In a land, far from here, there lived an old miller who had a young daughter.
One day, as the miller was tending to his grain, the king and his men rode by on horseback, stopping to collect taxes.
“I have little money, your majesty. I do, however, have a beautiful daughter,” said the miller.
“I have little time for beauty,” began the king. “My true desire comes from the wealth and riches of the world,” he continued.
“Did I mention my daughter can spin straw into gold?” the old miller asked without thinking.
“Really?” the king questioned as he sat on his horse, thinking. “If this is true, bring her to my palace tomorrow and I will put her so-called ability to the test.”
And so, the miller sent his daughter away to the king’s palace. When she arrived, the king immediately took her to a room filled with yellow straw. In the center of the room sat a spindle and wheel.
“Spin this straw into gold before sunrise. If you fail to comply, you will be punished by death,” the king stated. Then he turned on his heel, shut the door, and locked the miller’s daughter alone inside the room filled with yellow straw.
The girl turned to the heaps of straw before her and, having no idea how to spin straw into gold, began to cry.
Suddenly, the girl heard the door creak open slowly. At first, she only saw a large nose peaking out from behind the door. Then suddenly, in walked a strange little man. He was humming a funny tune.
“Goooood evening, Mr. Miller’s daughter,” he said. “You look awfully sad! May I ask why you are crying so terribly?”
“I – I have been ordered to spin this straw into gold by sunrise!” she explained to the little man between sobs. “A – and I don’t know how.”
“Hmm…” the funny little man pondered this. He walked back and forth across the room, kicking bits of straw in his way, “I know how to spin straw into gold…” he began.
“Oh, you do!?” cried the girl.
“What will you give me if I spin this straw for you?” he asked slyly.
“Oh! I will give you my necklace! Take it! Take it!” she replied.
The odd little man took the necklace, grabbed a handful of straw, and sat down at the spinning wheel. Swoosh, swooosh, swooooosh – went the wheel three times. The little man handed the girl a spindle filled with gold thread, grabbed another handful of straw, and sat down at the spinning wheel once more. He repeated this process until the entire room, which was once filled with straw, was now entirely filled with gorgeous gold thread.
Then, humming his funny tune, the odd little man pranced out of the room, swinging the girl’s necklace from side to side.
When the king came into the room at sunrise he was amazed to see that the miller had been telling the truth about his daughter’s abilities. The king was pleased to see the room filled with gold; however, his pleasure was short-lived for the sight of so much gold made the king greedier than ever.
Now he took the beautiful girl into an even larger room filled with yellow straw.
“Spin this into gold, and I will let you live,” the king said curtly. Again, he turned on his heel, shut the door, and locked the girl all alone in the room filled with straw.
At this point, the girl was hopeless. She sobbed at the sight of even more yellow straw than there had been in the previous room. She cried and cried until she heard the door slowly creak open.
A large nose peered around the door and moments later the little man walked into the room humming his funny song.
“Why hello there, Mr. Miller’s daughter.” the little man said strangely.
The poor girl cried softly with no answer.
“What will you give me in return for spinning this straw into gold?” he asked.
The girl looked up at the man and searched herself for something to give him.
“I will give you this ring from my finger,” she said finally.
The little man took the ring and slipped it on his own finger. He held his hand out in front of him, smiled with glee at his newly acquired accessory, and then danced around the room happily. Then, he grabbed a handful of straw and sat down at the spinning wheel. Swoosh, swooosh, swooooosh – went the wheel three times. The man handed the girl a spindle filled with gold thread, grabbed another handful of straw, and sat down at the spinning wheel once more. He repeated this process until the entire room was filled with gold thread.
Humming, prancing, and gazing at his new ring, the little man left the girl once more.
When sunrise came again, the king entered the room and was even more amazed to see so much gold before him. Delighted but even greedier, the king led the miller’s daughter into the largest room in the palace. This room was filled to the ceiling with yellow straw.
“If you can spin this into gold, I will have you as my queen,” the king said.
For though she is only a miller’s daughter, thought the king, I will not find a richer woman to have as my wife.
Without waiting for the girl to answer, the king turned on his heel, shut the door, and locked her all alone in the largest room in the palace, filled with straw.
The girl looked around the room, shocked at the sight of even more yellow straw than there had been in the previous two rooms combined. Without time to cry, she heard the door creak open. She turned and saw a large nose poking out from behind the door. Then the funny little man pranced and danced his way into the room.
“What will you give me if I spin this straw into gold?” the man asked without greeting the girl.
“I have nothing left to give you,” she cried.
“Hmm…” the funny little man pondered this for a while. He walked back and forth across the room, kicking bits of straw in his way. “I know!” he said suddenly. “If I spin this straw into gold, promise me your first born child when you are queen.”
Without thinking, the girl promised the little man her first child once she was queen. She assumed that he would forget their deal anyway and so she happily watched him spin all the straw from the largest room in the palace into gorgeous gold thread.
As the funny little man left the room, the miller’s daughter figured she would never have to see his large-nosed face again.
In the morning when the king came to check on the girl, he was happy to see that his palace’s largest room was now filled to the brim with mounds of brilliant gold.
The king and the miller’s daughter were married immediately. Later that year, the new queen had a beautiful baby boy.
She had forgotten about her promise to the funny little man and so, one day while she was rocking her baby to sleep, she was shocked to hear the door creak open followed by a large familiar nose peering behind.
The little man pranced into the room and said, “Now give me what you promised, my queen.”
The queen was horrified at the thought of handing her beloved child over to the odd man and, thus, she attempted to bribe him with all of the riches of her new kingdom.
“No. I would like what you promised me. All the riches in the world could not match the reward of a living thing,” he said.
The queen sobbed terribly and, because the little man felt sorry for her, he walked back and forth across the room, deep in thought.
“Hmm… I know!” he said finally, with an odd grin on his face. “I will give you three days. If you can figure out what my name is by the end of the third day, I will let you keep your child.”
The queen agreed immediately and watched as the little man skipped out of her room humming his funny tune.
That night the queen thought long and hard about all the names that she had heard throughout her life. She collected names from the servants in the castle. She sent out messengers to scour the kingdom for more names. Her list grew and grew.
John and Ron. Bill and Will. Lucas and Joseph and Xavier and Youssef.
When the little man came on the first day, the queen recited every name that she had collected.
“Could it be Caspar, Melchior, or Balthazar?” she asked.
But no matter how many names she gave him, the little man simply replied, “No, that is not my name.”
On the second day, the queen asked the people of the countryside nearby. She acquired some very strange names indeed. When the little man came again, the queen recited these names. “Could it be Skinnyribs? Muttonchop? Or – Or! Perhaps it is Spindleshanks? Yes it must be Spindleshanks!” the queen cried.
But no matter how many names she gave him, the little man replied, “No, that is not my name.”
By now the queen was desperate. In her desperation the queen sent out her most trusted servant to search the forbidden wood for any names he could find.
When the messenger returned on the third day he told the queen that he had wandered the forest and come across a strange little man dancing and prancing around a large fire. Her servant began to sing a song that had a very familiar tune.
She is large and I am small -- but
Oh! How I dance and prance ‘round all!
And though she's queen
How I will glean
Her only child as I'd foreseen
For she will never ever claim
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!
With this, the queen recognized the tune as the one that the strange little man had always been humming. She herself danced and pranced around her room, happy with the news. Moments later the little man bounced into her room.
“Well, my queen. What is my name?” he asked with a sly grin on his face.
“Hmm…” the queen pondered convincingly, walking back and forth across her room. “You said it wasn’t Bill or Will… Could it be Phil?” she asked.
“No. That is not my name,” the man replied.
“And you said it wasn’t John or Ron. Could it be Juan?”
“No. That is not my name,” he replied, tapping his foot impatiently.
“Hmm… Could it be, by chance, Rumpelstiltskin?”
“Impossible! No fair! No fair!” the little man screeched angrily, stamping his foot hard on the ground.
He scurried around the queen’s room in a fit of rage. He smashed into walls; he thumped his foot; and he bumped his head. He smashed and thumped and bumped and jumped. And then, so blind with anger, the strange little man jumped right out of the queen’s window. He was never ever ever seen again.
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About the Author:
My name is Tasha Guenther. I currently live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I finish my PhD in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory with concentrations in digital cultures and Afrofuturism at McMaster University. I enjoy writing short stories and non-fiction pieces for grade school children. Learn more about me here or connect with me on my Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.