Do you ever just stare at your bookshelves, not necessarily looking for anything to read, just enjoying all the spines? I might do it more than I care to admit. This morning, I was looking at some of the kids books we have downstairs and saw this retelling of Rip Van Winkle retold by Kay Brown that my grandma and grandpa gave to me in 1980. I would have been 5 years old.
Rip Van Winkle was written by Washington Irvin in 1819. This version is simplified, making it a good read for children. The original takes place before and after the Revolutionary War, but Brown simply tells us that it happened a long time ago in a village surrounded by the Catskill Mountains.
Rip Van Winkle was a kind man, well-liked by all the villager and especially the children to whom he told stories and played marbles. However, he was lazy and escaped work around the house by sneaking out and going to the inn to meet with his friends and tell stories until his wife found him and chased him home with her broom.
Rip’s favorite escape was to take his gun and climb the mountains. He didn’t care about shooting anything, just enjoyed the scenery. One day, during such a walk, Rip saw a small man carrying a barrel. Rip helped the man and, when he picked the barrel up he heard a sound like thunder in the distance. After walking for a while, the two arrived at a level clearing. There were seven other small, oddly dressed people playing a game that seemed like nine-pins. While he watched the people playing and drinking, Rip took a drink or two from the barrel himself and fell asleep.
When he awoke in the morning, he was caught in a thorn-bush, his clothes were torn and his rusty gun fell apart in his hands. Rip returned to his village where he found that he recognized no one. He saw his reflection and realized he was now an old man. Finally, he ran into an old friend who told him his wife was dead, but brought Rip’s now-grown daughter and his granddaughter out to meet him.
Rip moved in with his daughter and soon the whole town knew his story. The children he knew before his adventure now brought their children to hear his stories. Many didn’t fully believe him, but nonetheless, no-one was anxious to venture into the Catskills after dark. Even today, when the hear thunder, the villagers wonder if it is the strange little people bowling.
My favorite part of this version is the illustrations by Gerry Embleton. There are so many little details in the picture – gnomes and elves in the clearing with the strange men, a wizard watching over Rip on his way home and a little gopher delivering bottles of milk to mushroom homes. Even thought the war is left out of the story, we do see a man in uniform listening to Rip’s tale. Even the clothes the villagers wear change styles from “before” to “after.”
I’ll have to read the original one of these days, but this is the story I remember from when I was a kid.
There are several used copies available on Amazon.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.