I'm always on the quest for a good fairy tale. I don't know why, but I've always found them appealing. I have...I don't know how many collections of fairy tales sitting around the house, and I like them. Princes, princesses, mistaken identities, magical items, quests, impossible tasks—it seems so juvenile to say it all aloud, but I still like it. I like the truth hiding in them, the symbolism that I don't have to look for or even think about—it's just there, and let my subconscious root through it if it really wants to—I'm just looking for story. And better yet, there are always missing bits of story in fairy tales. You are told that the prince must knock three times on the gold door with the glass key, but not why. That sleeping beauty won't die, merely sleep for a hundred years, but is one hundred an arbitrary number, or is there a reason behind it? Why seven dwarves, and not eight? I like to imagine my own whys...
Back to this particular book—the Goose Girl. It is a retelling of the Brothers' Grimm fairy tale of the same name. (If you want the plot rundown of the original fairy tale, this is one place you could look.)
My favorite thing about this particular retelling is that she isn't being rescued by anyone, which is modified from the Grimm version. (Hooray for a strong female character!) She starts off pretty helpless, sure, and there's a prince who does want to help her and protect her, but in the end, she ends up saving him. I love it that she grows up, gains a world of confidence, and ends up rescuing herself from a hopeless situation, and all in under 400 pages.
My slight disappointment about this book: It doesn't seem to go quite...deep...enough; the characters don't quite ring true to me; for such a tense situation the characterization is just a wee bit on the light 'n' fluffy side (and actually, this might be a plus to a lot of people—I don't know). After all the tension is over, the heroine is enjoying a moment to herself after a bath—a real bath, after all that she's been through!—and she is finally, after months and months, safe and at peace. At that point, I was expecting her to break down since she was finally in a position safe enough to do so. Y'know, like any real person would have done who had been through all the trauma she had...instead, she's hangin' out with a friend, making jokes, sipping grape juice. Whatever. It felt too emotionally easy to me, but then, I'm a freak. And it's such a small flaw.
But now my appetite for fairy tales is whetted.... More, more, more! There are an absolute ton of retellings out there these days, and here are a few that I have found and liked:
- The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli (retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" from the witch's point of view)
- Deerskin by Robin McKinley (retelling of "Donkeyskin"—Warning: this one is emotionally difficult, which is why it's sooo good)
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (retelling of "Cinderella")
- Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison (retelling of "Cinderella" from the mirror's point of view)
- Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" with a modern twist, sort of)
- I, Coriander by Sally Gardner (retelling of "Cinderella" yet again)
Also, if you're not interested in a retelling, but would like to read some fairy tales that are a bit more fresh:
- Nearly anything by the fantasy author Patricia A. McKillip. She's caught the essence of fairy tale in nearly every book she's written, but my favorite is The Forests of Serre
- George MacDonald has got quite a few, my favorite being The Light Princess