Ouch! by Natalie Babbitt, illustrated by Fred Marcellino

(Suggested reading level: Preschool – Grade 3)

This is a delightful retelling of Grimms’ “The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs,” a fairy tale that was unfamiliar to me. This version does leave out some of the original, possibly to make it a shorter story.

A baby boy, born to a peasant family, has a birthmark in the shape of a crown, a sign that his destiny is to marry a princess. The King, when he hears this, tries to kill the baby, but his plan fails and the baby is rescued. The child grows up to be a pleasant, hard-working young man named Marco. When the King finds him , he tries again to have the youth killed. The plan backfires and Marco marries the princess.

Once again, it was lucky that Marco was so full of confidence because he was going to need it now more than ever. The King came home in the middle of things and when he saw what had happened, he was furious. But all at once he had an idea. “Before you can settle in with my daughter,” he said to Marco, “you’ll have to do down to Hell and bring me three golden hairs from the Devil’s head.” And he grinned because he was sure the Devil would never let Marco come back.

Sounds dangerous, impossible mission, right? But with the help of the Devil’s kindly old grandmother, Marco will succeed and live happily ever after. Don’t worry, though, the King gets his punishment in the end, a rather fitting one at that.

Another fairy tale with a horrible King/father. Seems to be a recurring theme in these tales. We just had two evil kings a couple of weeks ago in “The Twelve Brothers,” also one of the Grimms’ stories.

Even though the trip into Hell sounds scary, Babbitt’s writing is kid-friendly. The illustrations are well done, too. The entrance to Hell is slightly creepy, but the Devil and his grandmother live in a warm comfortable home. The Devil is actually not frightening at all, with his tights and his red pajamas. I think Amber (10) was a little taken aback by how normal he looked. And his grandmother is the stereotypical sweet old woman.

I enjoyed this re-telling. The writing is casual and humorous. The full-color illustrations depict a Renaissance era and let us travel with Marco from the town he is born in, to a miller’s cottage, to the castle, down to hell and back again. Amber and I enjoyed the journey.

First published September 1998
32 pages

Challenges: 100+

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.