The Witch's Boy



Rumplestiltskin revealed! Why he did what he did.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers who enjoy this retelling of a popular fairy tale might want to take a look at similar titles, such as Ella Enchanted or Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth.

Positive messages

Careful readers will pick up on how selfishness and greed lead to Lump's misery. 

Positive role models

Lump is viciously spoiled and vindictive most of the way through the book -- but at the end there is some hope for him and his heart. 


A beheading, various injuries and deaths, Lump is tortured, dogs are killed.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that extrapolating the lives of fairy-tale characters before and after their stories take place can make for interesting discussions -- and may inspire readers to search out other modern retellings. There is some violence here, including a beheading, various injuries, and death.  Lump is tortured and dogs are killed -- but it is within a context where witches and djinns exist. Lump is a surly, ungrateful boy, but he is ultimately redeemed.

Parents say

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What's the story?

An unusually ugly baby is left for a great witch to care for. Knowing little about children, she names him Lump, and gets a bear to be his nursemaid and a captive afreet to build his nursery. With these companions he grows up ignorant of his appearance until the first time he meets other humans. Badly treated by them, Lump becomes vengeful and petulant, and his disobedient actions cause his witch-mother to lose her powers. Forced to flee with a cat-turned-human, they become itinerant entertainers, and Lump turns into a loutish young man. He becomes obsessed with Aude, a cold but beautiful social climber and, after his actions cause his mother to flee and his companions to be imprisoned, he embarks on heedless acquisition of wealth to impress Aude.

Is it any good?


The novelized fairy tale is a rich and growing genre, and this is a more than worthy entry. In the original Grimm story there is little reason for the appearance of the little man, his offer to help, or his demand for the woman's first baby. His help at first seems generous, and after he unreasonably demands her first born he gives her a way out. But when she succeeds in guessing his name, he tears himself in half. Very strange behavior. A member of the Actor's Studio would have reason to ask, "What's the motivation?"

Author Michael Gruber provides a thorough backstory that explains all, as well as an after-the-fairy-tale ending that wraps things up a little too easily. Lyrically written, engrossing, at time humorous, though a bit overlong, this vivid reimagining is as prickly and unpredictable as Rumplestiltskin himself.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the character Lump: He seems surly and ungrateful -- does the way he's been treated justify his behavior? Does his ultimate redemption ring true?

  • Can you think of other examples of fairy tales that were retold to give another idea about a character? What is fun about reading these stories? What would be fun about writing one?

Book details

Author:Michael Gruber
Genre:Fairy Tale
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:May 15, 2005
Number of pages:377
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byknuckoff April 9, 2008

All fantasy lovers should definately read this!!!!

I'm 15 and this book was simple but i read at like a university lvl. This book caught my attention and Didn't lose it the entire time i read it. So buy it and read it.
Teen, 14 years old Written bybrawler1-5-0 April 9, 2008

very good for he who doen't like real world stuff

Written byAnonymous February 7, 2011
I have to say, I have never read this book before. It looks really cool. Though, from wht the review said, it looks violent and a bit gorey. Just saying. Thank you for reading.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value


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