Rump: the True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Knopf, 2013 261 pgs
First-time author, Shurtliff, takes on the traditional Rumplestiltskin tale and breaths new life into it. Poor Rump is an undersized orphan who lives with his elderly granny in a small cottage on a mountain previously filled with gold. Rump must toil away mining for gold all day, but times have become lean. The mountain has been stripped of its treasure leaving little left for the greedy miller and gold-hungry king. Rump finds his late mother's spinning wheel and, against Granny's wishes, gives it a try. Much to his surprise, when he feeds straw through the wheel, it turns into gold. The miller instantly suspects Rump's magical talent and exploits it for his own gain. Connected to this magical spell is Rump's inability to refuse any offer made for the gold, so the Miller cheats Rump dreadfully, practically starving the little family, until Granny finally perishes. Rump's troubles escalate as the king visits the village wanting to find the source of the spools of gold. The miller gives credit to his daughter, who is whisked off to the castle. Rump feels obligated to leave behind his small cottage and only friend, Red, in order to help Opal, the Miller's daughter. Opal offers Rump the two things of value that she owns. Finally by night three she has run out of items to trade. It is now that Opal offers up her first born child and Rump is unable to decline, even though he has no interest in Opal's offspring. Rump leaves the castle and Opal and meets some new and interesting friends, including the castle cook and her soldier son, a friendly yet grungy gang of trolls, and, finally, his late mother's long-last family. Rump searches for peace, yet finds himself being drawn back to the castle to collect that which Opal owes him, whether he wants it or not. It is up to Rump to find the strength and magic within himself to break the curse before it destroys him and those he loves.
Shurtliff is not the first author to tackle the fairy tale Rumplestiltskin (my favorite being The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vande Velde) and to try and make sense of the strange, yet fascinating tale. She sticks close to the original both in setting and plot points, but fleshes out the story, adding characters and background, helping to make Rump's motivations more believable. The original story has us wondering: who is this Rumpelstiltskin? Why does he chose to help the miller's daughter? Why does he want a baby? Shurtliff clears up some of these questions and sheds new light into the background of the once mysterious gold-spinning creature. Shurtliff paints a vibrant fairy tale world filled with mischievous pixies, thick-headed gnomes and misunderstood trolls. The story contains character development, magic, and gentle humor. This book has substance, but is plot driven and reads quickly. Themes include overcoming your genetic destiny, the evils of greed, standing up to bullies, finding your inner-courage, and the importance of names. The author has gone on to pen Jack: the True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, released this past spring and will release Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, coming in 2016. Fairy Tales are trending right now (yay!) and this title will appeal to fans of the Chris Colfer Land of Stories series, the Ever After High series and the new Disney powerhouse The Descendants.