Vivian Vande Velde is whimsically clever in her six recreations of the Rumpelstiltskin story. With divine humor, she reveals the absurdity of the fairy tale. The book is coy, innovative and alluring. What was with that bizarre fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin? Why would a miller claim that his daughter can spin straw into gold? Why would the king believe him? And why would a odd little man that can spin straw into gold do so in exchange for a tiny gold ring? The story is just silly. In an attempt to make sense of it all, Vivian Vande Velde retells this wayward fairy tale, providing six alternative takes on the classic account. All six are woven into rich chronicles - all of which are far more intriguing and revealing than the original tale.
Now that I work in a elementary school library, I try to keep track of which books kids check out most often, so I can read them myself and become more familiar with the collection. The Rumpelstiltskin Problem was VERY popular a few weeks ago1, so I snagged a copy and read it one afternoon.
Usually I don’t go for short story collections, as I almost always end up wanting to stay in the world of the story for longer than a few pages. What’s nice about The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is that all the short stories are retellings of Rumpelstiltskin, so while each story takes place in a different “world,” it still felt cohesive.
So, in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, VVV takes the basic story of Rumpelstiltskin and twists it into something MUCH more interesting. Instead of just a random bad fairy, VVV has developed him (/her) into an actual character with a history and a personality and goals beyond “make a bunch of gold and maybe get a baby.”
In one story, for example, he’s a helpful household spirit, in another she’s a lonely witch who just wants someone to love her, and in yet another he’s a man-eating troll. And the miller’s daughter is similarly different in each story, as is the king she spins for. The relationship between all three changes with each story, and it’s so much fun!
It’s an extremely creative approach to a fairy tale that mostly nobody cares about and I very much enjoyed it.
Read: March 25, 2015
- I think the kids are on a fairy tales kick. ↩