Retelling Book Review: Straw Into Gold by Gary Schmidt

Straw Into GoldStraw Into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After years of avoiding Rumpelstiltskin retellings while I worked on my own, it’s been fun to read different interpretations of one of my top three favorite fairy tales. This book takes for its premise that the queen never guessed Rumpelstiltskin’s name, so he ended up making off with her child. As the story unfolds, the reader begins to understand his reasons for doing so. Since only the prologue involves the events of the original story, it’s really more of a “continuation” than a retelling.

This story is told from the perspective of Rumpelstiltskin’s son, so he is immediately redeemed of his villainous role in the story when we meet him through the eyes of one who has been loved and raised by him. Although the writing and voice here do not come across as effortlessly as in Schmidt’s later, more realistic work, it’s adequate for a few hours immersed in fantasy. It reminded me of the kind of fantasy I loved most as an adolescent, sort of generically medieval with a magic system and character relationships that were not too complicated.

I think my favorite part of this retelling was the way it developed the characters of the King and the queen/miller’s daughter, who came alive with all their shortcomings and vulnerabilities and wounds beneath the official titles and dignified postures. What I liked least was how little we actually got to see/learn about Schmidt’s version of Rumpelstiltskin, who was absent for most of the book. Still, it was enjoyable enough, if not among the most memorable fairy tale retellings I’ve read.

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