Chris is tired of her boring, provincial life. She knows her destiny isn’t on the farm, and when the king announces a new contest for young witches, Chris knows this is her chance. So what if she isn’t that good at magic, it’s fate. When things go south at the castle though, she has nobody to turn to but an obnoxious and mysterious member of the Fair Folk.
Rumplestiltskin is written and illustrated by H0lyhandgrenade and is a retelling of the classic fairytale. Fairytale retellings are always popular, especially in webcomics it seems. Megan Kearney’s Beauty and the Beast, or The Evil Queen by Jessi Sheron are other examples of the genre. Rumplestiltskin follows the plot of the original story pretty closely, with Chris finding herself forced to spin gold out of straw, but adds elements. More than a retelling, Rumplestiltskin is an expansion. The comic expands on the fairytale in two major ways. The first is in world building. Fairytales often take place in a world with dreamlike logic. Why does the evil queen want Snow White’s heart? Because of course she does, she’s an evil queen; it’s what evil queens do. While appealing, it’s hard to support a larger narrative on dream logic. H0ly creates a more concrete world, with a history of war and strife that motivates characters. Chris’s father died in the war, leaving her and her brother Toby to fend for themselves, which gives Toby a hatred of the nobility. This past war also motivates the King’s actions later on. Rumplestiltskin also takes place in a world where all the fairytales are true. Chris’s hometown has a statue dedicated to Jack, of Jack and the beanstalk fame.
The second way the comic expands on the fairytale is in the morality of the characters. Considering how popular it is, Rumplestiltskin is one of the thornier fairytales. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty all have a clear moral: a heroine who does nothing wrong but being born, an evil spiteful creature who curses her for it, and a heroic prince who rescues her from peril. But Rumplestilskin is about a woman who is given an impossible task by a king on punishment of death, who then trades her first born to a fairy to save her life, marries the king who was going to kill her, and then when the fairy comes to collect the boy, tricks him and keeps her son. None of the principal actors come out well in the story, which is what H0ly’s comic really grabs on to. Chris is an interestingly unlikable character. She possesses the usual characteristics of a Belle-like Disney princess, but the negative aspects of these traits are on display as well. Chris is a dreamer, reading books and yearning of something more, but while she’s dreaming she’s always shirking her responsibilities on the farm and not realizing the stress her brother is under to provide for them. Her faults come out in the story naturally, but they are also a favorite talking point of the Fair himself (there’s a character named Rumplestiltskin, but he’s not the character in the ‘Rumplestiltskin role’ interestingly). He often berates her for her impulsivity and selfishness. As the story progresses, the questions of accountability, victimhood, and rationalization become more central.
The art is in black in white with thick patches of black. H0ly’s style is very clean and appealing. There’s a clear manga influence in the entire work, from character design, page layout, and tropes referenced. The heavy line gives characters a real weight. Rumplestiltskin is a fairytale expansion that explores the moral relativity of its main players. It updates every Tuesday.