Study Guide

The Goose Girl Horse Story

By Shannon Hale

Horse Story

For not being a people-speaker, Ani's a really good storyteller. It's how she befriends the workers and how she passes the time when she's a goose girl with no servants to run around for her. Check out this story Ani tells the workers about wild horses:

"Wild horses, white as light on water, tall as cherry trees. They love to run, so fast they think they can become the wind if they just keep running. They run by the maiden, and the wind of their running blows her hair around her. And then one horse sees a flash of gold, and he stops. He paws away the soil, nudges the gold from the ground, and chews it up, fast as a carrot. Gold-colored spittle drips from his chin, his eyes are brighter, he shakes his mane. Now when he breathes out, there's music. This's why she waits." (10.49)

Now before you roll your eyes or get confused, all the stories Ani tells are symbolic, and this one is no exception. But what exactly does it symbolize? Hmm… who loves her horse, Falada, more than just about any other living creature in her life? That would be Ani, Shmoopsters—so the story about the maiden and the wild horses is about none other than Ani herself, even though Ani says she's never thought about what the story means.

In the horse story, the girl gets in trouble for not working, but she doesn't care because seeing the horses run like the wind is exciting to her. It's kind of like how Ani would rather ride Falada then say, stay for tea at Selia's house. When the girl in the story turns into wind, it symbolizes the girl fully becoming the person she is at heart—which, of course, also symbolizes Ani's personal journey of coming into her own in this book.

Just like the girl in the story, Ani learns to listen to her own desires and passions, instead of just following protocol and acting the way she's told she's supposed to. Doing this—accepting herself for who she is and committing to leading a life as this version of herself—is liberating. As the book ends, we see Ani as free as the horses, girl, and wind in this story she tells as the goose girl in Bayern.

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