HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Rumpelstiltskin: From the German of the Brothers Grimm
Author: and Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
Publisher: Puffin Books, reprinted 1996
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 5 – 8
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Zelinsky, Paul O. Rumpelstiltskin: From the German of the Brothers Grimm (Published in 1986 by E. P. Dutton, a division of NAL Penguin Inc.; republished in 1989 by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108). I assume that most everyone is familiar with
Rumpelstiltskin, a German fairy tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm in the 1812 edition of their Children’s and Household Tales, in which a miller lies to the king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king calls for the girl, shuts her in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, and demands she spin the straw into gold by morning or he will cut off her head. When she has given up all hope, an elf-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold in return for her necklace. The next morning the king takes the girl to a larger room filled with straw to repeat the feat, and the little man once again spins, in return for the girl’s ring.
On the third day, the girl is taken to an even larger room filled with straw and is told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold but has nothing left with which to pay the strange creature, so he extracts from her a promise that she will give him her firstborn child and so he spins the straw into gold a final time. The king keeps his promise to marry the miller’s daughter. Then, when their first child is born, the elf returns to claim his payment, but after she pleads with him, he finally consents to give up his claim to the child if she can guess his name within three days. Does she lose her child? Or will she be able to come up with the name? And how can she even learn what it is?
In this book, the story of Rumpelstiltskin is simply and gracefully retold by adapter and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky, who complements the text with richly hued oil paintings. Children enjoy this classic fairy tale for not only its mystery, but also its familiarity. In the 1812 edition of the Brothers Grimm tales, Rumpelstiltskin simply ran away angrily and never came back. The revised 1857 edition had a more gruesome ending, in which an enraged Rumpelstiltskin drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist, then seized the left foot with both hands, and tore himself in two. Zelinsky opts to use the oral version originally collected by the Brothers Grimm, where Rumpelstiltskin flies out of the window on a cooking spoon.