THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A VINEGAR BOTTLE by Rumer Godden

THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A VINEGAR BOTTLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An introductory note describes the vinegar bottle of folklore as ""probably an old oasthouse of the kind used for drying hops,"" with stone walls and a pointed roof, which got its name because ""vinegar used to be made in thick stone bottles with glazed yellow necks."" Its inhabitant bears a dose resemblance to the Grimms' fisherman's wife: here it is the old woman herself who kindly returns the fish to the sea, but once he offers to grant her wishes she escalates her demands just as greedily until the fish in disgust withdraws all his grand gifts and sends the old woman back to her vinegar bottle. Godden's version lacks the elemental concision of the folk tale and the merciless ending is softened here by having the woman repent and the fish relent -- she decides she doesn't really want the fine cottage, furniture, clothes and car, and the fish agrees to supply her with a hot dinner every Sunday. On its own terms though this version has its merits, not the least of which is the gradual corruption of the old woman's personality as she evolves from a kind, contented and humble pauper to a rudely imperious grande dame. Mairi Hedderwick's softly colored pictures nicely illustrate these changes and also visualize the domestic details of the old woman's material progress and the freshness of the vinegar bottle's seaside surroundings.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Viking