Friday, April 6, 2012

The Goose Girl

This fairy tale, another dark masterpiece of the Brothers Grimm, is the favorite of my little sister.  As I noted below, it has all of the elements of a good yarn: a fairy, a magical horse, a girl separated from her mother.  The princess is cast down by her maid, who takes the true bride's place on her intended's arm.  The true princess is forced to become the goose girl to make her way, and the false princess kills the girl's horse, the only tie to her homeland.  Of course, deception never pays, and the king realizes the goose girl, resplendent in her beauty, is the true bride of his son:

"But the old king begged so hard, that she had no peace till she had told him all the tale, from beginning to end, word for word. And it was very lucky for her that she did so, for when she had done the king ordered royal clothes to be put upon her, and gazed on her with wonder, she was so beautiful. Then he called his son and told him that he had only a false bride; for that she was merely a waiting-maid, while the true bride stood by. And the young king rejoiced when he saw her beauty, and heard how meek and patient she had been; and without saying anything to the false bride, the king ordered a great feast to be got ready for all his court. The bridegroom sat at the top, with the false princess on one side, and the true one on the other; but nobody knew her again, for her beauty was quite dazzling to their eyes; and she did not seem at all like the little goose-girl, now that she had her brilliant dress on.
When they had eaten and drank, and were very merry, the old king said he would tell them a tale. So he began, and told all the story of the princess, as if it was one that he had once heard; and he asked the true waiting-maid what she thought ought to be done to anyone who would behave thus. ’Nothing better,’ said this false bride, ’than that she should be thrown into a cask stuck round with sharp nails, and that two white horses should be put to it, and should drag it from street to street till she was dead.’ ’Thou art she!’ said the old king; ’and as thou has judged thyself, so shall it be done to thee.’ And the young king was then married to his true wife, and they reigned over the kingdom in peace and happiness all their lives; and the good fairy came to see them, and restored the faithful Falada to life again."

I looked to the end of the tale, and imagine a scene not told by our Brothers Grimm: when she reenters the city with her geese and with her horse, Falada, who had watched over her even in his death.  I followed the pattern I set forth in my "Self Portrait with Fairy Tale" (see below in earlier posts), with a decorative border as part of the actual image itself.  I'm inspired by the richness of medieval tapestries and the constant juxtaposition of pattern that can be found on them.
"The Goose Girl" Pencil.  Copyright 2012 Jessica Marie Boehman


  1. This is so beautiful, Jessica! The story reminds me (and is probably related to, in some way) a song sung by Loreena McKennitt (but taken from an old story) called The Bonny Swans, about a jealous sister who throws her sister in the river (where she turns into a swan) and the jealous sister takes her place at the wedding, and at the wedding feast the court musician is playing a harp (made from the bones of the swan?), and it begins to speak and tell the whole story. I love stories like this! She also has some other story telling songs, one of my favorites is "She Moved Through the Fair", very ghostly...

  2. Love it Jess! Looks great! One of your best

  3. Thanks, briar! I will have to check out the song. Your description of the song also reminds me of other tales like the Three (or Seven) Ravens, and the Children of Lir.

    Meg, I'm so glad you like it! You know I made it for you.

  4. I love it! Beautiful border with the geese on either side. Can't wait to see more! Will you be illustrating the whole story? In black and white or will you venture into colour?

    Another tale I looooove and that follows the same lines is "The white bride and the black one" I had it on vinyl as a kid. The true bride being ticked into giving her dress to her step sister and then pushed into the river and turned into a white duck. The enchantement is broken when they cut off the ducks head.
    Trickery and violence everywhere! :o) And still, I much preferred gory tales to toned down versions.

  5. Sounds like both you and Briar are talking about the same story with different names. I love how fairytales can morph like that.

    Ina: no, I am just working on a series of narrative images that will be appropriate to show to publishers (maybe in Bologna next year or here in NYC). Some will be color, some black and white. Time to get out the Prismacolors again, or maybe some watercolors (but I haven't painted in years).

    I'm so glad you liked it!