"I would like a horse friend," said Ani. "Very much." Perhaps a horse would not hit her with play swords, like her little brother, or treat her like a glass vase and then whisper behind her back, like the other palace children. (1.45)
Right away, Ani would rather hang out with animals than humans. Perhaps it's because animals don't plot and scheme the way people do, or maybe it's because they don't judge her for not acting enough like a princess. Either way, Ani's first friends are her horse and other animals.
She smiled. "Oh, I am too saddle-sore for wood benches. Anyhow, I don't want to leave you alone."
"You are a good friend."
"Mmm," she said, tapping her foot in time. (3.43)
… or is she? Ani might think that Selia is her bestie, but we could see the writing on the wall long before Selia took over as princess. Even here, Selia seems nervous, tapping her foot anxiously instead of really talking to the princess. For someone who knows how to people-speak, she sure is silent.
"My friends call me by my name."
"You don't have any friends."
"I don't want you to be my friend, Selia, or my servant, not now. I thought you were both. You have let me know I was wrong. So are you to treat me so. You are wrong." (4.26)
Oh, snap—Selia tells Ani that she doesn't have any friends, which is super mean-spirited; yet Selia's observation isn't totally inaccurate. Ani herself admits she doesn't like spending time with people, and that she doesn't really get how to be friends with humans. Maybe if she had more friends, she wouldn't be so easy to overpower.
"Finn, should anyone discover you know me, and come to you or your mother, pretending to be my friend, asking where I am, don't tell them. Please." She smiled painfully. "You two are the only friends I have in this kingdom." (7.60)
Finally Ani gets who her real friends are. Finn and Gilsa take Ani in when they don't know who she is or what she needs, giving her food, shelter, clothes, and love. They are even willing to risk their own necks to save her, which is friendship to the max.
Ani tried to respond with friendly attentiveness. Ani felt as dumb at conversation as she had over Gilsa's cooking pot that day she prepared the lunch, the contents turning blacker and smelling fouler despite her anxious attempts. She had no practice at making friends. And, she discovered, her own trust had been drained dry. (9.8)
We hate to admit it, but Selia was right: Ani doesn't have friends, and when she finally realizes this, it's already too late. She can no longer rely on her fancy title or her servants to do whatever she wants, so for the first time, Ani's got to make friends on her own accord—for who she really is.
And hide, she realized. Always she wanted to hide. No more. To approach the king again, she would need a horde of people by her side to guarantee she would not be the victim of a quick dagger in a dark corridor before ever telling her story. (10.15)
Here Ani decides to become friends with Enna, but even this doesn't come naturally to her at first. Sure Enna is kind and funny, but Ani doesn't really know how to talk to people without being a princess.
"And, I'm sorry if I've ever been unkind when you sought my friendship. I'm wary of that now, I think."
"I can see why. Selia." Enna said the last word as though she might spit it. "We've got to get you your name back." (12.130)
When she tells Enna about her past, Ani gains a true friend. Enna doesn't judge her or blame her for anything, but instead, trusts Ani's story and then defends her to everyone else. Isn't it interesting that the best friends Ani makes are with the workers? Perhaps all the power involved in being royalty makes it hard to make true blue friends.
"We're going with you, Isi, er, my lady." Razo pushed out his chest and held his staff in front of him with both hands. "We're your working guard, in the peace-keeper tradition, unpaid and unasked but ready with a quarterstaff, or a crook, at least." (18.41)
All of Ani's forest friends assume they will come to help her, even when it's dangerous. It's clear this is one very loyal bunch, which is lucky for Ani, since even though she lied to them about her past, she was also more herself with these people than with anyone else.
She laughed so lightly, it seemed to be not an expression of humor, but a gift to the listener. "And as much as it is a burden at times, I'm not going to resign on your behalf. So, please, for the friendship we once shared, admit the truth." (20.38)
In front of everyone, Selia tries to cover her tracks. The interesting thing is that friendship is actually a part of her plea. Now we know what you're thinking: Selia is a master of words and is just saying whatever she thinks will work the best. And that's probably true. But she also reminds us how far Ani's come from believing this poser was her friend.
"We've been friends, Isi, and I feel I know you, but I don't want to presume anything anymore. This marriage was arranged without your consent, and if you have any hesitation about me, I will understand." (22.99)
Who doesn't want to marry their best friend? Geric says this to Ani at the end and it makes our hearts swoon a little. Since friendship is the basis for their relationship, the young lovebirds already know a lot about each other. And since they became friends without the royal thing getting in the way, it looks like this is one friendship that will last… hopefully a lifetime.