Study Guide

The Goose Girl Identity

By Shannon Hale


Ani lay down and, putting one arm over her face as though it were a wing, tried to shut out the world where she did not belong. (1.94)

Poor Ani—she knows she doesn't fit in with her mom and the royals in Kildenree, but she's not allowed to hang out with the animals either.

His assurance that she was wonderful was a stab in the soreness of her insecurity. He more than anyone knew how she tried to be what her mother was, and how often she failed. It was he who in earlier years had held her weeping at his chest and told her that she was good enough, that she was his best girl. She had not sought his comfort in years, trying as she was to grow up, to be independent and queenly enough not to hurt, but she longed for his succor now. (2.47)

When Ani hangs out with her dad, the whole world disappears. She forgets about the fact that she's not what her mom wants her to be, and instead actually enjoys his company. He's the first person we see her trust and relax with, after her cuckoo aunt. So what is it about her dad that comforts her? Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that he lets her be herself.

The queen shook her head. "You should never have been only a little girl, you should have always been a crown princess." (2.110)

Ouch. Ani's mom is never one to sugar coat it for her daughter—she's upfront with Ani about how she should act differently than other children because she's a crown princess. Right from the start, Ani's told she should be regal, but we can't help but wonder if that's a lot of pressure for a little kid.

Ani saw herself clearly in that moment, as a face in darkness gains sudden dimensions in a flash of lightning—a young girl, a silly thing, a lapdog, a broken mare. She did as she was told. She rarely gave thought to her duties or spent deep hours or acted alone. She realized she would never have been capable of taking her mother's place. That realization did not bring relief. Instead, the thought of the journey and her unknown future chilled her skin and pricked her stomach with dread. (2.127)

After her mom tells her the plan to go to Bayern, Ani is a mix of emotions: first angry, then sad, and finally, she's over it. She's not sure what waits in Bayern, but she knows there's nothing left for her in Kildenree either. Check out the way she describes this realization—it's because she's not her mother that she feels inadequate.

"Just think of it, Crown Princess, you can start a new life with new possibilities. You will decide who you are." (3.6)

Watch out, Ani—Selia's words are cryptic and definitely foreshadow what's about to happen to the princess on the road to Bayern. We'd also like to point out that Selia seems to be able to chose who she is, so why can't Ani?

She glared down at herself, leaning against the wall in travel-crumpled clothing, nearly last in a line of patient peasants, hungry, with feet aching on the soft soles of Finn's boots. This is not who I am, she thought. So who am I? She did not answer her own question. (6.62)

You know you're having an identity crisis when you can't answer this question. Ani's confronted with who she is, and even she doesn't know—she's not the princess her mom wants her to be, and she doesn't know how to be something else.

"You're Enna," said Ani. "That's somebody."

Enna smiled. "So's Isi."

Is she? thought Ani. Then I'd like to be her. I'd like to be somebody.

"She is, you are," said Enna, as though she had heard Ani's doubt. (10.31-34)

As Ani tries to figure out who she is, she also helps give Enna confidence about her own identity. Here the gal pals share their opinions on stuff like forest folk and the javelin, but when Enna says her opinion shouldn't matter, Ani jumps in to defend her friend.

Jok made the sounds indicating he was ready to sleep, so she took off her hat and unwound her hair, scratched her head, and sighed. The weight of her hair on her back reminded her that she was not who she was. That she was a secret. (12.68)

Enna catches Ani with her hair down and the secret is out—Ani's true identity is revealed. Here's the thing, though: Enna believes Ani's story about being a princess, even without proof.

The winter breeze still brushed against her cheek, and again she heard her name— Princess—and what had laid on her tongue since the morning of her birth now loosened. (15.24)

Time and again, Ani finds comfort by remembering Falada's last word to her: Princess. That's one important word not only because it shows everyone that Ani is the real deal, but also because it reminds Ani of who she really is.

"Sometimes it seems my identity's a matter of opinion," Ani said later as she rode with Talone at the head of the company, hoping to pull the pace faster. Talone insisted they arrive by the next day, saying that once Selia wed the prince, their job would be near impossible. (19.32)

Even when Ani's grown up and all ready to take over the world (or Bayern at least), her identity is still in flux—she knows who she is now, but that doesn't mean the king and everyone else knows. It's important that her final journey is to reclaim her identity to the world, now that she's figured out who she really is.

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