Sunday, May 5, 2013


Title:  Thumbelina
Author: Unabridged translation by Erik Haugaard
Illustrator: Arlene Graston
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Genre: Fairy Tale
Level: Intermediate
Number of Pages: 30
Pub. Date: 1974

Summary:  A woman wants a little child, and when she goes to a witch that's exactly what she gets. Thumbelina is born from inside a flower. Thumbelina lives with the woman who wished for her. She is pretty and sings beautifully. But one night an ugly old toad steals into the home and sees in Thumbelina a bride for her even uglier son. She snatches Thumbelina away. Thumbelina is held captive on a lily pad in a marsh until some fish that hear her story, sever the lily pad, allowing it to float away. She's befriended by a butterfly as she sails downriver on her lily pad boat. Until along comes a May bug but, who also sees in Thumbelina a potential wife. That is, until the other bugs convince him how ugly Thumbelina is. When winter comes, a kind old field-mouse takes Thumbelina in, feeding her and keeping her warm in return for her company. Unfortunately, the field-mouse thinks highly of her blind old neighbor, a mole, and thinks Thumbelina the perfect match for him. Thumbelina finds herself facing again an unwanted marriage. Thumbelina helps a swallow regain strength, and a year later he returns to save her from her pending nuptials. She flies on his back to a meadow, where she discovers that in each flower dwells a tiny person. There she finds an eligible prince who sees Thumbelina and falls for her beauty. Thumbelina is renamed, given a pair of working wings, and lives happily ever after.

Critique: This fairy tale features a witch that grants an old woman the wish of having an extremely small child. There is also magic in the fact that the animals speak to her. At the end of the stories there is another common element of fairy tales, fairies, which befriend her. The original story is preserved in the fact that it’s an unabridged retelling of the original story. The illustrations also
Disney's Thumbelina
help children interpret the story and the characters, like the illustration of the May bug, which children may not know about.

Response: I thought I remembered reading this story as a child, but when reading it it was very different from what I remembered. I remembered the part about her living with an old lady, but I didn’t remember all of her unwanted marriage attempts. I would not want to be in her shoes when she was almost forced to marry a toad, May bug or mole. Those aren’t animals I would ever like to marry if I was a small person.

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