The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

4.6 9
by Vivian Vande Velde, Vivian Vande Velde
     
 

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Have you ever wondered just what was going on when that odd little man with the long name stepped up and volunteered to spin straw into gold for the miller’s daughter? If you stop and think about it, there are some very peculiar and rather hard-to-explain components to the story.
Vivian Vande Velde has wondered too, and she’s come up with these six

Overview

Have you ever wondered just what was going on when that odd little man with the long name stepped up and volunteered to spin straw into gold for the miller’s daughter? If you stop and think about it, there are some very peculiar and rather hard-to-explain components to the story.
Vivian Vande Velde has wondered too, and she’s come up with these six alternative versions of the old legend. A bevy of miller’s daughters confront their perilous situation in very different ways — sometimes comic, sometimes scary. Most of the time, it’s the daughter who gets off safely, but sometimes, amazingly, Rumpelstiltskin himself wins the day. And in one tale, it is the king who cleverly escapes a quite unexpected fate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The eponymous problem, as Vande Velde (There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around) explains in an author's note, is that the original fairy tale "makes no sense." Hence, she retells the classic story six times, creatively changing elements with each variant. What results is a charming and clever collection that explains such conundrums as: Why, if the daughter can spin straw into gold, is the miller so poor? What would an elf want with a baby? Vande Velde keeps the basic structure the same: always a miller's daughter must spin straw into gold for the king, always the claim is made that Rumpelstiltskin does it for her--or at least teaches her--in exchange for her firstborn--and ultimately someone must guess the creature's strange name to break that contract. In one scenario, "The Domovoi," Rumpelstiltskin is a magical, teddy bear-like creature living under the castle basement; in "Ms. Rumpelstiltskin," the titular character takes the form of an ugly and lonely witch. The miller's daughter may fall in love with the king, or with Rumpelstiltskin, and once she runs off without falling in love at all. In the closing, particularly funny version, the miller's manipulative daughter named Carleen tries to bully kindly King Gregory into marrying her. Though the opening lines feel forced (one begins, "Once upon a time, before pizzerias or Taco Bells"), Vande Velde's takes on this fairy tale are always humorous and often heartwarming. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In an engaging, witty author's note, the author questions the sense and logic of the original Rumpelstiltskin story, then goes on to answer some of her own questions by creating six new versions that confront aspects of the story in wildly various, humorous ways. The new stories are told from a variety of perspectives¾a troll named Rumpelstiltskin wonders what a human baby would taste like; a kind-hearted king, Gregory, must outwit a greedy, bad-tempered miller's daughter in order to get his peaceful life back. One of the most fascinating features of this new collection is the way the author turns around and alters preconceived ideas about feelings and motives, and even the identities of the villain and the good guys. The lively, humorous dialogue makes this book especially good for reading aloud. Besides just being fun, these stories might inspire young writers to try similar revisions of old tales. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-The problem is, as Vande Velde explains in her introductory note, that the story of Rumpelstiltskin just doesn't make sense. What kind of king would believe that the miller's daughter could spin straw into gold and still be as poor as she appeared? What kind of girl would want to marry a king who had just threatened to behead her? The author considers these inconsistencies and more and offers six new versions of the story that present other possibilities and other viewpoints. In one, a taste for human baby flesh motivates Rumpelstiltskin's bargain; in another, he is a tall and handsome elf who brings gold from his parallel world. These short variations on the story have a sly humor and a contemporary feeling, even within the fairy-tale setting, but ultimately require the same willing suspension of disbelief as the original. This is an interesting experiment that will appeal most to fairy-tale fans who just can't get enough of the traditional genre.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Of making many books there is no end, and of making many fairy tales with alternate settings, characters, or perspectives there clearly is no end in sight. Vande Velde (Magic Can Be Murder, p. 1366, etc.) extends this popular subgenre into the upper-elementary through junior-high level, with her collection of six short stories on a Rumpelstiltskin theme. She begins in an introduction by examining the logical fallacies inherent in the traditional versions of "Rumpelstiltskin," detailed in a slightly sarcastic style that will appeal to junior-high students. Each of her short stories then addresses one of these problems in various clever ways. The first three stories deal with the motivation of the Rumpelstiltskin character. In the first, Rumpelstiltskin is a mean troll who wants to eat a baby for lunch; in the second, he is a helpful, gentle elf who eventually rescues the miller's daughter and her baby from an uncaring king; and in the third, Rumplestiltskin is a domovoi, a furry Russian creature who lives under the floorboards of the castle, simply trying to keep all the humans happy. The following three stories have human characters taking on the role of Rumpelstiltskin within the story structure. The father solves the gold-spinning problem himself in one story, and the exemplary king rids himself of a greedy, conniving miller's daughter in another. In Ms. Rumpelstiltskin, the main character is a neighbor of the miller and his daughter, an unpleasant witch-like woman who wants a daughter of her own to raise (in a locked tower, as it turns out). Although the stories are rather a bit much to read all at once, separately they are both clever innovations on the traditional tale andusefulinstructionally in analyzing motivation and character. Teachers who use fairy tales in the classroom will find this an effective and amusing collection, with just the right amount of snappy sarcasm to snag the junior-high set. Young readers who like Robin McKinley's fairy-tale retellings will also enjoy this collection. (Fiction. 10-14) Weiss, Nicki THE WORLD TURNS ROUND AND ROUND Greenwillow/HarperCollins (32 pp.) Oct. 31, 2000

From the Publisher

* "Vande Velde's takes on this fairy tale are always humorous and often heartwarming."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
"An effective and amusing collection, with just the right amount of snappy sarcasm to snag the junior-high set."—Kirkus Reviews
 
"These short variations on the story have a sly humor and a contemporary feeling. . . . will appeal most to fairy-tale fans who just can't get enough of the traditional genre."—School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547691664
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
Lexile:
890L (what's this?)
File size:
93 KB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
* Vande Velde's takes on this fairy tale are always humorous and often heartwarming."—Publishers Weekly, starred review     "An effective and amusing collection, with just the right amount of snappy sarcasm to snag the junior-high set."—Kirkus Reviews     "These short variations on the story have a sly humor and a contemporary feeling. . . . will appeal most to fairy-tale fans who just can't get enough of the traditional genre."—School Library Journal

Meet the Author

Vivian Vande Velde has written many books for teen and middle grade readers, including Heir Apparent, User Unfriendly, All Hallow's Eve: 13 Stories, Three Good Deeds, Now You See It ..., and the Edgar Award–winning Never Trust a Dead Man. She lives in Rochester, New York. Visit her website at www.vivianvandevelde.com.

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Rumpelstiltskin Problem 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
You probably already know the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Just in case you don't quite remember it, here are the details: A poor miller tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. But she can't. The king then brings the daughter to the castle to spin some straw into gold. She is very highly motivated to do so since the king will kill her if she doesn't. So, the girl is in a bit of trouble, right? Luckily, a little man drops by and offers to spin the straw into gold for the girl. First in exchange for a (gold) ring, then a (gold) necklace. Then, the girl has to spin straw one last time--if she does the king will marry her--but she's out of gold (because Rumpelstiltskin obviously needs gold). So the little man asks for the daughter's first born child. She says okay. Time passes and Rumpelstiltskin comes to collect but the daughter balks, so Rumpelstiltskin gives her an out--guess his name and she can keep the child. Eventually she does and the little man is royally upset and stamps a crack in the castle and explodes. Weird story, right? Vivian Vande Velde certainly thought so. In an attempt to better justify some of the weird bits of Rumpelstiltskin, Vande Velde came up with her short story collection called, appropriately enough, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. The book features six stories. Questions answered include: Why would Rumpelstiltskin spin gold in exchange for less gold? Why would he want a baby? Why is the miller telling people his daughter can spin straw into gold? Why can't anyone guess such a bizarre name? And more. These retellings have the tone of modern fairy tales. Each story begins something like this: "Once upon a time, before pizzerias or Taco Bells . . . " creating a nice contrast between our time and that elusive time that all of the good stories happened upon. The stories run, on average, ten pages. And every one is different--Vande Velde never covers the same ground twice. In some versions the miller and his daughter save themselves, in others Rumpelstiltskin (yes! the bad guy!) does. Sometimes the king is a creep, sometimes he isn't. Each story offers a slightly different take on the story by asking "what if?" The stories feature Vande Velde's usual ingenuity, in this case taking one of the oldest fairy tales in the book and making it her own (six times). My person favorites in the collection are "Straw into Gold," "The Domovoi," and "Papa Rumpelstiltskin" because Vande Velde takes the framework of the Rumpelstiltskin story and just runs with it bringing each of these stories into completely new territory. At times heartwarming, at times sad, this collection is a must read for anyone who likes a good fairy tale (with a twist) and, of course, for anyone who is already a fan of Vivian Vande Velde. The only difference between this collection and Vande Velde's novels, I'm thinking particularly of A Well-Timed Enchantment which also turns the whole fairy tale tradition on its head, is that the short stories don't have the same depth--because they're short. This isn't a bad thing, just if you're new to Vande Velde's work I'd recommend starting with one of her novels instead because they are more illustrative of her all-around awesomeness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is definitely not the best book iv ever read! it was a book i read while waiting for another book to come from the library. this book is a good book for younger children and i think that is why i didn't like it very much. it was a good book all in all but i wouldn't recomend it to my 13 year old friends but mayby my 1st grade sister.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Rumpelstiltskin problem is a unique book. The descriptions let you use your imagination to picture the characters. It consists of 6 stories in which the main character is not always the miller's daughter. The characters vary from a troll, to a Russian myth. It is a great book for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My little sister bought this book at school, and when I started reading it I couldn't put it down! Most of them are really nice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem was a very interesting book that asked the question 'How can this story be realistic?' The auther, Vivian V. doesen't think so. so she wrote a bunch of different short storys giving more real explanations each more interesting then the next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for people who live Gail Carson Levine a great other. This as a great Fantasy book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am doing a book review on The Rumplestiltsken Problem. This book is really funny. It has a bunch of short stories about the fairy tale Rumplestiltsken. When they wrote the story, they wrote it how it should've been. A line from the book is, if this girl can spin straw into gold, then why hasn't she done that before and become rich? I think anyone with a good sense of humor would like this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the BEST!!! As I review on this site I only chose a couple of my favorite books, and this was one! I thought it was packed with Action, and Adventure. Through the bad Rumplestiltskin to the good Rumplestiltskin, it was the BEST!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I was hooked from the very beginning. If you like fairy tales then you'll definately love this book.