An interesting fairy tale that we might have read in our childhood. The name Rumpelstilzchen, in German, literally means, “little rattle stilt,” which means a dwarf in the German folktale who spins flax or straw into gold for a young woman on the condition that she give him her first child or else guess his name.
In order to appear superior, a miller lies to the king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king calls for the girl, shuts her in a tower room, filled with straw and a spinning wheel, and demands she spin the straw into gold by morning or he will cut her head off. In other versions the king threatens to lock her up in a dungeon forever, or to punish her father for lying. And, when she has given up all hope, an imp (a mysterious devil like creature) appears in the room and spins the straw into gold in return for her necklace (the imp only comes to people after seeking a deal). Next morning the king takes the girl to a larger room filled with straw to repeat the feat, the imp, once again spins, in return for the girl’s ring. But on the third day, when the girl is taken to an even larger room filled with straw and told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold, or execute her, if she cannot, the girl has nothing left, with which, she can pay the strange creature. So, he extracts from her a promise that she will give him her firstborn child, and so, he spins the straw into gold one final time. In some versions, the imp appears and begins to turn the straw into gold, paying no heed to the girl’s protests that she has nothing to pay him with. When he finishes the task, he states that the price is her first child, and the horrified girl objects because she never agreed to this arrangement.
The king keeps his promise to marry the miller’s daughter, but when their first child is born, the imp returns to claim his payment, the newly born daughter, and says, “Now give me what you promised.” She offers him all the wealth she has to keep the child, but the imp has no interest in her riches.
He finally consents to give up his claim to the child if she can guess his name within three days. Some versions have the imp limiting the number of daily guesses to three and hence the total number of guesses allowed to a maximum of nine.
Her many guesses fail. But before the final night, she wanders into the woods. In some versions of the story, she sends her servant into the woods instead of going herself, in order to keep the king’s suspicions at bay, looking for him and comes across his remote mountain cottage and watches Rumpelstiltskin, unseen, as he hops about his fire and sings. “Tonight tonight, my plans I make, tomorrow tomorrow the baby I take. The queen will never win the game, for Rumpelstiltskin is my name”— and thereby he reveals his name.
When the imp comes to the queen on the third day, after first feigning ignorance, she reveals his name, Rumpelstiltskin, when Rumpelstiltskin loses his temper and the bargain. Versions vary about whether he accuses the devil or witches of having revealed his name to the queen. In the 1812 edition of the Brothers Grimm tales, Rumpelstiltskin then “ran away angrily, and never came back.” The ending was revised in an 1857 edition to a more gruesome ending wherein Rumpelstiltskin “in his rage drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a fit he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two.” Other versions have Rumpelstiltskin driving his right foot so far into the ground that he creates a chasm and falls into it, never to be seen again. In the oral version originally collected by the Brothers Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin flies out of the window on a cooking ladle.
The theme prominent in this story is mainly power and greed. The poor miller, the King, and Rumpelstiltskin all want power or what you call the upper hand. The poor miller wants to be seen as more powerful in the King’s eyes and so he fabricates about his daughter’s talent which wasn’t really there.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
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REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
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(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
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Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June 15 & 20 2020; Indica 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu August 31 2020.
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