The Rainbow Goblins – Ul de Rico

I had The Rainbow Goblins book on my desk for several weeks now. I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe it. It’s a picture book. But I wouldn’t show it to young children. It’s a fairy tale where good triumphs greediness, but it’s message is subtle.

I was first introduced to Ul de Rico’s The Rainbow Goblins by an art teacher with a masters degree in gifted education. She used the book to introduce lessons in color. The pictures are oil-on-oak panel paintings. The paintings have a unique vivid look, and also feel very magical and otherworldly. The colors are marvelous, there are rocks glowing in the setting sun, water illuminated with light, magic sunsets saturating the world with color, stars twinkling in a deep blue sky, beautiful birds, and a rainbow of course.

The story is a simple one. Seven goblins hold a land in fear. Each goblin lives on the color of his name, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. They prowl the valleys and suck the colors out of rainbows. They hatch a plan to travel to where the rainbows are born. Inside a cave they wait out a storm. But the roots of flowers above them strain to hear their plans. The flowers drain the colors of the Rainbow into their petals, the goblins become tangled in their own lassos, then drown in a deluge of colors. No one in the valley weeps for them. The Rainbow is reborn and lifted up the flowers that had saved it, transforming them “into glittering dragonflies and butterflies and splendidly plumed birds”.

And yet, I wouldn’t share it with just any young child. The pictures of the goblins are frightening. They don’t look like drawings. They look real. And the picture of the goblins drowning and melting into colors is disturbing. It is a beautiful and unique book. Many of my classmates said they had grown up with the book and loved it as children. My children were impressed with the paintings, but I waited on sharing this book until I felt they were old enough to handle the scarier illustrations.

The Rainbow Goblins was originally published in 1978 in Germany.

Also See:

The Cranky Sun – Jerry Kramsky

Girl in a Cage – Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris

Fairy Tales with a Spin – the Picture Books of David Gordon