Snow Goose Author:- Only Paul Gallico’s wartime masterpiece The Snow Goose is icier, a novella barely thicker than a love letter, where every line seems to shiver with the salt-laden cold of the barren terrain. In a twist on the Persephone myth, the novella’s universe only comes alive in the winter, when Fritha and the geese return to Philip Rhayader’s solitary refuge on the Essex marshes. From the first lines, the reader is drawn into this delectable wilderness: “When the sky are gloomy in the long winters, the numerous waters of the beaches and marshes reflect the cold and dismal hue. But occasionally, at dawn and dusk, the sky and countryside are ablaze.”
There is no need to disclose the conclusion of this well-known love tale between an ignorant country girl who visits the hunchback outcast artist in his lighthouse with injured snow geese. Twelve lines of dialogue between a man and a woman cover almost seven years – or seven winters – of their carefully developing relationship. While the first two-thirds of the novella are silent, with only wild bird calls interrupting the stillness, the last third is a raucous scream of troops and officers who saw the guy in his small boat rescue the trapped men off Dunkirk beaches.
“She stopped, and again Rhayader must have thought of the wild water birds trapped immobile in that split second of fear…” Characters and emotions are practically fundamental. Gallico wrote To the Lighthouse while “the world outside simmered, seethed, and groaned with the explosion that was about to burst forth and come near to marking devastation”. While part of the tale “comes in the form of pieces,” the narrator harkens back to a more legendary style of storytelling: “garnered from various sources and individuals.”
Gallico’s “albatross”, the snow goose, survived a “really awful storm, stronger than her huge wings, stronger than everything”, only to be shot down by a hunter. One reviewer termed it “the most emotional tale ever written.” To keep up with the calamity-howlers and porn merchants, Gallico replied that “in the contest between sentiment and’slime,’ sentiment remains so far in front, as it always has and always will among ordinary humans, that they must increase the decibels of their laments, the hideousness of their violence, and the mountainous piles of their filth.”
He was correct, if the novella’s enduring popularity among “ordinary people” is any indication. It influenced Michael Morpurgo’s beloved War Horse (and, to Gallico’s dismay, a 1975 album by the rock band Camel). Love, innocence, and devotion – the snow goose’s iconic burdens – and the narrative itself produce a lightness that enables the tale to fly.