Back to Basics: Rumpelstiltskin– a Tuesday Tale

Based on the excellent picture book illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

One upon a time a miller found himself face-to-face with the king and was so star-struck he said without thinking, “My beautiful daughter is able to spin straw into gold.”

Well, the king loved gold, and meeting a beautiful girl in the mix was no bad thing, so he ordered the miller to send his daughter to the palace.

Over the next three nights the king proceeded to show her into larger and larger rooms, each more full of straw than the last, with only a spinning wheel to displace a bit of the straw.

Each night, after the girl was shut in, the threat of death hanging over her, a strange little man would dance into the locked room, and ask what the girl was willing to give in exchange for him doing the impossible for her.

The first night the little man accepted her necklace, the second night, her ring, but the third night, with not only death waiting for her if she failed, and life as queen if she succeeded, she had nothing left to offer him.

“Promise me your first-born child as queen,” he said, “and I will spin all this straw for you into gold.”

Feeling she had no choice, and telling herself the king might not marry her after all, the miller’s daughter agreed.

It all fell out as best as could be expected.  The straw was spun into gold and the king kept his word, marrying the girl and making her queen.

In one year’s time she gave birth to a little boy.  But before that child was three days old a locked door again flew open and the strange little man appeared, demanding his payment.

The queen begged him to have pity, promising to give him anything at all in the kingdom he might desire, but the man asserted there was nothing he wanted so much as the child.

But he seemed to be moved by the young mother’s tears, and relented a little, offering her three days to guess his name and nullify the year-old pact.

The first day she recited all the names she knew.  The second day she read off all the names her servants had been able to invent or collect.  The little man seemed to take delight in singing out

That is not my name!

After each increasingly desperate suggestion.

It was not until the end of the third day that the fear in the young queen’s heart lifted, for her most faithful servant returned from her searching with a story of seeing a strange little man riding a wooden spoon around a fire, all the while singing about winning a queen’s son because she did not know his name was… Rumpelstiltskin.

When the now-confident queen told him his right name that third night, he flew out the window on his wooden spoon and was never seen again.

5 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Rumpelstiltskin– a Tuesday Tale

  1. Oh come on! No tearing himsef up the middle by yanking his leg in anger? No stamping so hard he falls through the floor!

    I guess in the interest of no nightmares. . .

  2. Zelinsky said he based this version (with the spoon) on part of the Grimms’ collecting that was older than the self-mutilating version.

    Maybe it’s because I like Zelinsky’s treatment so much, but I’ve found I like that version better. This is a weird thing to say about a folktale, but I find this version “more believable” than the ripping version.

    Yes the latter is more dramatic (and we like seeing the manipulator self-destruct) but he’s kinda been more shrewd up to this point. I suppose being thwarted is all I expect for a satisfying ending– the rest seems a bit over-kill.

    In the picture book there’s this great, “What’d I miss?” look on the king’s face when he walks in on the happy queen cuddling her baby at the end.

  3. Yeah, Blue, I figured I’d get some complaints (2 for 2 now), but one of the privileges of telling is to pick the versions that are most significant to you (the teller).

    While I am a traditionalist when it comes to these things, and don’t like modernizing for sensibility’s sake, I do adopt changes or emphasize different versions according to (what I perceive as) sense.

    The manuscript stands as it did in the last post in my “developing” category. The novel is on-hold until after the 28th as I polish up my stories for the Faire that day.

    *Such* a different type of work this. It’s like housework. I’m having to remind myself of the goals and good results being worth the times it feels like a slog.

    It’s not all a slog, of course, but enough of it is that I was wondering why I keep volunteering for this type of thing, and questioning why I was doing it if it were hard.

    I suppose that sounds sad.

    It might tell you a bit of how much easier writing comes that I question this when it becomes difficult.

  4. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Real-World Magic: Not Speaking

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