An interesting post on Tumblr today inspired this post. And people think Tumblr is just for pictures of naked girls! Okay, it’s for that too, but this particular post was about the fairy tale “The Goose Girl.” I’d read the story before in a collection of Brothers Grimm tales, but didn’t remember it too well. Looking over it again today, I see what Molly Crabapple means about its being a class warfare story, although it’s told from the perspective of the upper class. The protagonist is a princess who goes from riches to rags and back to riches. She begins the story with a talking horse, a waiting princely bridegroom, and a handkerchief with three drops of her mother’s blood representing protection. On the way to her groom’s kingdom, she orders her maid to get her a drink, but the maid refuses. When getting water for herself, she loses the handkerchief, and hence her mother’s protection. The maid then forces the princess to switch places with her, and when they get to their destination she claims to be the bride-to-be, while the princess is forced to work as a goose girl. That’s where the title comes in, you see. Eventually, the king finds out the truth, and has the princess elevated back to her former station. The maid he has put to death by the means she herself suggested without realizing the question was about her, namely being pulled by a horse along the streets in a barrel lined with nails. I think I saw something similar in the movie 2000 Maniacs.
We never really learn the maid’s motivation here. The way the story is written, it just makes her sound greedy, and the narrative suggests that the lower class should know their place. Maybe the maid is just nasty, but in a class-based society she would have no way to get out of her station in life, and I can’t totally blame her for being pissed off. She goes too far, certainly, but I can understand Molly’s desire for a happy ending for this character. Personally, I also feel that the talking horse was wasted. The maid has the equine beheaded, but its severed head continues to speak.
It never says anything particularly useful, however, instead just reminding the princess not to despair. Worst episode of Mister Ed ever!
Since I’ve now covered the story, I might as well say a bit about the maker of the Tumblr post that inspired it. Molly Crabapple is an artist based in New York, who is a friend and compatriot of musician Kim Boekbinder. I actually first heard of Kim when she and her sister Zoe opened for Amanda Palmer, so that’s how I know of Miss Crabapple. I actually quite like what I’ve seen of her artwork, and she’s done quite a bit of stuff for the Occupy Wall Street movement, so it makes sense that her mind would be on class inequality.