Monday, April 30, 2007

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

I just finished this again, and enjoyed it just as much the second time.

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)
Plenty of the above authors, especially the first two, have a ton more fairy tale retellings. I just mentioned my favorite (that I have read so far) from each author.

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
If you know of some more, please let me know! I need something fresh...



I noticed you mentioned Deerskin by Robin McKinley, but how about her fairytale retellings in "Beauty" and "Rose Daughter" or "The Outlaws of Sherwood Forest"?

As far as other enjoyable fantasy books/series I really enjoyed Tamora Pierce's...pretty much everything. I started with the Circle of Magic series.

"The Dark is Rising" series by Susan Cooper is a longtime favorite.

"The Squires Tales" by Gerald Morris are all great, too.

I'm sure we could suss out much more from the fantasy world, but I have responsibilities here in the real world.

I hope at least one of those titles are new to you.

**WAIT! Not to be forgotten, in an entirely different vein of fairytale fiction you need to read Jasper FForde's "Thursday Next" series, beginning with "The Eyre Affair." As a literary buff you will love these quirky reads!!

wynne said...

WHAT?!? Someone actually commented here? Adrienne? Wow. I'm shocked.

Yes, I've read just about everything Robin McKinley has written! I love her stuff. I didn't mention Beauty because I figured everyone knows about it, and I was really trying to give the post some variety instead of a McKinley-love-fest.

I kind of got bored with Outlaws, though, how strange is that? I love Robin Hood! So why did that one not make me love it? And have you read Sunshine, her tribute to vampires? C'mon, Adri, I know how much you love those vampires, living in WA and all...

Never tried Tamora Pierce yet. Don't know why. She's on my list of things to read now. Thanks.

And the Dark is Rising...oh, I could go off for a year on that series! I know I'm the only person in the entire world that feels this way, and it does nothing bu show how twisted I really am, but I HATE THE OLD ONES! I hate that Will just automatically knows stuff...I don't know why. I've read plenty of stories where a person just knows stuff, but something about that series offends some internal rule I have about fantasy. Never been able to figure out exactly what, though.

And yeah, I've read plenty of Gerald Morris. Christina has sent me those books (some twice--oops). And she introduced the book club to Fforde, too.