03 February 2012


Character Connection 31

Has it really been six months since I last did a Character Connection post??? Unbelievable.

Let me see if I still remember how to do this properly!

Please note that the featured book in this post was read for a 2011 Reading Challenge. I'd like to state, for the record, that I read it in 2011, which means it counts for the challenge. A fact that would be more impressive if it weren't the only book for that challenge I managed to finish in the 365 days I had to read four. (LOL!)

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem
by Vivian Vande Velde

In the beginning [faerie tales] were told, not written down. And over time, as the stories were repeated by different people in different situations, they constantly shifted and changed--the way your story might shift and change, for example, if you were caught putting shaving cream on your cat. How you justified the situation to your parents might differ sharply from what you told your friends, which would probably be different from any explanation you might offer to the cat.

That's why sometimes we have completely different versions of the same story. But in some cases, so many details have been lost that the story stops making sense.

That's how I feel about the story of Rumpelstiltskin--it makes no sense . . .

Unlike Vivan Vande Velde, I never had any problem with the traditional Rumpelstiltskin. It makes so much sense to me that some fallen or diabolical force would take the form of a sinister, stunted man, target a young virgin, and try to con her out of her first baby. Nor am I put off by the king first threatening to execute the girl if she cannot spin straw into gold and then making her his queen. The archetypes speak as clearly to me today as they did when I was a child.

And I daresay they spoke to Vande Velde, too, however much she takes the mickey out of them, because her reimaginings of one of faerie land's most evil villains doesn't supplant the archetype with something more "realistic," but instead creates temporary substitutes out of other recognisable folktale types. Something she does six times!

When I first read these stories, all in one go, on a lazy weekend morning, my favourite alternative Rumpelstiltskin was the Domovoi. If you know your Slavic folklore, then you remember that domoviye live underneath the houses of lucky homeowners and that they do all they can to make sure everyone living on the premises is happy. I thought this was an interesting twist--and I have a soft spot for characters who find their own happiness in the happiness of others.

The romantic in me also liked the Rumpelstiltskin who falls in love with the miller's daughter. (I'll bet you didn't see that coming! Now I just hope I haven't spoiled too much . . .)

And believe it or not, my least favourite was the one closest to the original character. =P Everything Vande Velde says about the original story not making sense, I could say about his story. How cutely ironic.


Image Source: The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde


Jenny said...

Sheesh! I consider myself analytical but I would never have thought to analyze a fairy tale. Which is ridiculous, really. I'm quite sure they're full of symbolism.

Enbrethiliel said...


Faerie tales are the most fun to analyse because we're all so familiar with them! If you review one in the future, I'm sure it will be fascinating. =)

Introverted Jen said...

I'm sorry I missed this post! I'm taking your suggestion and going to a monthly linky. The announcement will go out later this week.

Now, as for Rumpelstiltskin...

This is one of my least-favorite fairy tales although I don't actually remember all that much about the original. I know that Misty at Book Rat loves A Curse Dark as Gold, so I'll probably read that at some point.

Mr. Gold on the tv show Once Upon a Time is quickly replacing the "real" Rumpelstiltskin in my thoughts. And he's so...devious...that I don't like him very much either. I don't think that Rumpeltiltskin and I are meant to have a very good relationship! :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


That's all right, Jen! =)

I've never seen Once Upon a Time (being more of a Fairy Tale Theatre person, not that the two are mutually exclusive), but I'd be curious to see another version of Rumpelstiltskin. And I don't think anyone is meant to have a good relationship with him, even if they do like the story LOL! ;-)