Rumpelstiltskin is a tale we’ve become somewhat more familiar with upon the advent of the show Once Upon a Time, in which Rumpelstiltskin is a major villain/misunderstood guy. He’s also a strangely attractive character, which makes thoughts about Rumpelstiltskin conflicting. We know the thing about good old Rumpel is his name. His name is what makes him unique and almost seems to give him his power. Let’s get to the summary.
Once upon a time there was a miller who wanted to make himself important before the king. The miller sought an audience with the king and told him that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The king really liked this idea so he went and picked up the daughter and brought her to the castle. He placed her in a large room full of straw and told her to spin it all into gold by the morning. If she did not succeed, she would die. Harsh.
The poor girl, of course, begins to lament. She doesn’t know how to spend straw into gold. It’s just some made-up tale her father has told to boast. A strange thing happens. The door opens and in comes a little man. He asks her why she is crying. She tells him that she must spin all this straw into gold before morning. The little man, the story calls him a manikan, asks the girl what she will give him if he spins the straw into gold. The girl offers her necklace. The little man agrees. He only has to spin three times…whir, whir, whir, before straw is turned into gold. He has the entire room done by morning.
In the morning the king comes bright and early to the room. He is quite impressed that all the straw is now gold. Instead of setting the girl free, or whatever, he takes her to an even larger room and tells her to do the same thing. The poor girl, once again, sits down to cry. There is even more straw and she still doesn’t know any way of spinning straw into gold. Once again, the little man comes in the room. He asks her what she will give him. She tells him she will give him her ring. The little man agrees and spins the entire room of straw into gold.
The king comes again and sees all the gold. He is highly pleased, but not pleased enough to let the girl go. He takes he to the largest room of straw yet. He tells her to spin it all into gold, if she succeeds he tells her he will marry her. He concedes that even if he marries the daughter of a miller he is still getting a very rich wife. The girl once again sits down to cry.
The little man appears again. He asks her what she will give him if he spins all the straw into gold, but she has nothing left. The little man asks for the firstborn child of her’s if she marries the king. The girl doesn’t think this is actually going to happen, so she agrees. The little man spins all the straw into gold and the king is so pleased that he marries the miller’s daughter.
The new queen forgets about her promise. In a year, she has a baby. The little man appears and tells her to fork over what she promised. She, instead, offers him all the riches of the kingdom, but he insists that he wants something living. The queen is distraught. She gets so upset that the little man begins to pity her.
He makes a new challenge. He tells her that if she can guess his name in three days that she can keep her baby. She immediately sends servants out into the kingdom to gather up as many days as possible. The next day she starts with Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. She goes on to say many more names, but after each one the little man says, “That is not my name.”
The next day she sends servants out again to find the strangest of names. She starts with Shortribs, Sheepshanks, and Laceleg. She says many more names, but after each one the little man says, “That is not my name.”
The queen is getting desperate and she sends out her servants again. The servant hasn’t found a single new name, but he does have a better piece of information. He tells the queen that he went to a high mountain at the end of a forest where the fox and hare bid each other goodnight. He saw a little house. In front of the house was a fire and around the fire was dancing a little man. He hopped on one leg and shouted something.
“To-day I bake, to-morrow I brew,
The next I’ll have the young Queen’s child.
Ha! glad am I that no one knew
That Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.”
The little man comes back for a third day in order for the queen to guess his name. She starts with Conrad. Then she suggests Harry.
“Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?”
Little Rumpel gets extremely angry at this.
“The devil has told you that! The devil has told you that!”
In his anger he plunged his right food so deep into the Earth that his whole leg went in. He pulled so hard with his left leg with both hands that he tore himself in two.
This is very much like another tale we reviewed earlier in this series, but I’ve forgotten which tale that was. Ah, yes, it was called The Three Spinners. In both tales a young girl seemingly has to invoke strange beings to spin three rooms of straw into gold.
Spinning straw into gold is an absurd idea. It’s not possible. I know some of you out there have taken chemistry and know there would have to be a heck of a lot of chemical manipulation to get even close to making straw into gold. This idea of turning one thing or another into gold is not a unique idea to this tale. Alchemy, was a big deal during this time period. Alchemy being a means of turning things not gold into gold, specifically lead. People tinkered in tower laboratories and so forth for the longest time, before someone figured out that the process simply wasn’t possible.
Gold and lead are both fairly soft metals in comparison to others. Maybe people figured that since they were alike in that aspect that it would not be that hard to turn lead into gold. We’ve mentioned several times over the course of this series that gold has always had value to humanity. People have always vied and striven to possess gold. Gold is not easy to get. Sure, I can actually go into my mom’s backyard and pan for gold and I will get gold, but the amount of gold I will get will be quite miniscule. For a person to possess any amount of gold at all, they have to mine a vein of gold, which is, most likely, underground. That takes lots of equipment and man hours. Sure, maybe in the end it’s worth it, but it’s still a lot of work.
The whole premise behind alchemy is that you can turn one plenteous metal that was probably easier to mine, into something more valuable and harder to mine. There would also be less of gold around than there would be of lead.
On a side note, I once read that one way to mine lead was to light a seam of lead on fire. This expelled lead from the surrounding rock fairly quickly, but many lead miners died trying to perform this very process. Mining has always been a dangerous profession no matter what mineral is being mined. Just think if you could bypass that entire process. Straw grows in the field. You just harvest it up and if you can spin it into gold, you’re rich.
Yes, this spinning straw into gold might have sounded absurd, but, hopefully, you understand the absurdity a little more after that little explanation.
This girl’s dad is a jerk. Why would you do that to your daughter? It reminds me very much of real-life scenarios I read about in a recently reviewed book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall. Her father puts her in all kinds of situations she never should have been in because of his pride and stubbornness.
We’ve already discussed the desire for gold and the desire to get it easily. That’s always a theme in humanity these days and for all of history. We won’t go into detail about that again, but remember that it is a theme of the tale, easy money. That’s what it amounts to. Get rich quick.
The number three is a theme in this tale. The girl has three days to spin straw into gold and she has three days to guess the name of Rumpelstiltskin.
Another theme I see is the idea of weird names. I have a weird name myself. I’m not going to tell you guys my weird last name yet, but someday you’ll know, and you will agree that it is weird, difficult to pronounce and difficult to spell. It’s unique though and that’s what makes it great. Rumpel definitely has a unique name. Who else in the history of anything has been named Rumpelstiltskin? His name is so difficult to pronounce that people probably just called him “that guy with the weird name.”
I actually read a quote by Benedict Cumberbatch where he said that he couldn’t pronounce his name on Mondays. I know the feeling. I couldn’t spell my last name until I was six or seven years old. Teachers would ask me to write my name on my paper and I would look at them with blank stares. Having a unique name is both a blessing and a curse.
Rumpel uses his unique name to his advantage. He probably hasn’t told anyone what it really is because he only knows they are going to mispronounce it and get it wrong anyway. He probably tells everyone he knows that his name is Bob and leaves it at that. Once he makes his name into a guessing game, it’s almost certain that no one is going to guess. Too bad someone actually found him out. He shouldn’t have been drunkenly shouting his name while dancing around a fire on a mountain. I do have to assume that he is drunk and celebrating his conquest prematurely. Well, I guess he could have been high on some magic shrooms or something. You can find those on mountains, maybe. I’m not enough of a mycologist to differentiate between the getting high mushrooms and the kill you mushrooms. It’s a good thing I was never into that sort of thing, I would probably be dead.
I wonder what Rumpel’s last name was? I guess with a name like Rumpelstiltskin you don’t need a last name. It’s like being named Madonna. Madonna doesn’t need a last name, but she does scare me with her gigantic biceps, not that the fact is relevant in any way to this post. I think I’d rather get into a fight with Lady Gaga over Madonna, hopefully, I will never have to make that decision.
The first-born sacrifice is something we’ve talked about before. It’s mainly biblical in it’s origin. At one point you were supposed to dedicate the first-born son to the Lord’s service. You were supposed to sacrifice the first-born of flocks and sheep to God. God took the first-born in Egypt during what we now know as the passover.
The first-born is very symbolic. It’s the first child to continue the line of a family. It’s the first child in a new generation to carry on the family name. It’s the first child to come from the woman of the family. Some people will get all “out-there” on you and go on talking about the “birth matrix” and so forth. Essentially, it’s the first child to pass through a passage. The first child also symbolizes hopes and dreams for the future. Hopes and dreams can ride on the first child. Those can be hopes of carrying on the family business. They can be hopes of more children. They can be hopes of a new life.
If you require the first-born from someone, you’re asking a huge thing. You’re asking for their line. You’re asking for their hopes. You’re asking for their dreams. You’re asking them to realize doubts and enter into unknown territory. What if the first child was going to be the only child? It really seems more of a psychological move than anything. It’s not that someone can’t have more children, most people can, it’s that you’re taking the first child and what that child symbolizes all at the same time. It’s almost a way to beat-down a person to the lowest of low. You’re messing with someone’s head. You’re leaving them bereft physically and mentally. Way to hit a person when they’re down Rumpel.
Rumpelstiltskin, what is your last name? I’m going to guess…Johnson? Smith? Lopez? Thomas? Gooch? Nix? Attaway? Gregory? Ivanov? Li? Chan? Shimabukuro?