As long as a thing is unknown, it belongs to us in a way that well-known things do not. For we have the opportunity to fill the empty, unknown spaces for ourselves, and in them there is room for imagination and for hope.Golden, Cameron Dokey
This week I finished Golden by Cameron Dokey. It really is a beautiful and incredibly unusual retelling of Rapunzel, and I love it for that. Rapunzel is perhaps my favorite fairy tale and I have generally been disappointed in retellings of it, but this one manages to both respect the story and put it’s own special twist on it.
I chose the quote above because it seems like the perfect quote for anyone attempting to retell a fairy tale in a novel. There are so many open spaces and unknowns in a fairy tale that filling them in can be both daunting and exciting. Yet it is exactly those unknowns that make fairy tales so eminantly retellable, that leave them so full of space for new themes and details.
This story is slightly odd in that it takes a heroine who (like most fairy tale heroines) doesn’t have that much to her to begin with, and makes her into two whole people instead of one. It has Rapunzel, the girl who was given to a witch as an infant because of an ill-conceived theft, and Rue, the girl with the long golden hair. Both are ultimately trapped in the tower and it takes both to break the spell in a surprisingly quiet and beautiful way.
The sorceress in this story has a very specific power and it is perfectly chosen for the themes of love and family and acceptance that the story revolves around. She can see into people’s hearts and see what they keep there. This power is both a gift and a curse, for what is seen cannot be unseen and it is often something the subject wishes unseen. But it also reveals how much room is in a heart and how flexible the idea of family can be. It’s interesting and beautiful.
While there is romance in this book (both girls find true love and happily ever after marriages), romance is definitely not the focus of the book. Family and being open to love are the far more important and significant themes. I appreciate that this telling was able to balance those things, for I find it rare that fairy tale retellings with romances in them relegate the romances to secondary in importance to other kinds of love (although, I suppose Frozen did it beautifully).
That is what love is, I thought. A possibility that becomes a choice. A choice you keep making, over and over. Day after day. Year after year. Time after time.Golden, Cameron Dokey
This retelling may be very different from most familiar versions of Rapunzel, but it keeps true to what makes the story my favorite. The heroines of the story are in pain and they do not deny that, but they do accept it as simply a part of their lives. They also save themselves. In this case, they have to work together and trust one another, but they are still not saved by someone else. And those are qualities I am so pleased to find Ms. Dokey also saw in this story and was able to bring out beautifully!
I absolutely recommend this book. It’s a beautiful and unusual fairy tale retelling that manages to be a wholely surprising story built on the images and themes of the classic tale.