Sold for Endless Rue
Robins takes the Rapunzel story, removes the fantasy elements, and places it in 13th-century Italy. Sold for Endless Rue does not immediately remind one of Rapunzel, as the reader follows Laura, a young girl saved from a violent man by hiding in the bed of a sick woman. The patient’s midwife-healer, Crescia, takes Laura as an apprentice, and the girl learns about medicinal herbs, healing wounds and birthing babies. Laura is both smart and a hard worker. Crescia realizes that Laura could help them both by learning to read and studying under the physicians at the Scuola in Salerna. Crescia arranges for this to happen, and Laura is sent to the Scuola, where she studies Latin, mathematics, astrology, anatomy and many other subjects. Not all the teachers and students approve of a female in their midst, but Laura thrives and shows herself capable of becoming a medico.
This part of the story moves slowly, but the pace picks up when Laura falls in love with another student and envisions a life different than that her guardian had planned. When Laura’s relationship ends, the Rapunzel tale is revealed, with Laura as the “witch.” The story begins to resemble the fairy tale, complete with stolen greens, a baby given away, a long golden braid, and a “prince” who comes to the rescue. This all happens in the real world, without magic potions or talking animals, and with characters much more rich than any found in a Grimm story.
Medieval life and medicine are well-researched and richly described, and Robins is very clever in her adaptation of the fairy tale. The push through the slow beginning is well worth it.