The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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Last week, Juliette Wade was talking about the "why?" question when it came to stories, especially with first lines, whether they're at the beginning of a story or simply at the beginning of a paragraph. Wanting to know why something happens is our motivation to keep reading. Authors who include plenty of why moments will hook their readers. But if they never answer them, they will disappoint those same readers.

Just look at the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Haven't you ever had question after question when reading the basic story? From the back of The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde:

Why would a miller claim that his daughter could spin straw into gold? Why would the king believe him? And why would an 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 this wayward fairy tale, Vivian Vande Velde provides six alternative versions of the classic account, each of which is far more intriguing and revealing than the original.

These stories are:

A Fairy Tale In Bad Taste
Straw Into Gold
The Domovoi
Papa Rumpelstiltskin
Ms. Rumpelstiltskin
As Good As Gold

Not only are the stories fun, but the author's note in the beginning is a must-read. She begins by comparing the game she used to call Gossip and that I know as Telephone to the way fairy tales have changed over time from oral retellings. Each time the story was told, it was a little different based on time and place. Eventually, so many details would have been changed or lost that the story made no sense anymore. Just like gossip, and just like this story in particular. She goes through the story and elaborates on what doesn't make sense. Her assessments and asides had me chuckling throughout. How many author's notes can you say you've actually enjoyed?

So if you like fairy tales, especially ones that make sense, you should go find a copy of this book. I like to think that even Juliette's daughter would find her why's fully answered.

Quick reminder: if you haven't already, go to Monday's post and enter in my milestone drawing. All you have to do is tell me how you found my blog and what made you decide to follow me. Yes, even if I know perfectly well how we became acquainted. I'm seeing who is paying attention. You have through the end of Friday, so what are you waiting for? ;D


Jennifer said...

This is one of my TBR books. I have always thought that the Rumpelstiltskin story doesn't make much sense. Now I want to read it even more! I like the idea that she talks through the story's flaws. That sounds really interesting.

Jaleh D said...

I was just looking over some of the other books she's written and noticed that she's given Red Riding Hood the same treatment: Cloaked In Red.

Her book listing:

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