Rumplestiltskin is a fairy tale that I often forget about for chunks of time. Then I’ll stumble across some re-imagining of it that reminds me how great the story is. It was written by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812.
What It’s About
A poor miller, trying to gain some respect, boasts that his beautiful daughter can spin straw into gold. The King hears of this and decides that he wants to see such an incredible feat for himself. The girl is brought to the palace and shut in a room full of straw with a spinning wheel. The girl, who most certainly can’t spin straw into gold, is at a loss, until a little man comes in and offers to do the task for her. He asks for her necklace as payment. The King, pleased with his newly acquired wealth, puts her in a larger room the next night and tells her, again under threat of death, to spin the straw into gold. The little man comes and, for the girl’s ring, spins through the night. The King was once again delighted by the room full of gold. He took the girl to a third room and promised that if she could spin the straw into gold, not only would she live but she would be his queen. The little man came to aid her, but she had nothing else to offer. The man made her promise to give him her firstborn child as payment, should she become queen. The girl agreed, not thinking he would really hold her to the deal. A year later, the girl was indeed queen and with child. After she gave birth, the man appeared to claim the child. She was heartbroken and the man, feeling sympathy for her, offered her an alternative; if she could guess his name in three days, he would leave her, with her child, in peace. The first two days the queen failed to guess his name. On the third day, with the information a messenger gave her, the queen correctly guessed his name as Rumplestiltskin. The queen got to keep her child and Rumplestiltskin disappeared.
Fun Fact #1
The messenger who discovered the little man’s name was traveling through the forest, where he overheard the man singing a song about how clever he was and how the queen would never guess that his name was Rumplestiltskin. Serves him right for being overconfident.
Fun Fact #2
Grimms’ version has Rumplestiltskin throwing a tantrum at the end. He stomps his right foot so hard it gets stuck in the ground. He then pulls his left leg so hard he tears himself in half. Other tellings have him riding off in a ladle or falls into a hole in the ground.
Fun Fact #3
Another Grimm tale, The Three Spinners, is similar to this one. In it, three old women help a young girl spin for a queen. They don’t ask for future payment as children, though.
If You’re Interested….
The main reason I chose this fairy tale is I just finished reading Rumplestiltskin by K.M. Shea. It’s the fourth in her fairy tale series, though all four can be read as stand alone novels. I find them entertaining and each book gives a classic tale a new twist. I’m also a huge fan of how the TV series Once Upon A Time portrays Rumplestiltskin, or Mr. Gold, as he is known in Storybrook.
What are some of your favorite characterizations of the man who can spin straw into gold?