Rumpelstiltskin

by Brothers Grimm, adapted and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Magnificent oil paintings of the late medieval setting enhance this retelling of the story about the strange little man who helps a miller's daughter spin straw into gold on condition she will surrender to him her firstborn child.

A young girl will be condemned to death if she does not spin straw into gold for the king as her father claimed she could. A small elf-like man hears her cries of despair.  Twice he helps her, accepting pieces of her jewelry as payment but on the third night she has nothing else to give. The little man says he will accept her firstborn child when she becomes queen. She accepts the bargain, thinking nothing like that is likely to happen. When she is queen and her son is born the little man appears again; she is frantic to save her child. The little man takes pity on her and says if she can guess his name he will release her from her promise. A faithful servant happens to overhear the little man riding a wooden spoon around his fire and singing out his name so the Queen can finally tell his name. Rumpelstiltskin.

Exquisitely detailed illustrations perfectly capture the splendid beauty of the late medieval period, as well as the unique qualities of each character.  This Rumpelstiltskin looks like a very short medieval scholar combined with the Strawberry Snatcher. He is fascinating--insolent, sympathetic, exasperating, and ultimately outwitted. Varying the full page paintings with 2-page horizontal spreads above a small amount of text moves the story along smoothly.

According to the author’s notes which give a history of this classic tale, this retelling is based on the 1819 Grimm version with a few changes including the ending in which Rumplestiltskin just flies away on his wooden spoon, The book was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1987.