Study Guide

The Goose Girl Language and Communication

By Shannon Hale

Language and Communication

The aunt knew too well how Kildenreans disliked anything outside the common, and she tried to keep Ani's progress hidden. But the household staff noted it, and rumors began that perhaps the queer green-clad nurse-mary possessed unnatural methods of awakening a child's words. (1.11)

It might seem weird to us that no one trusts the aunt just because she knows how to talk to the animals, but if we're being honest, we kind of get it—it's not like most people can talk to nature.

"Some people are born with the first word of a language resting on their tongue, though it may take some time before they can taste it. There are three kinds, three gifts. Did you know your mother has the first? The gift of people-speaking. Many rulers do. You see? And people listen to them, and believe them, and love them. I remember as children it was difficult to argue with your mother—her words confused me, and our parents always believed her over me. That can be the power of people-speaking." (1.29)

In case you had any questions about language in the book, Ani's aunt lays it all out for us here. Some people speak this, some people speak that, but all have a purpose. The only question is: which can Ani speak?

She had listened when he spoke his name, that word that had lain on his tongue while he still slept in the womb. And when she repeated it, he had heard her. After this initial connection, it was not long before she discovered they could speak to each other without other people hearing a sound. (2.34)

Telling us about her secret language with Falada, Ani describes that it's not all horses she can magically speak to—in fact, it's because she's got a special bond with her horse that they can communicate at all. Hmm… that makes us think she's also got a special bond with the geese and the wind too.

Ani felt the crowd shudder at the power in the queen's voice. Would that her voice accompanied me, thought Ani, and not a stained handkerchief. The thing felt thin and warm in her hand. She squeezed it and wished it were more than a token, wished it really could somehow carry safety and home and the love of a mother. (3.34)

There's no doubt about it: the queen has a way with words. Have you ever listened to someone speak and nodded along with everything they say? That's exactly how the queen is—she's just one of those people who knows how to convince you to do something. And that's exactly how Ani is not.

"It talks about the old tales, I guess. How in faraway places there are people what talk to things not people, but to the wind and trees and such. 'The falcon hears the boar, the child speaks to spring.'" (5.84)

Ani is telling Gilsa about the meaning behind a song she sings. Notice how even this is about language between nature and people—everywhere Ani goes, people, trees, birds, and such are talking to one another.

Its orange fingers waved specters on the blacks of Enna's eyes. "I get to looking and can't look away. Don't you ever feel like fire is a friendly thing? That it's signaling to you with its flames, offering something?" (10.20)

Enna's a little bashful to share this secret with Ani, but she shouldn't be because Ani knows exactly what she's talking about. Just think about it: if even the fire can communicate with us, there's no stopping language in Bayern and Kildenree. It's clear that it's not just the people-speakers who rule the world.

She wanted to tell him how his last word resonated from the dead, and when all living things were dimmed by winter, she was able to hear it, and hearing it again taught her how to hear the wind. (15.33)

Falada's last word to Ani—princess—is super important because it gives her a sense of her identity, but it also highlights the special bond she has with her horse. His word reminds her that she can do things other people can't.

Ani marveled at the words that she began to hear so clearly now. It was nothing like learning bird speech, listening to the sounds, watching the movements, and practicing again and again to get it just right. Not like horse speech, that came slowly and easily as the colt grew, words like a voice in her mind, clear as her own thoughts. The wind blew understanding. It spoke in images, repeating where it had been with each new touch. It required concentration to hear it and to untangle the images into meanings. (15.53)

We see Ani communicate with Falada after she's already mastered the language with her beloved horse, so we're in for a treat when she figures out how to talk to the wind while we're watching. Check out how she describes the wind as speaking in images instead of words. Pretty cool, huh?

"In these last months I've told more stories than I thought I knew. And I've told lies. To hide. Now, telling you the truth, it sounds to me like just another story." (17.22)

Ani might not be a people-speaker, but she sure knows how to tell stories—her stories fill the forest workers with a sense of awe and wonder, and make them all stop in their tracks.

Selia's voice quavered with too many tones, confusing the roles she played—commanding, regal, humble, coercive, friendly, and under it all the hate and jealousy that shook her bones when she spoke Ani's title. Ani concentrated on turning the voice, her words that had always struck like javelins and pinned down her mind with their commands, turning those shooting words into feathers, floating away. (21.69)

Just like Ani's mom, Selia has a gift when it comes to talking to people. Did you notice the way it's described not just as the words she uses, but the tones and intonations as well? Selia knows how to manipulate even the sounds of language to get what she wants.

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