Feb. 20th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
Harve and Margot Zemach's Duffy and the Devil, the 1974 Caldecott winner, is another totally charming book. Young Duffy is hired as a maid to help with the spinning and knitting - except, alas, she can't spin! But fortunately, as she is sitting in the attic weeping dolefully over the "whillygogs and whizamagees" of the spinning wheel she has taken apart in a vain attempt to figure out how it works, the devil shows up and offers to do her spinning for her.

It's a twist on the Rumpelstiltskin tale, basically, except that instead of saving our heroine from an impossible task, the Rumpelstiltskin figure is just enabling her laziness. And it totally pays off for Duffy, too: the master of the house is so enchanted by the stockings she's supposedly knitted that he marries her, and then she spends most of her days dancing in the green "wearing satin gowns, and the best of silks and satins, and red-heeled shoes from France...frolicking away the time while the corn was grinding."

It also has a twist on the classic Rumpelstiltskin tale that I really liked: once the contract is broken (the long-suffering housekeeper finds the Devil's name for Duffy) all the devil's knitting vanishes into ashes. "All my work!" Duffy cries, not missing a trick. "Gone up in smoke! I swear I'll never knit another thing again!"

Which neatly solves the awkward problem of how to explain her sudden loss of knitting ability.

There's a sort of moral anarchy to the book - Duffy does all sorts of things that characters are often punished for (lies about her knitting attainments, makes a deal with the devil, whiles away the time dancing rather than working), but she's basically a decent person nonetheless and it all comes right for her in the end.


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