PC004: Goosegirl

By Margaret Ronald
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky.
First appeared in Fantasy (Prime Books).

“You came with the Princess Alia, didn’t you?” says a tall man with an understeward’s chain. “They must have low standards up north if you’re the sort of thing she brings along.”

I shake my head; the world slides in and out of focus. “I didn’t come here for that. I’m not — help.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Oh, so you’re not with the help? You must be one of the nobility, then?” He tweaks my skirts, and a ragged hem tears. “So what did you come here for, if you’re not with the princess?”

The words sound wrong even as I think them, but I say them nonetheless. “To be married.”

He bursts out laughing. “Poor girl,” a woman at the back of the servants’ hall says. “She’s simple. Can’t tell between herself and the princess.”

Rated PG. Contains sorcery, blood, and theft of memory.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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23 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    April 22, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others so far. It wasn’t bad, but if I was reading it, I doubt I’d read it again.

    Initially I didn’t like the bewildered way the story was read, but as the story went on it made more sense and got less annoying.

  2. 2

    Tom said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    I heard in the intro that you are looking for taglines… is there a place where we can submit suggestions?

  3. 3

    Tom said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:11 am

    oh and by the way good story… i thought it was a little predictable but well written and well read.

  4. 4

    PodCastle, male protagonist please « Ifblog (ponderings 2.0) said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:16 am

    […] under: Commentary, Fantasy, Reviews — ifireball @ 16:16 I’ve just listened to the last installment of PodCastle, it was a nice story, as these things go, but as I was listening, a realization swept over me, the […]

  5. 5

    Rachel said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:19 am

    “I heard in the intro that you are looking for taglines… is there a place where we can submit uggestions?”

    Hi Tom,

    We didn’t have one, but that’s a good idea! I’ve opened a thread on the bllog — Tag Line Suggestions. Enjoy!

  6. 6

    David said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    Interesting story, I preferred it to last weeks, but the characters still seem rather one dimensional. While these stories contain more adult elements than the ones I enjoyed as a child, the characters seem just as flat and the setting is still dry. I was hoping this podcast would take the elements of fantasy and add a more modern voice. So far I have not seen this.

  7. 7

    Joe Arndt said,

    April 23, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

    By now, people are starting to grumble about so many female protagonists in the first few stories. I’d noticed the Lifetime Movie Network cavalcade of women fantasy heroines, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me. If the first ten stories of Podcastle had male stories, featuring male themes and male attitudes, then likely, no one would say anything. Fantasy is typically dominated by men anyway, so, sharing the genre rather than getting all possessive about it and throwing up our arms in a childish huff isn’t going to do any good. I say let things run their natural course. For you dudes out there looking for a great Manly-Manstory, just take a step back and glean some of the female perspective. There’s a lot here you could learn.

    That said, I really didn’t get into this story. I feel like there needed to be a bit more exposition on character exploration. The woman simply knew that her fate had changed and accepted it without any really great struggle. Or so it felt. I’ll quote Kurt Vonnegut from The Bagombo Snuff Box on some rules to writing short fiction: “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” To me, it just seemed like the character was in an eternal daze and seemed to be made out of putty. Overall, I give the story a B-.

  8. 8

    life lemons said,

    April 24, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

    Not to sound repetitive or anything, this story fell a little flat for me. I started out liking it, but as the story went on, it just got a little weird. I felt like some of the magical items (the statues of the gods or the Red Book) weren’t explained at all. It was just kind of stuck in there that “oh yeah, gods talk to people, by the way.”

    Any ways, I saw the end from the very begging although with a slight variation; I didn’t expect the new princess to be the actual sorceress. I thought that there would be a wizard that was under the employment of the fake princess.

    I also found the kings character wasn’t used to his potential. He could have been so much better in that story.

  9. 9

    Fantasy Pete said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 5:41 am

    I got 2/3rds into this story and just turned it off, I was completely uninterested in it. Which is rare, I’ve listened to some boring stories on EscapePod, but usually I finish them. This I just couldn’t get into. Not sure if it was the way it was read, the story itself, or what.

    Aside from this one, most of the “fantasy” stories here seem more like Myth stories. Like ancient folklore from various cultures. I don’t mind female protagonists, I was just expecting something a little different with this Podcast, that may be my fault. I’m trying to keep an open mind. I do hope the site continues to grow, and I don’t want to crap on all the hard work that the people involved are doing. Because I know it must be a lot to set these stories all up. It feels like the site is going through some growing pains and trying to find itself. Lets hope it does so soon.

  10. 10

    Greg said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    I’m enjoying these stories, but will podcastle be continuing this trend of female characters and heroic feminism stories? They’re great, but there are other kinds of stories out there too. Let’s diversify a bit here.

  11. 11

    Abbie said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

    Goodness, you folks are critical! I wonder if people are more likely to comment when they didn’t care for an episode.

    I enjoyed this story. It packed a lot of world-building into a pretty small space. I liked trying to see the world through the fractured eyes of the mad woman. It had not even occurred to me that all the stories so far have been in female POV. Being a heterosexual female, I do like to see some interesting male protagonists in my stories, but it hadn’t really been bugging me so far.

  12. 12

    yicheng said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    I liked the story. Speaking as a male, I don’t find the story choices biased at all. A good story is a good story. Speaking for myself, I grew up on the archetypal “boy becomes hero, kills dragon, and saves girl” stories, and chicks-in-chainmail-thongs RPG games. This is a welcomed and refreshing change.

  13. 13

    csrster said,

    April 28, 2008 @ 3:22 am

    I thought it was a good story. It started out as “trying to see the world through the fractured eyes of the mad woman” but I liked the way it morphed away from that into a more magical/fantastical direction.

  14. 14

    James said,

    April 28, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

    Unable to download from this site (no probs with Escape Pod) also iTunes link broke (iTunes may be down).


  15. 15

    Ann said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 8:48 am

    I can’t download if I use IE, but for some reason Opera will nab the file just fine. Not sure why that is, apparently a few others are having the same problem. I figured I’d offer up what worked for me, until whatever the problem is can be solved.

  16. 16

    Lorthyne said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    This was an interesting story, but it had both good and bad to it.

    I liked how the story started out in a completely confusing fashion, and how it all came together and made sense in the end. I also liked how everybody, the king, the princess, and the witch’s apprentice, was unhappy with the lot they had been given. Also, the fact that the witch’s powers stayed with the body instead of going with the mind was interesting.

    However, it seemed a little too manufactured to me. The king who would actually rather be a swineherd just HAPPENS to meet the princess whose brains have been scrambled and dumped into a witch’s body, they both figure out what has been going on (without an explanation in the story, I might add), and decide they like things better the way they are now. Too many coincedences, all piled up like that kind of pulled me out of the fantasy.

  17. 17

    מחשבות, מחשבים, ושאר דברי בלע » Blog Archive » PodCastle said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    […] סיפור כל שבוע. חוץ מסיפור אחר שממש לא התחברתי אליו (Goose girl), אהבתי עד כה את כל הסיפורים. במיוחד אהבתי את Run of the fiery […]

  18. 18

    Dean(e) said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

    I loved this story so much. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the ending was going to be and then when it came it seemed so perfect. This is my favourite kind of fantasy, with psychology and ethics mixed together with youth, beauty and majesty.

    I really wanted a happy ending for everyone and that’s exactly what I got.

    The story really appealed to me because I love experiencing a lot of different roles in life and feeling/knowing what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

    Thanks. You guys are doing an amazing job choosing awesome stories for this show.

  19. 19

    David said,

    May 2, 2008 @ 5:13 am

    It started out confusing, but about halfway through, something clicked and I realized that one of the girls was princess trapped in the body of a witch and not being able to really separate who is who. This is a great story.

  20. 20

    Cami said,

    May 5, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    Ending synopsis:
    “Dude, let’s go do whatever we want and leave the running of the country to the unfaithful jerks and unrepentant thieves, okay? I sure do love magic!”

    I disliked this story.

  21. 21

    Curtis said,

    May 22, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

    I really enjoyed this story. It reminded me of old style fairy tales of classic writers. And in the story I found the moral coming across very strong that if given the choice would royalty stay royal? Would they want to be stuck in the drudgery of their life or would they rather be a normal peasant? Even the King would rather live with his subjects and be one of them then sit in a palace. We call this a multiple personality but many people create these in their own self-conscious and do just that.

  22. 22

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: April 2008 said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 7:48 am

    […] “Goosegirl” by Margaret Ronald (read by Mary Robinette Kowal) is a moving example of traditional fantasy, ostensibly concerning mental illness. The goosegirl of the title thinks she was once a princess, though sometimes she believes this to be imagination, and that she is in fact a witch. Told entirely within her point of view, the narrative suggests that things are not how they appear, at the same time delivering a powerful portrait of someone trying to make sense of the world despite a broken memory. […]

  23. 23

    WAS1 Productions » Blog Archive » Podcastle and Girl Power said,

    April 24, 2010 @ 3:13 am

    […] early works, Come Lady Death. Another story is a retelling of a classic Grimm’s fairytale, Goosegirl, which gets into the psychological schisms caused by a spell forcing a switched […]

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