For the next couple of weeks I will be posting a blog a week looking at one the tales in Fearie Tales. Kicking off this week with a look at Ramsey Campbell’s Find My Name.
I thought this short story was a wonderful retelling of the traditional Rumpelstiltskin story because it which brought the tale into the modern era without losing any of the menace that I remember from the original Brothers Grimm tale. With the simple, accurate, portrayal of a Grandmother looking after a child, Campbell was able to create scenes which readers could relate to and by doing this gave the piece a stark realism. Gone are the Kings and Queens and threads of gold, replaced by an abusive husband, a wife who is willing to do anything to save her child and escape and a loving Grandmother who can’t help but blame herself for the life her daughter fell into.
And through all of this permeates the character we know as Rumpelstiltskin, as intimidating and arrogant as ever. And yet Rumpelstiltskin isn’t just accepted in the tale. The Grandmother worries about her sanity before coming to believe that there is a magical creature who wants to take her grandson away, something I think we all would do in that situation.
With this firm rooting in the real, Campbell creates the thing I love most about traditional folk and fairy tales, a true feeling that this can happen. By removing the surreal wallpaper put up around many modern re-telling of fairy tales Find My Name is able to deliver strong moral lessons, which are remarkably similar to the original, do not brag, do not boast and do not be selfish.
The character of Rumpelstiltskin oozes arrogance and boasts and brags that the Grandmother will never be able to stop him and it is this arrogance which, as in the original tale, led to him accidentally providing his name. In this the lesson to not brag and boast is enforced.
The selfless act of the Grandmother is the other lesson. The story highlights how much she will do for her Grandchild and because of this she is able to save him, not only from Rumpelstiltskin but from his abusive father and a parentless life. This is the strongest message in the tale for me, that the love of a caregiver, in this case the Grandmother, can provide a life for any child. Campbell’s twist of having the grandparent be the most selflessness person in the tale is brilliant. Originally it was the would be grandparent who’s bragging created the situation where Rumpelstiltskin has a claim on the child. By turning it around so that the grandparent is the saviour Campbell nods his hat to the original tale, also done with his use of the revised 1857 ending of Rumpelstiltskin tearing himself in two, providing a modern take on family structure.
All in all I found thought this was a fun modern twist on the Rumpelstiltskin tale, and a great place to being the #FearieTalesBlog. But what did you think?