The Goat-Faced Girl

“The Goat-Faced Girl” is a classic Italian fairytale, although Leah Marinsky Sharpe takes many liberties in the re-telling of it. That’s not a complaint though. The Goat-Faced Girl is a delightful book, a wonderful fairy tale to share with little girls in preschool or early elementary. It’s magical, but has a message, too.

A baby is abandoned in the forest. Sounds like a fairytale so far, doesn’t it? “But this foundling was an infant girl who was far too young for quests, unable to understand talking animals, and even too young to interest the witch in the gingerbread house.” Eventually the baby is taken home by a giant lizard, a sorceress in disguise. The lizard-lady raises the girl, Isabella, who becomes a beautiful, polite, intelligent young woman. Her only fault is that she is incredibly lazy. One day, Prince Rupert arrives at the lizrd-lady’s home, where he meets  Isabella and after finding out how much they have in common, both being lazy and loving to be served by others, they agree to get married. The sorceress realizes however that a life of ease in the castle will never teach Isabella the value of doing things on her own, so as Isabella is being carried off to the castle in a carriage, the sorceress gives Isabella the head of a goat. The prince, off course, can’t marry her now that she’s not beautiful, so he stashes he away, making up reasons why they can’t be married immediately.

I love the ending in this retelling. After completing three tasks and showing her mother how much she has grown as a person, the lizard-lady turns Isabella back to her self. But now, instead of becoming the princess as would happen in a standard fairy tale, Isabella sees how shallow the prince is and decides to stay at home and learn to become a sorceress like her mother. The last page of the book is great, but you’ll have to see it for yourself. It’s a modern retelling in that way. The young woman becomes self-sufficient, partly thanks to books, I should add. She doesn’t need the prince, she is capable and imaginative and powerful in her own right.

By the way, I mentioned last week that 3 is a magical number in fairy tales, and even Isabella realizes it.

Then she remembered the all-important “Rule of Threes.” In any fairy tale or nursery rhyme, it is the third princess, the third night, or the third task that is the important one. She figured this was the standard ordeal all girls in these parts were put through before they could marry princes. After all, in one kingdom nearby, they made the girls sleep on peas. In another, the girls had to attend balls in glass slippers. And as every young woman knows, glass slippers can be pretty uncomfortable.

I love how self-aware the story is that it’s a fairy tale, the little references that sneak in, both in the text and in the illustrations. Jane Marinsky’s pictures are colorful and whimsical, fitting the story perfectly.

The whole book is a treat.

4½ out of 5 stars

Category – Fairy Tales & Folklore

Amazon | IndieBound

Published October 15, 2009
32 ages

Book source: Library

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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