Cinderella #327 Die Kaisertochter Gänsehirtin (The Princess Goose Girl)
|A goose at Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA|
Once upon a time, in Stuttgart, there lived an emperor. His second wife was incurably jealous of the emperor's beautiful daughter, and made her life miserable whenever she could. It happened that the emperor was called away on business. In his absence, the cruel stepmother locks the princess in her room, with neither food nor water. On the fourth day, the girl's stepmother brings her "a small piece of bread and a jug of water, in which she has thrown a young snake." In her terrible thirst, the girl drains the jug in a single gulp, not realizing that she has swallowed a snake. Yet the snake grows rapidly, causing the girl's belly to protrude.When her father returns, the stepmother spreads rumors that the girl has become pregnant. Though he knows that death is the sentence which he must pass on his daughter, he cannot bear to do it, and so the emperor instead "has twelve handsome dresses made for her, all of which she must put on, and outside all, a mantle of wood." Thus clothed, the princess is driven from the palace, and ordered on pain of death never to return. She wanders through the woods and at length "applies for service at the palace of another emperor". Of course the other servants mock her, making fun of her wooden cloak. But the prince himself happens to pass by and is struck by the sight of the weeping girl in the wooden gown. She begs for some task to set her hands to, and he assigns her as gooseherd. Additionally, he orders that a room be set aside for her, and warns the staff not to ill treat her. In the morning she sets out to pasture the flock of geese. Coming to a clear pond she decides to bathe, and removes her wooden cloak, and each of the twelve dresses in turn. Not realizing that she is being watched by shepherds, she bathes, and then redresses. It is not long before rumors of the beautiful girl in the wooden dress, who secretly wears gorgeous gowns beneath it, reach the ears of the prince. He hides in the bushes near the pond, and when he observes the maiden stripping off some of her magnificent gowns, "is entranced with her beauty". Now the maid feels thirsty, but she has dirtied the water with her bathing. To forget her thirst on this hot day, she lies down under a tree in some cool shade, and goes to sleep. While she is sleeping, the prince peeps at her. He is horrified to see "from between her half closed lips, a hideous snake of great length crawl slowly forth." He throws his golden ring at hit, striking the snake's head as it slithers away. Later, when the princess awakens, she finds the ring and puts it on, along with her twelve dresses and cloak of wood. She is delighted to realized that her bloated belly had receded, and she feels better than she has in some time. As she drives the geese back to the palace, whom should she meet but the prince! He questions her as to the golden ring on her finger and she tells him that she found it under a tree. That is when he declares his love for her, and begs her to marry him! She does not believe in his sincerity, until he marries her in secret, and against his father's will. Then comes a time of secret marital bliss, with the princess continuing to work as a gooseherd. At last, one Sunday, the princess goes to church, dressed in one of her dozen gowns. When the emperor asks his son who the lady might be, the prince replies, "Oh, father, why have you not such a lovely wife?"This is repeated twelve times. On the twelfth Sunday, the emperor stations guards to keep watch over every exit. In this way, they trap the young woman. Now the prince comes and cries out to his father, "Send the watch away for the lovely damsel is none other than the goose-girl, my wooden bride." Now the emperor rejoices at his son's choice of brides. He orders that a second wedding ceremony shall be held. All of the emperor of the area are invited, and so it is that the princess's own father attends. When he hears the tale of the snake and the ring, and how his wife starved the princess and secretly fed her the snake, he is righteously angry and sends orders that his own wicked wife shall be "instantly beheaded."
From: Cox, M. R. (1893/2011) p. 370
Notes: Here we find some interesting echoes of other snake characters. In the Cinderella story from Zimbabwe, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, a snake friend transforms into the prince. Here we find some very obvious sexual symbolism with regards to the snake, and a round-about way of the snake leading the prince to the goose-girl. Also: remember Katie Woodencloak? See stories #16 Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, and #138 Katie Woodencloak