Duffy and the Devil


Duffy and the Devil

text by Harve Zemach

illustrated by Margot Zemach

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973

36 pp.

Age: 4+

Interests: folktales, Great Britain, country life, magic, fairy tales

Squire Lovel needs someone to do his spinning, sewing and knitting. While out riding he comes across a woman chasing away her maid Duffy, whom she accuses of being lazy. Duffy insists she’s a hard worker, and can spin like a saint and knit like an angel. The squire hires her on the spot. The only trouble is, Duffy doesn’t know the first thing about spinning and knitting. Enter a little devil who offers to do her work if he can take her away in three years time. Her only way out of the bargain is to guess his name. During those three years Duffy’s fortune is made. The Squire, so finely dressed, marries her and turns her into a lady of leisure, which suits Duffy just fine. When her three years are up she doesn’t know what to do. With the help of the Squire’s mysterious old housekeeper and a jug of ale, the Squire overhears that the devil’s name is Tarraway. Duffy wins her freedom and the little devil disappears in a puff of smoke. (Unfortunately all his handiwork disappears as well, leaving the poor squire out on the moors wearing nothing but his boots and his hat.)

A Cornish take on the old Rumplestiltskin tale. The illustrations in this book are a welcome antidote to the usual beautiful and virtuous young fairy tale characters, as both the Squire and the shiftless Duffy are middle-aged, frumpy and dishevelled. A very funny and raucous book.

(Title available at amazon.com)


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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