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Literature / Books of Bayern

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The Books of Bayern is a young adult fantasy series written by Shannon Hale.

The Goose Girl, is the first volume in the series and is based on the Grimm's Tale original. The book is told through the perspective of the Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, better known as Ani or Isi to her friends. The story starts with Princess Anidori traveling from her home kingdom to the kingdom of Bayern to marry the prince and hopefully bring peace to their two nations. Halfway there, she is betrayed by her company as they attempt to murder her and replace her with her lady in waiting, Selia. Ani escapes, but then must make her way to Bayern alone. Fearful of Selia and her guards who still want her dead, Ani disguises herself as a city worker who tends to the geese as she plots a way to convince the king of her true identity. Three sequels feature the friends Ani meets among the city workers.


Volumes in the series:

  • The Goose Girl (2003)
  • Enna Burning (2004)
  • River Secrets (2006)
  • Forest Born (2009)


  • Action Girl: Enna, a strong-willed woman very comfortable with confrontation, and a very powerful fire-speaker. When her desire for heat overrides her vow not to kill, she devastates an entire battlefield, and Tira ceases hostilities rather than face her again.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Goose Girl vastly fleshes out the original Grimm's fairy tale by adding an array of new characters, much more action, stronger world-building, and more depth of characterization as well as fleshing out Ani and Geric's relationship from a mere Arranged Marriage to an actual romance.
  • Addictive Magic: The problem with learning only one magical language is that without the others to provide balance, the language will slowly overwhelm the user. Enna only wanted to burn one time, but then she was forced to, and it turned into a slippery slope where she had to burn things. People-speaking works this way too, as people-speakers gain an overwhelming need for manipulation and control of others.
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  • Animal Motifs: In The Goose Girl Ani is frequently compared to birds. Fittingly, Selia is frequently compared to cats.
  • Apron Matron: Razo and Rinna's mother, the matriarch of a large and unruly family. Five of her seven children are bigger than she is, but guess who's unquestionably in charge?
  • Arch-Enemy: Selia certainly delivered on her promises of vengeance.
  • Ascended Extra: Razo goes from being a small supporting character in The Goose Girl to being the main protagonist in River Secrets.
  • Asshole Victim: No tears were shed when Sileph's own men killed him.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Razo has a surprising memory for detail.
  • Badass Normal: Finn, best swordsman of Bayern's Own, and arguably Razo with his exceptional skill with a sling.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: People-speakers become manipulative, controlling, and uncaring of others the more they use their powers. Rinna, having learned tree-speech to ground herself, is able to use it for good.
  • Bait the Dog: Selia was Ani's only friend throughout her lonely childhood, often encouraging Ani to speak up for herself and be more proactive. Then she betrayed her and tried to kill her to assume her position.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Selia is this in spades. She is very skilled with people-speaking and presents herself as charming and wise, but she is also a tantrum-throwing, murderous Manipulative Bastard.
    • Sileph treats Enna with courtesy while she is his prisoner and constantly praises her abilities, but everything he says is to manipulate her into falling in love with him and fighting against her own country. When Enna escapes, Sileph spends weeks tracking her down and attempts to kill her when she rejects him.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Enna in Enna Burning once she gains power over fire. With Great Power also comes the compulsion to burn everything up, and it's slowly killing her from the inside.
    • In the same book, Isi's awesome wind powers have become this as well, as they're so strong she can't pay attention to all the voices she hears on them. Sharing power with each other solves both of these problems.
    • Dasha in River Secrets is terrified of losing herself to water-speaking and willingly drowning like her grandfather.
    • Rin in Forest Born is so horrified that she feels most comfortable and confident when using people-speaking to dominate others, she decides to repress her own personality entirely. This makes her miserable and filled with self-loathing so strong, it interferes with her tree-speaking.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Isi the blonde, Enna the brunette, and Dasha the redhead.
  • Blow You Away: Ani/Isi learns the language of the winds. Later Enna as well.
  • Break the Cutie: Ani hasn't been able to catch a break since she was a little kid.
  • Bride and Switch: Selia's plan in Goose Girl.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Not particularly brief, and played deadly serious— it's Isi's ability to imitate accents that allow her to remain hidden in Bayern and walk straight into the enemy camp in Enna Burning.
  • Charm Person: Pretty much every people-speaker in the series is this by definition.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Enna and Finn
  • Compelling Voice: All people-speakers, including the Queen of Kildenree, Selia, Sileph, and Rinna. They can charm people nonverbally, but speech makes it much easier.
  • Cool Horse and Sapient Steed: Falada
  • Dead Guy on Display: Falada in The Goose Girl.
  • Disney Death:
    • Ani thinks that Talone died with the other men in The Goose Girl. Apparently, he thought the same of her.
    • Selia also gets this, after we think she suffered a Cruel and Unusual Death that she specified. This one spans three books before her survival is revealed.
    • Razo and Isi both get this in Forest Born. The former's supposed death is merely a lie told by Selia, while the latter really is killed, but Enna, Dasha and Rinna's combined powers revive her.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Throughout "Forest Born", Rinna struggles with severe self-loathing and believes her life is worth much less than others'. When even the trees seem to reject her, she outright wishes she was dead.
    • Selia when she gets defeated in book four.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Rinna eventually figures out that people-speaking makes manipulating others far too easy. Consequently, several people-speakers seek positions of power to justify their control over others. This often has a side effect of feeling superior to and/or separate from regular people, resulting in acute loneliness. All of this together explains why the majority of people-speakers are especially prone to becoming corrupted into villainy. Luckily for her, tree-speaking counteracts it by helping her understand her own mind and how to use her gifts without harming others.
  • Eats Babies: Subverted in River Secrets where both Tira and Bayern spread this rumor of each other.
  • Engineered Public Confession: How Selia's treachery is finally revealed in The Goose Girl.
  • Fairy Tale: The Goose Girl is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same name.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Falada, and the suggestion of what happens to Selia at the end of The Goose Girl.
    • Until we find out in Forest Born that Selia use people-speaking to escape death and a pig was put in her place. Still, her real death is quite terrifying too.
    • Enna Burning is filled with people burning to death during the war. Special mention goes to the fire-speakers themselves, who are at risk of burning themselves up from the inside out. This results in a charred-black body burned beyond recognition.
    • River Secrets reveals that water-speakers are at risk of willingly drowning themselves. Furthermore, a skilled water-speaker can use the water in a person's body to drown them where they stand.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Bayern for Germany. "Bayern" also means Bavaria in German.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Isi as Sanguine, Enna as Choleric, Dasha as Phlegmatic, and Rinna as Melancholic.
  • Happily Married: Isi and Geric, after the first book. Enna and Finn at the end of the fourth.
  • Happy Ending Override: The beginning of Enna Burning does this to the ending of The Goose Girl, as Bayern is plunged into war and as the characters face unforeseen struggles with their "speaking" powers. The rest of the series revolves around both the kingdom and our heroes gradually earning a new happy ending.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: In the first three books, we have heroines who learn to control wind,fire, and water. And then we have Rinna, who can talk to trees, who feels useless compared to the other three. Then in the climax, she realizes that trees don't perceive time the same way humans do and uses it to dodge arrows and ignore pain. There's also the important fact that it keeps her grounded, so her people-speaking gifts don't turn her evil.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: In the fourth book, Selia shows up again after having supposedly been executed at the end of the first bookand as if that wasn't enough, the same character claims to have been indirectly responsible for the events of books 2 and 3 as well.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Sileph tries to kill Enna when she rejects his love.
  • I Know What You Fear: Part of the frightening power of people-speakers is their extraordinary ability to perceive the insecurities and fears of other people (as well as desires and intentions) and use this knowledge to say exactly what they need to in order to effectively manipulate others. Paired with their ability to make their voices extra-compelling, people-speakers have enormous influence over others. It's really no wonder they're so prone to being villains.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Everyone in Forest Born compares people-speaking to a wasting disease, corruption, and the like... right in front of Rin, who secretly is a people-speaker. This does not do wonders for her already-low self-esteem.
  • Inter Species Friendship: Ani shares a close bond with her horses Falada and Avlado. In The Goose Girl she also befriends the goose Jok.
  • Jerkass:
    • Ani/Isi's aloof mother, the queen of Kildenree. Believes Ani to be a spineless Cloud Cuckoo Lander who Speaks Fluent Animal and therefore does everything she can to essentially put her under house arrest? Check. Arranges a marriage to a person in another country behind her husband's and Ani's backs that takes away Ani's birthright as future queen? Check. Does all this and more while her skills as a people-speaker means she knows how miserable and lonely it makes her daughter? Check check.
    • Sileph in Enna Burning. Despite claiming to be in love with Enna, he has no qualms keeping her drugged and helpless- in fact, it was his idea to drug her in the first place. He manipulates her into loving him and fighting against her country, and reacts violently whenever his control over Enna is challenged.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Conrad. He becomes The Resenter when Isi becomes better at handling the geese than he is. He even attempts to steal a strand of her blonde hair as proof that she's a fraud. But when Selia's goons nearly kill Isi after he spitefully reveals her location, he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and redeems himself by catching Selia as she attempts to escape at the end of The Goose Girl.
  • Kick the Dog: Selia makes a habit out of this once she drops the pretense of being Ani/Isi's best friend.
  • Making a Splash: Dasha. She's initially quite weak with it, only able to summon a few drops from the air, since she's too frightened to learn more after her grandfather drowned himself following the voice of water. Then she learns about learning the language of the opposite element to counteract the effects, and goes all out in the climax, forming shields from rainwater and making people back down by threatening to flood their lungs.
  • Meaningful Name: Enna, who in later books is a fire speaker — the name "Enya" is gaelic for Little Fire or Flame, while "Ena" is Gaelic for "bright and shining".
  • No Name Given: In a series that makes a point to say the name of every passing bystander, a few important characters that are never given names stand out:
    • Ani's beloved aunt, who raises her for the first five years or so of her life. She is only ever referred to as "the aunt" and only Ani seems to care about her.
    • Ani's mother, who is only ever referred to as "the Queen". This possibly symbolizes how the only name the woman ever cared about was the title of Queen.
    • The King of Bayern is known as just that and nothing else.
    • Geric's younger brother remains nameless.
  • Old Retainer: Talone was the captain of Ani's escort from Kildenree to Bayern and the only surviving member to remain utterly loyal. He chooses to remain in Bayern with Ani as well, being something of a replacement father figure and becomes the captain of the royal family's personal guard, Bayern's Own.
  • Parental Abandonment: Ani/Isi, whose father dies early in the first book and whose mother is an emotionally-absent Jerkass.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Ani and Geric in The Goose Girl.
  • Playing with Fire: Enna. Later Isi and Dasha as well.
  • Prince and Pauper: When Selia stages a mutiny and impersonates Princess Anidori, the real Ani is forced into hiding and works as a common goose girl.
  • Princess Classic: Ani, but in a good way. She later becomes The High Queen.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Ani's full name is Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. When she goes into hiding, she calls herself Isi. She's called Isi in all subsequent books, since all the other protagonists know her by that name.
  • Shoot the Dog: Poor Falada . . .
  • Small Role, Big Impact: In "Forest Born", Rin's niece Nordra only appears for a few paragraphs, but Rin's attempt to use people-speaking to force her niece to hand over small objects causes Rin's mother to sternly rebuke her for the first time in her life. Running into the forest for comfort, Rin ends up learning the language of trees. This event also makes Rin resolve to never people-speak again and decides to repress her true "wicked" personality, choosing instead to mimic other "good" people like her ma. This leaves her ill-prepared to fight back against Selia's vast people-speaking experience.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Geric's younger brother is reported to have died from fever offscreen and his father the king is killed in battle early in Enna Burning, leaving Geric and Isi to inherit the throne.
  • Suffer the Slings: Razo's weapon. When Razo is reported to be dead, the rationale is "slings are weak against swords". When Razo learns of this, he scoffs "then [they] haven't seen me sling."
  • Super-Power Meltdown: While fire is the most explosive and obvious, any sort of nature-speaking power will eventually overwhelm and kill its user unless they learn a balancing element.
  • Survivor Guilt: Ani struggles with this after the murders of the men who were loyal to her. Also Talone to some extent, when he thinks Ani is dead.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: In the series, some people are able to learn the languages of certain animals. Delighted with Ani's talent for hearing and mimicking sounds, her aunt teaches her the language of birds and horses.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sileph, who thinks both Enna and her power should belong to him. Thanks to his Compelling Voice, he very nearly succeeds.
  • Talking to the Dead: Ani to Falada in The Goose Girl
  • The Dragon: Ungolad, Selia's hopelessly devoted second-in-command.
  • The Power of Friendship: Not really of the magical variety, but friendship and teamwork are always important themes throughout the series. In Enna Burning, Isi's and Enna's bond is what allows them to share the tongues of wind and fire, saving them from Superpower Meltdown.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: Ani and Geric in The Goose Girl.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Conrad by telling Selia's goons Ani's location. He may have been The Resenter, but he didn't want Ani to be murdered!
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Ani when arriving in Bayern hides her blonde hair under a headscarf, dresses in Bayern fashion, and perfectly adopts a Bayern accent to hide from Selia's traitors.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Sileph by the end of Enna Burning. At least three different people put knives in his back, each from his own men.