RAPUNZEL RE-TELLING NUMBER 1
Megan Morrison’s Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel
If you missed the introduction to this year’s Fairytale Fantasy series of posts, find it HERE.
Of the Rapunzel-themed novels I decided to discuss this year, Morrison’s Grounded, Book I of her Tyme series (2015), is the YA book of the three. It skews a young YA, too, so a thirteen-year-old could comfortably read it. In fact, the publisher, Scholastic, suggests it for grades 5-9, so it’s appropriate for even younger readers. As an adult reader, though, I’m here to tell you that it is a fun and happy read, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Grounded starts with the classic “once upon a time” beginning, but from there, Rapunzel is nothing like the princess you expect to see in the story. We readers can tell the imprisoned Rapunzel is a spunky girl, even though she has been thoroughly gas-lit by the witch (whom she knows only as Witch) into believing her life is perfect. As in the story, Rapunzel has freakishly long hair, and the only way to get into her tower is by climbing up her braid. Witch calls out, Rapunzel lowers her hair via an ingenious little wheel device, and Witch climbs up. But one day, a strange boy appears instead. Exciting adventures ensue, and the result is. . .well, you know the fairy tale, so you know roughly how it turns out. But you’re probably not counting on all the twists and turns Morrison takes you on the pathway to solving Rapunzel’s mystery and fulfilling her quest.
Morrison’s ingenuity is one of the book’s many pleasures. All the tropes are there, but often fractured and stood on their heads. Witch, for one–is she thoroughly wicked? What motivates her? The complications of the wicked witch trope are by now pretty familiar. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, for example, retells the Wizard of Oz story through the witch’s point of view, and other writers have done similar things with wicked witches. Morrison is able to take this potentially tired newish twist in delightful new ways.
Another device Morrison uses with aplomb is the combination of the Rapunzel story with other fairy tales. In this novel, the most important of these is the Jack and the Beanstalk story, another tale of a plucky main character with a tall structure to climb. Not to mention one of the most endearing of all the features of this endearing book, the fairy tale of the Frog Prince.
The characters themselves are part of the fun. They don’t talk and act like cardboard cutouts from some stereotyped story. They are fully developed and very human (or amphibian). The magical parts are skillfully sifted into the human parts, often with comic effect. Rapunzel’s hair, for example. She does get out of her tower and goes on an elaborate quest, but who could do that and at the same time manage yards and yards of heavy hair?
The world-building is pretty ingenious, with plenty of interesting fairy lore. I’m guessing the other books in Morrison’s Tyme fantasy series do even more with it. If anyone has read them, report back!
There’s a flirty hint of romance, too, but nothing too strenuous. Most important, nothing that takes away from Rapunzel’s determination and ingenuity and grit. She is a great girl role-model, no swooning princess waiting in a tower to be rescued. There’s a whole lotta rescuing going on here, but a lot of the rescuing is by Rapunzel herself.
I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I haven’t read the others in the series, but if they are anywhere close to this ingenious, they’d make a great gift for anyone in grades 5-9. Or. . .for someone older. Someone a whole lot older. . . /wink
COMING UP NEXT: My discussion of Measha Stone’s Tower. NOT a book to give to a kid. Be warned.
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