A Curse Dark As Gold Summary

Elizabeth C. Bunce

A Curse Dark As Gold

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A Curse Dark As Gold Summary

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A Curse Dark as Gold (2008), by American author Elizabeth C. Bunce, received the 2009 William C. Morris Debut Award from the American Library Association and was praised for its combination of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction. Bunce began writing this debut novel when she asked herself if there were more to the seemingly cruel actions of Rumpelstiltskin. Its themes include love, hope, secrets, and dishonesty.

Told in the first person, A Curse Dark as Gold is set in the 1780s in England. Charlotte Miller is grieving the death of her father. A beloved figure in the town of Shearing, everyone in The Golden Valley is out to honor his memory and/or to reminisce.

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte is a very brave and stalwart individual, but she has trouble moving on without the steady hand of her father. As she thinks about her father’s life, she gives the history of the town. The mill that her father founded was the first infrastructure in town. If anyone wanted to know where the heart of the town was, they would point to the mill. The mill gave nearly everyone in the village a job.

In her narration, Charlotte mentions in passing that, according to rumor, there is a curse upon her family’s mill; she’s always laughed out loud over these misgivings. For generations, people have called it “Miller Curse.” The rumor says that all the males of the Miller family die as young men and their firstborn die as toddlers.

Life must go on. The remaining Miller family plans how they will continue to run “Stirwaters Woollen Mill: Miller & Sons,” the river-powered mill that supplies most of the region’s textiles. They’re known throughout the country for brightly colored dyes and fabrics. Since all of the male heirs that are to inherit the family operation have a habit of dying, Charlotte, along with her fourteen-year-old sister, Rosie, must assume operations. Charlotte is charged with handling all logistics and financials; Rosie fixes any machines that stop working smoothly.

Immediately, the two face many challenges. Charlotte learns that her father was hiding massive debt. They can’t pay a majority of their workers, so more than half of their workforce leaves the mill. Every day, they have a horde of minor problems: the doors won’t open, the water current isn’t swift enough, just when they think something is fixed, it breaks down again, and a rival mill run by the Pinchfield family has successfully expelled them from the wool union, meaning they cannot sell their products in local markets anymore.

Soon after her father’s death, Stirwaters is vandalized. Unlike Rosie, who believes in curses, Charlotte refuses to believe that their ill-luck is caused by a curse. Rosie, whose temperament is best described as volatile, has little patience for her sister’s insistence that “Miller’s Curse” is a lie. She finds a spell in her father’s notebook and recites it, hoping for a remedy to their troubles.

An antagonist appears in the form of Uncle Wheeler. He’s a posh man. Unfortunately, he’s also overbearing and selfish. He wants Rosie and Charlotte to sell the troublesome property so they can focus on raising children (but mostly so that he can profit).

It turns out that Rosie is right: magic and curses still exist. Her spell works. Jack Spinner (he doesn’t tell them his real name) appears. Spinner resembles Rumpelstiltskin, the notorious figure from various fairytales who blackmails a young girl until she can guess his peculiar name. But in A Curse Dark as Gold, this Rumpelstiltskin-figure holds her firstborn son for ransom.

Of course, that’s all in the future. When Charlotte first meets Jack Spinner, he says that he will solve her debt problems by spinning straw into gold. All she has to do is give him her mother’s prized ring. Though she hates to depart with a family heirloom, she realizes she has no choice. She does not consult Rosie, and she is too closed minded to put together that she is stepping right into the “Miller Curse.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte starts to fall in love with the local banker. He helps her sell the gold that Jack Spinner makes. They’re able to pay their mortgage, more of their workers, and rejoin the wool union.

Jack Spinner demands more and more material wealth and sacrifice from Charlotte. To keep the rest of her family safe, she slowly distances herself from Rosie and others.

Charlotte learns that for generations, the Miller family has struck a deal with Jack Spinner: he can have the souls of their firstborn males if he will provide ample tree growth around their town (timber was an essential commodity) as well as gold (a material they weave into their textiles, hence their glistening appearance).

In a twist, Charlotte learns that Jack Spinner has several valid reasons for his ostensibly detestable actions: historically, the Miller family has not treated him with kindness. A Curse Dark as Gold ends with the curse lifted, Charlotte and Rosie having sympathy toward Jack Spinner, and Stirwaters Woollen Mill (as well as the town, Shearing) finally safe.