Book Review: Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin1. Bibliography

Zelinsky, Paul O.. Reteller. 1986. Rumpelstiltskin. New York: E.P. Dutton. ISBN: 9780525442653.

2. Plot Summary

In this retelling of the classic “Rumpelstiltskin,” a miller’s daughter is forced to spin straw into gold for the greedy king. Unable to do so, she agrees to give a strange little man her necklace if he will help her. Upon discovering the room full of gold the next day, the king forces the woman to spin even more straw into gold. Again the strange little man agrees to help the woman for a price. The king then offers to marry the woman if she can spin an even larger room of straw into gold. Once again, the strange little man offers to help, but this time his price is higher: he demands her firstborn child. A year after marrying the king, the woman has a child and is visited by the strange little man, seeking to claim the child as his price. He gives her three days in which to guess his name, otherwise he will take the child. After two unsuccessful days of guessing, the woman’s servant overhears the strange little man gloating and chanting his name, “Rumpelstiltskin.” The woman is now able to guess his name and thus save her child. Rumpelstiltskin rides off on  his flying spoon and is never heard from again.

3. Critical Analysis

The first thing noticed about this version of Rumpelstiltskin is the style of art. Painted in a much older style than modern stories typically are, the illustrations add to the sense of age about this story. This story has existed in some form or another for generations, much like the priceless art after which these illustrations are styled.

The writing style of this story gives one the sense that the story should be read aloud, but not in the way typically thought of. Instead of read snuggled up cozily on the couch or in a circle around a squishy chair, this story feels as though it belongs recited by a grandfather by the light of a bonfire. Some stories should be read; this story should be told.

4. Review Excerpts

1987 Caldecott Medal (nominee)

From Booklist: “Zelinsky’s jeweled tones and precise medieval backgrounds make this a particularly handsome rendering of the classic fairy tale.”

From Publishers Weekly: “Rumplestiltskin [sic] is a tour de force by an immensely talented artist.”

From School Library Journal: “Zelinsky’s smooth retelling and glowing pictures cast the story in a new and beautiful light.”

5. Connections

-Have students draw what they think Rumpelstiltskin might have looked like.

-For older students, work together as a class to break the story down into its basic elements (such as an impossible task, a bargain, etc.). Then have students write a modern day variant of the story using all of the basic elements from the original story.

(Created in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the TWU course LS5603.20 Literature for Children and Young Adults)


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