Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Zelinsky, Paul O.1986.  RUMPELSTILTSKIN. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-44903-5

Plot Summary
A miller's daughter is put into an impossible predicament when her father's boastful lies about her magical ability to spin straw into gold.  The greedy king throws her into a room full of straw, and he threatens her life for spun gold.  Her future seems bleak until a mysterious diminutive man comes along and completes the task for her.  After she has given him all she has, he requests her firstborn and, in an attempt to save her life, she complies.  When the day finally arrives and her baby's future is in jeopardy, the dwarfish man reappears to stake his claim.  The only way to foil the plan is for her to guess his unusual name.

Critical Analyis
The miller's daughter's story evokes feelings of anguish and obligation.  Unlike the "happily ever after" types of tales, she ends up to a stingy king with her child's life on the line.  The father and king are portrayed as insensitive male figures, and then the reader is left wondering about Rumpelstiltskin's motives and origins.  While the illustrations are remarkably beautiful and captivating, the age-old story seems to lack a defined line between good and evil.  The moral of the story is distant, and Rumpelstiltskin plays a confusing character.  He teaches about the repercussions of loud reckless behavior.   Zelinsky is a master at portraying the madness of the folktale, and it is quite apparent in the eyes of Rumpelstiltskin on the front cover of the book. 


Caldecott Honor Award

Reading Rainbow: Best 100 Titles


"Zelinsky's smooth retelling and glowing pictures cast the story in a new and beautiful light." - School Library Journal

"Zelinaky's illustrations are opulently painted, full of classical architectural detail, fantastic distant landscapes, and that early use of perspective which gives a raked stage effect." - Kirkus Review

"Zelinsky is that rare practitioner who can create sophisticated work that adults will marvel at, and that children will joyfully embrace." - Publishers Weekly


  • Rumpel's World:  Readers can complete the book by writing a fiction story based on Rumpelstiltskin's origins and goals.  Teacher-librarians can assist learners by encouraging them to justify his actions.
  • Artful Analysis:  Students can read and view other works retold by the Brother's Grim, and compare and contrast works of art.
  • Poor Winner/Loser:  Children can be given cards which reflect a specific win-lose situation.  They can project their feelings in small groups and/or on paper.  
    • First round: Students do not hold back boasting positive situations and complaining or making excuses for negative situations.
    • Second round:  Students find more productive ways to handle winning and losing situations, and discuss.

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