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Author Topic: PC004: Goosegirl  (Read 27200 times)
Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« on: April 21, 2008, 11:00:27 PM »

PC004: Goosegirl

By Margaret Ronald
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.

First appeared in Fantasy Magazine Sampler (Wildside Press).

"You came with the Princess Alia, didn't you?" says a tall man with an understeward's chain. "They must have low standards up north if you're the sort of thing she brings along."

I shake my head; the world slides in and out of focus. "I didn't come here for that. I'm not -- help."

He raises his eyebrows. "Oh, so you're not with the help? You must be one of the nobility, then?" He tweaks my skirts, and a ragged hem tears. "So what did you come here for, if you're not with the princess?"

The words sound wrong even as I think them, but I say them nonetheless. "To be married."

He bursts out laughing. "Poor girl," a woman at the back of the servants' hall says. "She's simple. Can't tell between herself and the princess."


Rated PG. Contains sorcery, blood, and theft of memory.


Listen to this week's Pod Castle!
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 11:51:13 PM by Heradel » Logged

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Listener
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2008, 06:29:05 AM »

It's interesting that my podcast listening habits have worked out to make me one of the first few commenters on PC, but one of the second-pagers on most EPs...

Anyway.

The reader had an excellent voice for narration, but I think she overplayed some of the voices.  Perhaps a reading duet, with this reader doing the narration and someone else with a different voice (maybe a male reader, or an alto female) doing the voices, might work well in the future.

As for the story... it sort of sounded to me like magical realism in a fantasy world.  Not knowing the original Goosegirl story, but having read the occasional "king comes among the commoners" story, I was able to follow it.  But only just.  I couldn't really go back and tell you many of the details because they sort of washed over me in a flood.  The whole body-switching thing seemed inadequately explained, as did her witching thing.  Did a witch swap the bodies?  Did the impostor go to a witch to commission the swap?

The ending was nice, though, how she saved the king and turned him into a swineherd full-time so they could be together.

I might have liked a slightly-longer, less magical-realism, more concrete-concept form of the story.  But that's just me.
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2008, 07:25:15 PM »

As for the story... it sort of sounded to me like magical realism in a fantasy world.  Not knowing the original Goosegirl story, but having read the occasional "king comes among the commoners" story, I was able to follow it.  But only just.  I couldn't really go back and tell you many of the details because they sort of washed over me in a flood.  The whole body-switching thing seemed inadequately explained, as did her witching thing.  Did a witch swap the bodies?  Did the impostor go to a witch to commission the swap?

I had the same problem with not really knowing the Goose Girl fairy tale — I very vaguely remember hearing either this story or something like it when I was much younger, but I'm pretty sure the ending was different than the one mentioned in the wikipedia plot summary.

I really did like the story, but I had to rewind at a few points during the story until I got the purpose of some of the things mentioned. More exposition probably would have burdened the narrative, but for those who haven't read Grimm, including myself, it did make it a bit harder to understand. I did think it was interesting that they chose not to punish the original goose girl/witch. I sort of understand, but the thing she did, while ultimately allowing the King and Princess to be happy together as a swineherd and goose girl, was pretty cruel and malicious, and I'm left wondering what's going to happen to the kingdom.
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eytanz
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2008, 08:28:29 PM »

Well, I was familiar with the goosegirl fairy tale before hearing the story, so maybe there's a correlation there, because I really loved this one. I liked how it played with notions of identity, birthright, and choice.

I'm a bit curious about the following quote from Rachel, from the "women in fantasy" thread:

Quote
This coming week's piece has a female hero -- but also a female villain. It involves collusion between a man and a woman with a happy result, and it ends with a happy relationship between equals. Perhaps it'll work better for you.

Was this referring to this story? I would not really consider the faux princess a villian; she may have been one in the backstory, but she didn't play a villian's role in the story.
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2008, 08:55:19 PM »

Podcastle seems to be "Fantasy for the empowerment of Women". No Robert E. Howard, or Michael Moorcock here. Now, I don't have a problem with that, as long as the Fantasy is good. So far, it's been darned good.

I liked Goose Girl. I always dig a story with a powerful witch in it. And, I dig it even more if the author takes the time to get inside the witch's mind. Showing her connection to her craft, or the "Witchy" aspect of the world around her: like the small gods in this story.

Now, if we can just get some action in.
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Heradel
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2008, 08:57:27 PM »

Podcastle seems to be "Fantasy for the empowerment of Women". No Robert E. Howard, or Michael Moorcock here. Now, I don't have a problem with that, as long as the Fantasy is good. So far, it's been darned good.

We've talked about that here: http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1519.0;all
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Windup
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2008, 09:40:50 PM »


As for the story... it sort of sounded to me like magical realism in a fantasy world.  Not knowing the original Goosegirl story, but having read the occasional "king comes among the commoners" story, I was able to follow it.  But only just.  I couldn't really go back and tell you many of the details because they sort of washed over me in a flood.  The whole body-switching thing seemed inadequately explained, as did her witching thing.  Did a witch swap the bodies?  Did the impostor go to a witch to commission the swap?


I liked untangling the body-switch thing -- enchantment as told from the point of view of the enchanted.  Much more interesting than just having her wake up and wonder if it was a dream.

Although I'm not familiar with the original Goose Girl tale, what I think happened is that the story's "princess" -- actually, the daughter of a powerful witch -- posed as a goose girl to get into position to swap bodies (and to some extent, memories) with a real princess.  We pick the story up shortly after the swap occurs, from the vantage point of the real princess, now imprisioned in the body of the goose girl/witch. She's a reverse Max Headroom -- one mind, two sets of memories. She remembers being the daughter of a witch, and she remembers being a princess going to marry the king's son. Both sets of memories are incomplete, they conflict, and she's not sure which one is real.

She eventually figures out she can reverse the spell by killing the imposter -- she is gradually acquiring the full set of the imposter's memories, including the use of magic -- but chooses not to do so.  Instead, she embraces her identity as a witch, and she and the king wander happily into the sunset. 

I certainly thought the imposter was a villian.  Understandable, certainly -- though you'd think a witch could come up with other ways to escape crushing poverty -- but she still carried out an incredibly complete act of identity theft.  It's not like the princess agreed to the swap in advance.

At least, that's what I think I heard.  Anybody else?  (This story is all about perspective and memory, after all...)
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2008, 02:54:10 AM »

I had the same problem with not really knowing the Goose Girl fairy tale — I very vaguely remember hearing either this story or something like it when I was much younger, but I'm pretty sure the ending was different than the one mentioned in the wikipedia plot summary.

I didn't know the original fairytale, but from what I gathered from the wikipedia page I like the story we heard better. Nice take on the subject.
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2008, 10:44:13 AM »

Ditto on not knowing the original fairy tale.
Ditto on liking the story. 

Very well done IMO.  Another winner. 
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gelee
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2008, 03:46:37 PM »

I just didin't like this one.  I was several minutes into the story before I had a handle on what was happening.  About 30 seconds in, I said to myself "The protag is confused."  Several minutes later, I still knew nothing more than that.
Also, why on earth did the king want to be a swineherd?

OK, so I just deleted about 200 words of pointless whining.  I'll just say I didn't care for it.
Something different please?
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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2008, 05:05:57 PM »

BWAHAHAHAHA!
Fantastic. Smiley

Goosegirl has always been on of my favorite European faerie tale, and this was a wonderful telling. It mended wonderfully the only fault in previous telling: Why had the princess submitted with out a fight? Perhaps when the story was still just an oral tradition witchcraft was the obvious answer, but as an 8 year old it confounded me. Also, it was a terrific twist to have the goosegirl accept who she had become and to make it her own, and still retain the princessly virtues of honor and compassion.
Great find Rachel!
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2008, 05:10:19 PM »

Also, why on earth did the king want to be a swineherd?

I took it as a "heavy is the head that wears the crown" moment. He certainly seemed a lot happier as a simple swineherd.
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2008, 05:23:39 PM »

Not my cup of tea.

I appreciate the intricacies of the clever writing, but this story didn't push any buttons for me. 
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2008, 05:31:02 PM »

I'm pretty neutral on this one - there was a lot I enjoyed, but it wasn't fantastic.  Confusing in parts, certainly.  Good themes, just not executed as well as it could have been.  I could have used more insight into the characters, mostly.  I know that's not something you usually get in a fairy tale, but this seemed to be a retelling that was trying to flesh things out, and I think it would have benifited from more.  And it probably would have helped if I'd remembered the original tale (I know I read all the Grims as a kid, but Goose Girl didn't stand out for me).  Overall a fine and distracting listen.
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2008, 07:07:44 PM »

I think Windup officially covered my opinion on this one; liked it... check, princess/villain... check...

I liked the way it unfolded from the initial confusion.  I really felt like I was figuring things out along with the Goosegirl.

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« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2008, 11:27:10 PM »

I think the best way I can describe my reaction is that the story was entertaining, but not at all engaging.  Partially that's probably because I hadn't heard of Goosegirl stories before - Giant at least made me briefly ponder the classics in a new light because I knew the references.  And partially I think it was the fault of the story.  Stories like EP's "Friction" really got my imagination running and my mind working - would the knowledge be worth it?  why AM I in academia? - to a wonderful degree.  This story just didn't.  I wasn't curious about the decisions made, they just sort of were and I observed them and that was that.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, I wouldn't listen to PodCastle if it wasn't entertaining, and this story was.  But Escape Artists has raised my standards in the past, and when it comes time to make space on my harddrive, this one probably won't be making the cut unlike Giant and Come Lady Death.
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« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2008, 12:25:42 AM »

I like trying to figure out what it happening. On the other hand, sometimes I like stories more though when I just take it as it comes and don't analyze to much during the story. In this one, I got that the girl seemed to have a double life of some sort, or that two minds were trapped, so I got that, and it began to make more sense later. I thought the book was a dictionary at first despite the fact she got it from a witch, or, the other her got it from the witch... or, something. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on. I think many listeners might have felt just like the protagonist, confused and not knowing what the heck was going on. I was for the most part. But, it all made sense in the end, and I had no dislike of the story.
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« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2008, 07:11:19 AM »

Something Chivalrybean said about the Red Book being a dictionary got me thinking about magic and the power of words.

For my money, the best stories about magic approach it as a fundamentally different (if not always better) understanding of the universe.  This is not meant to be confused with "magical realism", but rather, a combination of two famous ideas:
*Clarke's "any sufficiently advanced technology" which seems like magic to the uninitiated, and
*the concept that observation itself can influence the outcome of a phenomenon.  (I thought there was a quote capturing this better, but...)

As a linguist/writer/smartass, I appreciate the power that words have to focus the mind, and as a reader, I never tire of contemplating the latent powers that the human brain *might* hold in the unused 90% of each individual's gray matter.  As a hacker (in spirit, if not in skill) I appreciate the idea that a particular string of commands - in the proper syntax, of course - could unlock a hidden backdoor, and allow some control over the world around us.

This made the magic in Goosegirl a particularly intriguing part of the story for me.  I love the idea that studying the differences in the meaning of words can give one enough insight to unlock some of those secrets in the Universal O/S - with enough of that essential handwavium lying about, of course!
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« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2008, 07:57:37 AM »

As a linguist/writer/smartass, I appreciate the power that words have to focus the mind, and as a reader, I never tire of contemplating the latent powers that the human brain *might* hold in the unused 90% of each individual's gray matter.  As a hacker (in spirit, if not in skill) I appreciate the idea that a particular string of commands - in the proper syntax, of course - could unlock a hidden backdoor, and allow some control over the world around us.

Have you read Snow Crash?  The novel involves a concept very much like what you say here.
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« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2008, 10:57:35 AM »

[...]the unused 90% of each individual's gray matter.[...]

I hate to nitpick, but if I held this in, my head would explode. Smiley  The whole "we only use 10% of our brains" thing has been soundly and completely debunked. We use our entire brain.  All the time.

Anyway....

I liked this story, and I thought the reading was very well done. I had none of the problems some others did with the story, the voices, or following what was going on.  I've never even heard of the "Goose Girl" fable, so it had nothing to do with it being familiar.  (Although, I do admit it made me think of Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle quite a bit, but not 'til halfway through.)

Well done on both the writing and the reading.
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