The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

4.6 10
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… See more details below

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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547691664
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
601,326
Lexile:
890L (what's this?)
File size:
0 MB
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

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