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Number the Stars

Chapters XIV–XV

Summary Chapters XIV–XV

Analysis

Annemarie mixes fiction with reality as she makes the trip to her uncle's boat. She tells herself the story of Little Red Riding-Hood the way she would to her little sister. Without realizing it, she is comforting herself the same way she would comfort Kirsti. Annemarie's instinct to go over the fairy tale in her head reflects the confusing position she is in. She must be brave and do an adult's job, but she is frightened. Annemarie is replacing her mother, but to protect herself she knows she may have to act like Kristi. Annemarie finds comfort and direction by thinking of herself as the heroine in a fairy tale that ends happily. The story of Little Red Riding-Hood is literally and metaphorically just like Annemarie's own. Both girls carry baskets given them by their mother and travel through the woods on their own. Though we do not know how Annemarie's story ends, we probably do know what happens to Little Red Riding-Hood.

The path that Annemarie travels conjures up memories of her childhood. The blueberry patch was a special place, as was the pasture of cows. She thinks of the country doctor who is probably on his way to the house. She also remembers going to see her uncle as he was bringing in the day's catch. These memories are interspersed with the scenes from Little Red Riding-Hood. The path Annemarie walks is symbolic of Annemarie's childhood. Her travel through the woods is a metaphor for the transition she is making from being a child to being an adult. It is not an easy path; there are roots that could make her stumble and the darkness makes it hard to see what lies ahead. But Annemarie knows she must keep on, just as all children must become adults.

Annemarie's encounter with the soldiers forces her to regress. She does as her mother has told her and acts as much like a "silly little girl" as possible. Innocence turns out to be her best protection. Pretending to be a clueless child is an extreme form of what she and Uncle Henrik talked about. Yet again Annemarie sees that knowing little or nothing at all can make you safe. Annemarie is safer because she does not know what she is really carrying. The encounter also shows that Annemarie is living in a world of extremes. One moment she is playing the role that her mother would, and the next she has to act like her little sister. When Annemarie reaches the boat, Henrik's assertion that "everything is all right" applies to more than the trip he is about to make. Now that Annemarie has delivered the basket, order will be restored in Annemarie's life, too. Henrik tells her to go home and make sure her mother does not worry. The role of worrying has been handed back to Mrs. Johansen. Annemarie has been relieved of heavy responsibility—she can be herself again.