Rump – The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
By Liesl Shurtliff, published 2013
“Maybe destiny isn’t something that just happens. Maybe destiny is something you do. Maybe destiny is like a seed and it grows. I wasn’t powerless.”
Creating imaginative backstories for classic fairy tales is an interesting form of writing. Each children’s book that takes on an old tale in some ways makes the old tale new again. Take Rumpelstiltskin. Normally he can be seen as a bad guy who makes demands. But in this unusual children’s book about Rumpelstiltskin, we find the opposite – he’s unable to make demands at all, until he discovers his name!
After reading another retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, Straw into Gold, I realized there’s no reason to compare different versions, as each children’s book is literally a brand new book, with only the hero in common. Even then, the hero has different qualities, traits, and adventures. This particular version takes on a fairly sophisticated theme: What is my destiny? The hero meets a variety of fantasy characters, from pixies to witches, as he tries to discover what his destiny is.
The strength of this children’s book is in the imaginative world that Rump lives in, complete with powerful magic surrounding him. It also has lots of moments of humor, especially young boy humor (i.e., scatological). If there is a weakness, it seems that at the end, the resolution comes to us a bit didactically, as Rump discovers his own inner power. There’s no real reason that he gets it – he just understands. However, since the understanding is a valuable one – we are the masters of our destiny – I don’t mind that the author didn’t master the ending. The rest of the book holds together well.