'The Goose Girl'

Story Time

September 23, 1998|By Retold by Eric A. Kimmel

Editor's note: In this retelling of the Brothers Grimm story, a gentle princess on her way to marry a distant prince is forced to trade places with her evil servant. Instead of the future queen, she becomes the helper of Conrad the goose herder.

The king arose early the next morning and hid beside the gate. When Conrad and his companion herded the geese through, he saw the girl speak to the horse's head and heard the head answer, just as Conrad described:

"Alas, Falada, on the gate."

"Alas, queen's daughter, if your fate,

Your mother were to see,

Her heart would burst with grief for thee."

The king followed them to the meadow. When Conrad reached to pluck the girl's hair, she called forth a breeze that blew his hat away.

"Little Breeze, blow!

Conrad's hat, go!"

"Most curious. I wonder what it means," said the king. That evening he summoned the goose girl to his chamber. He described what he had seen that morning. He asked her why she did these things, and what they signified.

"I would gladly tell you, if I could," the goose girl answered. "But I have sworn an oath to heaven not to breathe a word to a living soul."

"Since that is the case," the king said, "why not tell your troubles to the iron stove standing in the corner? A stove is not alive, so you will not violate your oath."

As soon as the king left the room, the princess poured out her heart to the iron stove. She told the stove how Margaret, her serving maid, had abused and betrayed her, how she had usurped her rightful place and forced her to earn her living as a common goose girl.

"So!" said the king, standing at the door where he could hear every word. "It is just as I suspected. The goose girl is the true bride. The one who sits at my son's side and drinks from his cup is false."

That night at dinner the king said to Margaret, "An interesting case has come to my attention. I am uncertain how to decide it. Perhaps you can help."

"Of course," Margaret replied, flattered to be asked.

"A certain serving maid has broken her trust," the king continued. "She has abused her mistress, and worse, usurped her place. What should be done with her?"

Margaret replied without hesitation. "Here is what must be done. She should be put naked into a barrel lined with sharp spikes. Harness two white horses to the barrel. Let them drag it through the streets until she is dead."

"You have pronounced your fate. Let it be done," the king commanded. So cruel Margaret met her end.

Her glittering gown was given to the goose girl. From the moment she put it on, everyone recognized her as the true princess. She married the prince the next day. She never had to herd geese again and for the rest of her life lived happily ever after.

Text copyright 1995 by Eric A. Kimmel. Illustration copyright 1995 by Robert Sauber. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Holiday House, Inc.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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