This is a beautiful fairy tale that is a bit darker than most and has a more complicated plot compared to some of the Brothers Grimm tales.
This story has been retold by Shannon Hale as “The Goose Girl” in the “Books of Bayern” series which I strongly recommend you read.
What is remarkable about his story is Falada, the white horse which is the princess’ companion. The magic horse Falada wisely speaks:
“If your mother were to see, her heart would burst with grief for thee.”
I also like the king who sees the princess’s true beauty, in spite of her rags and rescues her from destruction, giving her a job to tend the geese.
In a gruesome twist, Falada (who knows the truth) is put down and the princess mounts his lovely head atop the gate where she passes each day, and so, she has a reminder of her lovely, and loyal companion.
There are other forms of magic present — the protective charm that the princess is given (and which she loses), Falada’s ability to speak after death, and even the princess’ ability to command the wind with a rhyme.
That said, the princess is a simpleton, crying out in despair to a stove, without realizing that she would be listened in by the king. That said, perhaps sorrow and despair makes fools of us all.
It’s unclear from the story how much time passes when Margaret (the serving girl) is mistaken for the true princess, and when Margaret meets her brutal, bloody end. While not addressed, you have to wonder what the prince thought, losing his bride, and finding this new girl. There’s a line the king mentions about Margaret drinking from his son’s cup. Does that mean that they’re married? Or engaged? I’m not sure.
Yes, it’s just a fairy tale but it leaves me wondering about the psychological impact of these events on the long-term “happily ever after” the book promises. Something to think about.