Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rumpelstiltskin

For some reason I woke this morning thinking about Rumpelstiltskin. I remembered how the tale ends, where (SPOILER ALERT) the little fellow is so pleased with himself that he is singing and dancing about a fire, and gives himself away by declaring his name. But I couldn't recall the rest of the story, just this last part, and try as I might the image of a tower and Rapunzel with her long golden braids was coming to mind though I knew that was not the Rumpelstiltskin story.

Fairy tales have a longstanding tradition in our world. People love a good yarn, whether it teaches a good lesson or simply serves as a diversion. In more recent times -- and by this I mean since the dawn of Guttenberg -- many of these stories have been harvested and assembled into books by men like the Grimm brothers, Italo Calvino and Hans Christian Anderson.

The Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale was originally recorded and published in 1812 by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I used to have a little green paperback volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and a quick perusal of my book shelf suddenly puts the little volume directly into my hands. Voila!

The book begins with stories about elves, and includes many well known classics, including Snow White, The Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Tom Thumb's Travels and even Rapunzel.

As it turns out, my memory of the story's end was accurate, that Rumpelstiltskin's overweening pride became his undoing. But I did realize that it was the miller's pride that led to the whole story in the first place, for the miller's desire to project his self-importance that almost cost him his daughter's life as well as all that unfolded afterwards. It's a tale with many variations, both entertaining and pointed.

Here's the beginning... and a link to the rest of the story, a quick read that I am sure you will enjoy.

Rumpelstiltskin

Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the king, and in order to make himself appear important he said to him, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold."

The king said to the miller, "That is an art which pleases me well, if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to-morrow to my palace, and I will put her to the test."

And when the girl was brought to him he took her into a room which was quite full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and a reel, and said, "Now set to work, and if by to-morrow morning early you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die."

Thereupon he himself locked up the room, and left her in it alone. So there sat the poor miller's daughter, and for the life of her could not tell what to do, she had no idea how straw could be spun into gold, and she grew more and more frightened, until at last she began to weep.

But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, and said, "Good evening, mistress miller, why are you crying so?"

"Alas," answered the girl, "I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it."

"What will you give me," said the manikin, "if I do it for you?"

"My necklace," said the girl.

The plot thickens... Go ahead and check it out.

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