkslieder of Afzelius, 1. In Hungarian, Molbech, p. 387. In Albanian, see Hahn, 2. 165, 166. The Russian story Bulat (Dieterich, No. 10, comp. No. 5), is founded on the same saga, only it is applied to a youth. In the Pentamerone, see The Two Cakes (4. 7).
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.
1.An old queen: We find few widowed queens and good mothers alive in romantic fairy tales. Although she is alive in the tale, her ability to protect her daughter ends as soon as the daughter leaves the kingdom to be married. In essence, the mother is "dead" as soon as her daughter departs to begin her adult existence. Return to place in story.
2.A beautiful daughter: Beauty often represents goodness, worthiness, privilege, and wealth in fairy tales. Princesses are especially expected to be beautiful. Physical beauty is often considered to represent inner beauty in folklore, except for when it is a magical disguise. Return to place in story.
3.Betrothed: To betroth or become betrothed is "to contract to any one for a marriage; to engage or promise in order to marriage; to affiance" (Webster's 1990).
In times past, a betrothal, as the princess and prince are joined, was one step below a marriage, but still more legally and socially binding than a modern day engagement, often including a public ceremony and recognition of the couple as a legal entity. The union was not supposed to be consummated until after a marriage ceremony had taken place. A betrothal also took legal action to break. You can read more about betrothals online at the 1911 Edition Encyclopedia entry for Betrothal. Return to place in story.
4.A prince: A prince is the suitor and a common character in romantic fairy tales such as this one.
When fairy tales came into being "princes and princesses were as rare as they are today, and fairy tales simply abound with them. Every child at some time wishes that he were a prince or a princess--and at times, in his unconscious, the child believes he is one, only temporarily degraded by circumstances. There are so many kings and queens in fairy tales because their rank signifies absolute power, such as the parent seems to hold over his child. So the fairy-tale royalty represent projections of the child's imagination" (Bettelheim 1975). Return to place in story.
5.Much costly baggage, and many ornaments, gold and silver, trinkets and knicknacks: The Goose Girl is not a peasant or lower class girl raised to a higher social standing, such as the heroine in East of the Sun and West of the Moon. She begins the story as a princess and ends it as one. The story is not the more inspiring rags-to-riches story, but a riches-to-rags-to-riches tale.
Bettelheim also observes: "Since all the treasure and jewels given the princess by her mother are of no help to her, this suggests that what a parent can give his child by way of earthly goods is of little aid if the child does not know how to use it well" (Bettelheim 1975, 139). Return to place in story.
6.A royal trousseau: A trousseau is "the collective lighter equipments or outfit of a bride, including clothes, jewelry, and the like; especially, that which is provided for her by her family" (Webster's 1990). Return to place in story.
7.A waiting-maid: A lady in waiting is "a lady appointed to attend to a queen or princess" (WordNet). A lady in waiting was usually from the upper classes in a higher level of honorable servitude. A waiting-maid, on the other hand, would most likely be from the serving lower class. Return to place in story.
8.Horse: Horses are intelligent, strong animals highly valued and sometimes worshipped in numerous cultures. Horses are often considered lucky in folklore. Return to place in story.
9.Falada: Bettelheim conjectures that the name Falada is "derived from the name of Roland's horse, which in the Chanson de Roland is called Valantin, Valantis, Valatin, etc." (Betteleheim 1975, 317). Bettelheim probably found this theory elsewhere, but does not cite a source. You can read an online version of the Song of Roland at Berkeley University's Online Medieval and Classical Library.
The name Falada has become well associated with this tale, however, and almost as easily identifies the story as the Goose Girl herself. Return to place in story.
10.Could speak: Animals with the ability to speak, and sometimes perform other human-like functions, are fairly common in fairy tales. The speaking animal is not usually surprising to the protagonist of the tale, but accepted as a common occurence despite the inability of other animals in the tale to speak. Another popular occurence of a talking animal helper is the cat in Puss in Boots.
11.She cut her fingers till they bled: Self-mutilation to provide protection or rescue for a loved one is not uncommon in fairy tales. The sister in The Seven Ravens cuts off her finger to use as key to rescue her enchanted brothers. The mother sheds blood to give birth and she sheds one blood one final time on behalf of her daughter in hopes of providing protection for her in the greater world. The mother in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs also pricks her finger, albeit accidentally, and sheds three drops of blood before she gifts birth to her daughter. Return to place in story.
12.A white rag: The rag is more commonly translated as a handkerchief. A royal family would not need to give gifts of rags and a handkerchief is more commonly given as a token or memento to someone upon his or her departure. It can be an intimate item, often touching the skin, but free from the sexual connotations associated with other articles of clothing worn close to the skin. It is also small and easy to carry.
White symbolizes light, innocence and purity (Matthews 1986). White is also associated with faith and peace. Return to place in story.
13.Three drops of blood: Blood is "the essence of life, a substance bound up in folk belief around the world with the continued life, health, courage and soul of all life" (Jones 1995, 70). It is often considered to have magical qualities.
Bettelheim supposes that the drops of blood "symbolize sexual maturity, a special bond forged by a mother who is preparing her daughter to become sexually active" (Bettelheim 1975, 139).
The reasons and theories behind three's popularity are numerous and diverse. The number has been considered powerful across history in different cultures and religions, but not all of them. Christians have the Trinity, the Chinese have the Great Triad (man, heaven, earth), and the Buddhists have the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sanga). The Greeks had the Three Fates. Pythagoras considered three to be the perfect number because it represented everything: the beginning, middle, and end. Some cultures have different powerful numbers, often favoring seven, four and twelve. Return to place in story.
14.Take great care of this rag: it may be of use to you on the journey: "Prohibition/violation: these paired functions stand as one of the fairy tale's most fundamental plot sequences.... In fairy tales, violations of prohibitions are the order of the day" (Tatar 1987, 165). Return to place in story.
16.Pray get down and fetch me some water in my golden cup out of yonder stream: I would like a drink: While this sounds like the demands of a spoiled child--and perhaps she is--these are the types of tasks excepted of a servant. The princess is not making an outrageous request by her standards. Return to place in story.
17.Lie down by the water and drink: The princess is told to essentially behave like an animal to drink at the stream instead of using the golden cup she was given for such a task. By following this action, she debases herself and her position. Return to place in story.
18.I don't mean to be your servant any longer: The maid's actions are traitorous. Not only is she rebelling against her employer, but her sovereign, a crime punishable by death in these circumstances. Return to place in story.
19.If your mother only knew,/ Her heart would surely break in two: This refrain is repeated often throughout the tale. It reminds us that while the princess is loved and cherished by someone, she can no longer rely on the protection of that love now that she is an adult and must fend for herself in the world.
Perhaps the mother's heart would break in two not only from her daughter's circumstances, but her inability to escape them through her own efforts.
Bettelheim observes: "To become himself, the child must face the trials of his life on his own; he cannot depend on the parent to rescue him from the consequences of his own weakness" (Bettelheim 1975, 139). Return to place in story.
20.The Princess was meek: Meekness, whatever the personal cost, was a highly prized quality in women in times past. While the princess may seem less sympathetic by today's standards thanks to her meekness/weakness, she would be a model of womenly virtue in some cultures. Other critics state that she is timid in confronting her maid thanks to her own immaturity. This is not a woman who is prepared to become a wife and queen. Return to place in story.
21.Never even noticed her loss: Like many children, the princess fails to recognize her mother's experience and wisdom. She doesn't value the gifts she received and thus loses the ability to use them for her benefit and protection. She must learn wisdom the hard way through her own experiences. Return to place in story.
22.In losing the drops of blood the Princess had become weak and powerless: The princess has apparently always depended on her mother's protection and guidance. Now that she has left it behind, she is no longer under anyone else's protection. Return to place in story.
23.To take off her royal robes, and to put on her common ones: Being allowed to wear royal clothing is often a distinct honor. In times past, only royalty was allowed to wear certain items or colors by royal decree. No one was allowed to outdress or outshine members of the royal family in dress. The waiting-maid is lifting herself above her station. Return to place in story.
24.Swear by heaven not to say a word about the matter: Promises, while important today, were more powerful in the past when honor was a great motivator. Also, before the time of literacy among the masses and written contracts, verbal promises were given greater weight. A promise was a contract and actionable by law if broken. Folklore emphasizes the importance of a promise by meting punishment upon those who do not keep their promises. In this story, the oath spares the princess' life. Return to place in story.
25.The old King: This tale honors age and wisdom through the actions of the old King. He has the experience to see beyond the surface of the events surrounding him and ultimately helps restore the princess to her rightful position. Return to place in story.
26.May not be idle: "The Devil finds work for idle hands"is a proverb that appeared in print in English in the early 18th century. Return to place in story.
27.Geese: Geese are associated with the "earth mother, maternity, fertility, truth, love, constancy, vigilance, providence, silliness, stupidity, female sexuality, wind, innocence, cowardice, and the good housewife" (Olderr 1986, 58) Return to place in story.
29.Assist him in herding geese: From hence we get the story's title and temporary name of the protagonist. The princess has been brought low and made a goose girl. Return to place in story.
30.False bride: The false bride plot device "provides the dominant frame story of Basile's firecracker of a collection of fairy tales, Lo cunto de li cunti [also known as Il Pentamerone], in the seventeenth century. His group of female storytellers exchange many tales of substituted brides and false queens, and at the end actually unmask a similar wicked usurper prospering in their midst (Warner 1994, 127). Return to place in story.
31.Dearest husband: It was appropriate for a betrothed couple to call each other husband and wife although the union was not supposed to be consummated until after a marriage ceremony had taken place. You can read more about betrothals online at the 1911 Edition Encyclopedia entry for Betrothal. Return to place in story.
32.Faithful Falada was doomed to die: Falada, the dear horse, is doomed to die from the princess' inability to assert herself or use her imagination. Her request to have Falada's head nailed above the gate shows little imagination. She uses her gold to keep the head nearby, not to spare the horse's life. Still, even this bribe and saving of Falada's head shows the most initiative she has had in the story so far. Return to place in story.
34.Pure gold: The Goose Girl is blonde. Golden hair has magical qualities in some cultures while it also represents the illuminated beauty of those it graces. Blonde hair often symbolizes ethical goodness as well as aesthethic appeal (Tatar 2002).
Gold represents virtue, intelligence, superiority, heaven, worldly wealth, idolatry, revealed truth, marriage, and fruitfulness (Olderr 1986). Return to place in story.
35.Wanted much to pull some hair out: Human hair has been valued for centuries. In many European cultures, hair was given as love tokens. It was also used to create jewelry and remembrance tokens of dead loved ones. Return to place in story.
36.Wind, wind, gently sway,
Blow Curdken's hat away;
Let him chase o'er field and wold
Till my locks of ruddy gold,
Now astray and hanging down,
Be combed and plaited in a crown:
The Goose Girl is finally gaining some autonomy. She is able to cast a simple spell, using her own magic, to save her hair from Curdken's attentions. This spell also brings her to the attention of the old king and helps him to recognize that she must be more than she appears. She is gaining some maturity through her adversity.
According to Bettelheim, the golden cup and the golden hair provide the same challenge to the princess. While she allowed her golden cup to be taken away earlier, she is now protecting her golden hair from a similar fate. Her "different reactions to similar situations" show her increasing maturity (Bettelheim 1975, 142-3). Return to place in story.
37.Plaited in a crown: Plaits, also known as braids, can be created in various styles. The most common interweaves three sections of hair into a thicker, stronger rope of hair. In many cultures, young girls would wear their braids down, while women would wear their hair pinned up as a sign of maturity. Return to place in story.
38.Princess fair: While Falada is usually considered an animal helper in this tale, an opposite entity to the false bride, the horse does very little to help the girl besides provide her comfort and inadvertantly identify her as a princess before the hidden king. The horse does not actively connive to help the princess, like the animal helper in Puss in Boots. Return to place in story.
39.As usual next day: Here we have another pattern of three example. While the story implies these activities have been occuring for a while, the tale recounts the same activities--Falada's greeting and the Goose Girl's grooming--three times. The third time provides change with the King's observation of the events.
The number and/or pattern of three often appears in fairy tales to provide rhythm and suspense. The pattern adds drama and suspense while making the story easy to remember and follow. The third event often signals a change and/or ending for the listener/reader. A third time also disallows coincidence such as two repetitive events would suggest. Return to place in story.
40.I swore not to by heaven: "Despite great hardship, the princess keeps her promise not to reveal to any human being what has happened to her; thus she proves her moral virtue, which finally brings about retribution and a happy ending. Here the dangers which the heroine must master are inner ones: not to give in to the temptation to reveal the secret" (Bettelheim 1975, 137).
While I admire the Goose Girl's forbearance, I am not sure I agree that keeping the secret was her best choice. She was forced to make this promise under dishonest and possibly violent circumstances entirely against her will. Such a promise should not be kept, especially when it allows an imposter to flourish.
Some modern interpretations of the tale, such as Shannon Hale's excellent novel, explain that the Goose Girl doesn't reveal her true identity because she fears no one will believe her. She awaits the best opportunity to reveal her identity with the least amount of blood shed available.
41.Iron stove: The iron stove, as an inanimate object, is safe for the Goose Girl to tell her problems to without breaking her vow. If we are really generous, we can imagine she knows that the king will listen, but she will technically not be breaking her promise, so her moral virture will be intact. The iron stove provides a release in an entirely different way in Hansel and Gretel where it becomes the weapon used to destory the wicked witch. Stoves are often consired to be symbolic of the womb and birth. Return to place in story.
42.Learned how good she was: One can imagine, as do many modern authors, a demanding, vicious maid giving headaches to the young king and the royal staff. Perhaps he is relieved to learn that this less demanding princess is his true bride instead of the shrewish harpy he has been living with. Return to place in story.
43.She did not recognize the Princess in her glittering garments: A suspension of belief is required for this frequent fairy tale plot device. The sisters in Cinderella do not recognize their sister in her splendor and now the waiting-maid does not recognize the princess despite having seen her in royal attire previously. But then again, no one ever recognizes Superman behind Clark Kent's glasses either. Return to place in story.
44.She deserves to be 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: This is an exceptionally cruel punishment and means of death, exemplifying the false bride's vicious nature. It also shows her limited range of imagination. While she can imagine such a horrendous punishment, she cannot imagine it being inflicted upon herself. She has no compassion and only wants to see her competition destroyed. She cannot even recognize her own story as the king recounts it to her. She is a bully, not a cunning villain. Return to place in story.
45.You have passed sentence on yourself; and even so it shall be done to you: Full justice is served by having the maid choose her own punishment. According to Bettelheim, "the message is that evil intentions are the evil person's own undoing" (Bettelheim 1975, 141). Return to place in story.
46.Both reigned over the kingdom in peace and happiness: Thus they are married and live happily ever after in true fairy tale fashion. Note also that they cannot live happily ever after until the villain has been destroyed and removed from their lives. Return to place in story.