Re-imagining Rumpelstiltskin

We are a fairy tale loving family. From picture book classics to the original Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson collections and now on to modern turns and twists, there is a comforting enticement in fairy tales. A current favorite in our household is Rumpelstiltskin.

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A few weeks ago, J brought home a book from her school library that I had never heard of – Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter. We both thought that it was fantastic. The book is a fractured fairy tale with the “what if” storyline of what if the miller’s daughter refuses to marry the king and instead runs off with Rumpelstiltskin? Years after Rumpelstiltskin had spun straw into gold, his daughter, Hope, travels through the village selling the golden coins spun by her father. The king greedily tries to have Hope spin for him, but instead she tricks the king into doing good for his kingdom.

What an awesome story! Haven’t you always read the traditional Rumpelstiltskin story and wondered why in the world she marries the greedy king who repeatedly threatens to kill her? The original story has so many odd aspects to it that it is ripe for additional interpretations. But when J announced after reading Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter that it was one of her favorite fairy tales, I felt that it was the perfect time to introduce another version of the story that I had just read – the middle-grade novel Rump.

Rump is the story of Rumpelstiltskin from his perspective. This great book attempts to explain Rumpelstiltskin’s actions and also give a story to why the miller would lie and say that his daughter could spin gold when she obviously could not. At 12 Rump discovers that he can spin straw into gold, and in a world where everyone is barely scraping by and mining for gold that seems to have run dry, this seems like a godsend. But Rump soon discovers that being able to spin straw into gold is more of a curse than anything else. The story gives an alternate view of the story and insight into all of Rump’s actions. Rump then must go on a quest to find a way to rid himself of his curse. I wasn’t sure how J would respond to this story, as there are a lot of mature themes about fate, karma, fair trading practices and greed. I was pleasantly surprised when she fully enjoyed the story. Of course she didn’t get the deeper meanings, but she understood a lot of it and enjoyed the journey that Rump had to take.

We have also recently seen another version of the Rumpelstiltskin story within  Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns. This is book 2 of a series we have fully enjoyed (and are waiting for our pre-ordered copy of book 3) in which two children enter the world of fairy tales. The character of Rumpelstiltskin gets introduced in this book as someone who had been tricked by the evil Enchantress to kidnap a baby princess as part of her plan to take over the world. He regretted what he had done and found the loophole out by making the deal of giving the baby back if the Queen could guess his name. After over 120 years in prison, poor Rumpelstiltskin thought he was done with the Enchantress, but she managed to come back even more powerful than before.

What is so fabulous about fractured fairy tales is that they take a story that we think we know so well and turn it on it’s head. By doing that, it makes us think more. For young children, it also opens up their eyes to different forms of creativity. Yes, kids can write things from scratch, but sometimes budding young authors need a little nudge to help them get a story going and taking something they know and changing it around is a great lesson in creativity. There is always another way to look at things.

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