Liesl Shurtliff is the master at taking a well known fairy tale and giving you a completely different perspective. When Rump first came out, it was such an interesting book and a whole different way to approach a fractured fairy tale, or as she likes to call it, “the (fairly) true story.” In Grump (Knopf Books, May 2018), Shurtliff takes the beloved Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and gives us an alternate story that could have been, since us humans often change the details of the stories and leave out the most important parts.
* Thank you to NetGalley for the digital review copy. All opinions are my own.
Grump takes the focus of Snow White and focuses it on the dwarves and specifically on Grump. The dwarves themselves are an interesting crew that could use a little explaining. According to Germanic mythology, a dwarf lives in the mountains or the earth, so why are the dwarves living in the forest when Snow White comes running? All comes clear when Shurtliff tells the tale from Borlen’s perspective.
Borlen is a dwarf that never quite fit in. Because he was born closer to the surface, he feels most alive closer to the surface rather than deep down beneath the ground, the opposite of all the other dwarves. He doesn’t seem to make friends very well and is often thought of as slow or unintelligent and treated as such. Understandably this makes him a little grumpy. He wants desperately to get back to the surface, just to see it again, and when the opportunity presents itself, he does. However, dwarves fear the surface because if a human “takes them by the beard” they are required to do their bidding.
On the surface, he winds up befriending Snow White’s step-mother. Since Borlen is not used to human ways, he doesn’t understand her vanity or cruelty. The Evil Queen, Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore, is as awful as always. One great item was showing the play of words on “fairest.” In the dwarf world, those who are in power are so because they are fair – as in honest, upright, and trustworthy. Of course, the Queen sees fairest as most beautiful and knocks off many beautiful maidens, not just Snow White.
Grump deals a lot with how we see ourselves, how we attempt to fit in, and how we attempt to make things right. The biggest lesson that Borlen/Grump learns is that what the mirror reflects back to us is what we put in it – good or evil. An excellent read for lovers of fairy tales!