Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky

Zelinsky, Paul O.RUMPELSTILTSKIN. New York City: Dutton Children’s Books, 1986. ISBN 0-525-44265-0.

Plot Summary

In the retelling of the classic fairy tale, Zelinsky tells the story of a miller who sends his daughter to the king, telling him she can spin straw into gold. The daughter is told she would be killed if she couldn’t produce the gold overnight. She cries until a little man comes in and tells her he can spin the straw into gold for her in exchange for her necklace. The greedy king brings in more straw the next night and wants even more gold. Again, the little man does this task for a fee. When the king finally asks for an entire room of straw to be turned into gold, he promises the girl she will become the queen if she completes the task. She cries and again the little man appears. He says he will again spin the gold, but this time he asks for her firstborn child in exchange for his services. Over a year later, she is queen and the little man comes to collect on their agreement. He tells her he will give her three days to figure out the little man’s name or else she will still have to give up her child. The queen has her servants help her and one servant lady finds the little man in the mountains where she overhears him speaking his own name to himself. She tells the queen the man’s name so she is prepared when he returns to collect. At the end of the story, the queen gets to keep her child as she called the little man by name – Rumpelstiltskin.

Critical Analysis

The illustrations in the book are dreamlike, much in the vein of a fairy tale. There is a golden hue that seems to be over the entire book, adding to the story’s theme of spinning the straw into gold.

The character of Rumpelstiltskin looks nice in the beginning when he is offering to help the young girl the first time. The more straw there is to turn into gold and the more he asks for from the girl, the more devious he becomes. At the beginning of the book, he is looking down and appears to be just a helpful man. As he grows meaner, he looks up more and more. By the time he asks for the future queen’s unborn child, his face is turned upward and his nose is very pointy. The facial features on the queen are also quite detailed throughout the book. The updated remake of this classic story is nicely done, telling the same riveting story with beautiful illustrations.

Awards and Review Excerpts

1987 Caldecott Honor Book, Redbook Award, Society of Illustrators and AIGA Certificates of Merit, Bratislava Biennale Selection, ALA Notable Book, SLJ Best Book, Parents' Choice Award, Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and White Raven Book selection of the International Youth Library.

Publishers Weekly: “ One of the most exquisite picture books of the season, Zelinsky's Rumplestiltskin will have strong appeal for children and for adult picture-book collectors alike…Here Zelinsky has retold the narrative himself; he has captured the magic and frightening wonder of the tale while incorporating elements from a number of 19th century Grimm versions. The spare story flows beautifully, and the illustrations are extraordinary. Incredibly detailed full-color paintings show the influence of careful study of styles and techniques of European portrait and landscape painters. In Hansel and Gretel, the tale's dark side was communicated principally through Zelinsky's depiction of a powerful and frightening background. But here the interior scenesheaps and heaps of straw, and baskets of empty spindles, with rooms suddenly full of golden threadcarry the story. The little man Rumplestiltskin is by turns mysterious, comforting, devious, furious and pathetic. And Zelinsky shows dramatically the love that the miller's daughter has for her child, and the terror she feels when she realizes she may have to give him up. Rumplestiltskin is a tour de force by an immensely talented artist. Zelinsky is that rare practitioner who can create sophisticated work that adults will marvel at, and that children will joyfully embrace.”

· Read Zelinsky’s other fairy tales: Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel
· Look at other tellings of Rumpelstiltskin: Paul Galdone, Nick and Claire Page, Teodora Sirko and the original Brother’s Grimm version. How are these versions different?

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