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.

Back to Basics: Cinderella– a Tuesday Tale

Once there was a delightful little girl whose mother had died.

When her father remarried it was to a woman with two daughters of her own, near his child’s age.

Before long the father, too, died, and the sweet child was left an orphan.

As she grew older and more beautiful her stepmother grew more and more harsh, giving her the hardest chores and making her sleep alone, away from the family.

The girl never complained, even when she had to sleep in the ashes by the kitchen fire to keep warm during the winter.  She would awake covered in cinders, without a chance to wash or even a looking glass to know.

Her two step-sisters took their cue from their mother and looked for every opportunity to belittle their unfortunate comrade.  It was they who came up with the taunt, “Cinderella,” as a way to address her, not even allowing her to keep the dignity of a true name.


Eventually the time came when the prince of the land was seeking a bride, and so held a series of balls.  Each night Cinderella’s family refused to take her, but each night she had magical help and was transformed to appear in the eyes of anyone as beautiful as her good spirit.

Her beauty captivated the prince, who would dance with no one else, but always she slipped away before midnight.  By the third night the prince recognized the pattern and was too close behind for her to stop when she lost one of her tiny dancing slippers.

The next day the kingdom received word that the Prince would marry whoever fit the little shoe.

The stepmother, seeking vicariously to advance her own position, cut off a piece of her oldest daughter’s heel, so that her foot would fit the little shoe.

Riding away to the palace with the false bride the prince heard,

Turn back, good prince, turn back.
There is blood in the little shoe.

He looked and seeing the mutilation he returned the girl to her mother.

The mother, however, wasted no time but cut off the toe of her other daughter, allowing the slipper to fit.  The prince placed this girl on his horse and began to ride away, but again he heard,

Turn back, good prince, turn back.
There is blood in the little shoe.

Having seen the proof with his own eyes the prince returned her as well.

Now Cinderella was able to get at the soe and prove it fit.

As they rode on to the palace the now familiar voice sang out,

Ride on, good prince, Ride on.
The slipper has found its home.

The prince was happy to do so, and took her back to the palace where he married her at once and lived in great contentment.