The Goose Girl is a scary fairy tale about a maid who switches places with a princess. It is based on an old German folktale and the original version features a horse’s severed head and a grisly punishment by torture.
The Goose Girl is about a beautiful girl who is supposed to be married to a prince who lives in a far-away palace. When she is leaving, her mother gives her a maid and a talking horse named Falada. For some reason, the mother also cuts her fingers, squeezes the blood onto a rag and gives it to her daughter as a good luck charm.
“The old mother went to her bedroom, and taking a small knife she cut her fingers till they bled; Then she held a white rag under them, and letting three drops of blood fall into it, she gave it to her daughter…”
On the way to the palace, the maid tricks the girl, stealing her clothes and her horse and switching places with her. She threatens to kill the girl unless she swears she will never breathe a word about what happened to another living being.
When they reach the palace, the maid introduces herself as the bride and meets the prince she is going to marry. The girl keeps her mouth shut and is sent out to herd geese. However, the maid is still worried that the talking horse will give away her secret, so she orders it to be killed, saying:
“Then let the slaughterer cut off the head of the horse I rode here upon, because it behaved very badly on the journey.”
The grisly task is carried out according to the maid’s wishes.
The slaughterer… chopped off the head, and nailed it firmly over the gateway.
While the maid is getting ready for the wedding, the girl is still out herding geese. Every day, she passes by the severed horse head and talks to it.
One day, the king overhears her talking to the horse’s head and eventually figures out that she is the real bride and the maid is a false bride. He finds the maid and asks her what should happen to a person who switches places with a princess. The maid comes up with the most horrible punishment she can think of.
Then the false bride answered: “She deserves to be put stark naked into a barrel lined with sharp nails, which should be dragged by two white horses up and down the street till she is dead.”
The king then pulls the old switcheroo on the maid.
“You are the person,” said the King, “and you have passed sentence on yourself; and even so it shall be done to you.”
So the maid suffers her horrendous punishment. She is stripped naked, tossed into a barrel lined with nails and dragged around until she is dead. While this is happening, the girl marries the prince and they live happily ever after.