Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Rumpelstiltskin retellings

Here’s a post at tor.com: Five Retellings of “Rumpelstiltskin” — A Very Odd Story, Indeed

That really is a strange fairy tale. Not one of my favorites, possibly because everyone in the story is a villain in one way or another.

The father is inexplicably stupid for claiming his daughter can spin straw into gold, then sticking to that lie even when it puts his daughter in danger. The king is a villain, for obvious reasons. Rumpelstiltskin is a villain for extorting the promise of a child from the daughter. The daughter is a villain for agreeing.

So when someone decides to do a retelling, it’s not surprising that they generally re-cast the story elements so that somebody gets to be more heroic.

For example, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde evidently presents a collection of retellings in which one character after another gets to play the role of the hero — that sounds like fun.

The only one of these five I’ve actually read is A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. I liked it, but … not that much, I guess? Because I’ve never re-read it and don’t remember that much about it. The problem may have been that Rumpelstiltskin is just not a fairy tale that appeals to me very much.

I do mean to read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik one of these days, but just have never quite picked it up and opened it. Good to be reminded about it.

I do rather like the idea of this historical:

This non-magical retelling is set in 1880s New York City and follows the story of Bertie, a young Irish immigrant who becomes a seamstress in the employ of a textile tycoon. She becomes entangled with Ray Stalls, who mysteriously uses an old spinning wheel and crimson thread to create dresses that look like they’re spun with gold. There’s romance, but it’s sweet and subtle rather than front and center.

A sweet romance = a much nicer implication about that first-born child, doesn’t it? That story sounds charming. I think I’ll pick up a sample.

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7 Comments Rumpelstiltskin retellings

  1. SarahZ

    He made an appearance in a book I read recently, but I’m worried if I mention which series it’ll constitute a spoiler.

  2. SarahZ

    And, I liked that short story collection, I think, but it was a while ago.

    Spinning Silver had elements of other folklore/fairy tales besides the one story, if I recall correctly. I wasn’t sure where it was going at first, but ended up really liking it

  3. Elaine T

    I was surprised the OP on Tor had missed Farjeon’s retelling The Silver Curlew, but someone brought it up in comments. And we discovered Rumpstiltskin’s Daughter when the Teen was picture book age. We all quite liked it. The Teen enjoyed Lickess’ take, but I found it lacking in some way I can’t articulate at this distance.

  4. Kathryn McConaughy

    Never After by Rebecca Lickiss has a lot of Rumplestiltskin elements; many other fairy tales are mixed in as well

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