Monday, April 7, 2008

"Rumple What?" by Nancy Springer

This short story is a re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. It gives real motivations and agendas to the otherwise stock characters. The farmer's daughter, a basically practical girl, can't believe her father is out to kill her. When rescued by Rumplestiltskin, she fully intends to fulfill the "first born child" part of the bargain. However, when she gives birth, the maternal instinct kicks in with a vengeance, and she can't imagine voluntarily giving up her beautiful baby. Rumplestiltskin himself is a creature ostracized by everyone. He's not human, not elf, not dwarf or pixie. In asking for the child, he hopes to raise someone that will love him for him, instead of shunning him for his difference. The author has to resort to "the force of story" to get Rumplestiltskin to give the girl a way out (the name-guessing), but other than that this story fills in the missing motivations in the fairy tale, answering the "why" questions that arise.

It's good, however, that this story is as short as it is. There's obviously a very long and involved essay lurking in this story, just begging to come out. The whole tone of it smacks more of commentary than of fiction. There's nothing wrong with that, and on the whole it is a funny and thoughtful piece, but it swings a little too close to didacticism for comfort.

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