Rumpelstiltskin (According to Cassie)
So basically, there’s this miller, and he’s a dumbass. Seriously. He spends most of his time going around telling tall tales, stretched truths, and just flat-out lies to all the people he encounters. Specifically, one day, he gets it in his head to go around and tell people that his daughter is so skilled a weaver that she can spin straw itself into pure gold. One person who hears his story? The king.
And because this king is a selfish and greedy king, he says, “Okay, bring me this person who can make instant money pretty much out of nothing.” When the girl is brought to the castle, she’s shown to a room filled with straw. Her instructions from the king? Spin the whole room full of straw to gold by morning, or be killed.
Which seems remarkably unfair. She’s going to be killed because her father is a lying jerkwad? Three paragraphs in, I already hate this king.
Of course the girl possesses no such talent (where did her father even come up with that??), and she sits in that room full of straw crying because she’s going to be killed and there’s nothing she can do to stop that.
Suddenly, the door opens and a dwarf steps in. He asks why she’s crying, and she explains the situation. He tells her that he knows how to spin straw into gold, and he’ll do it for her – for a price. All she has is a necklace, but he accepts it and spins the whole room of straw into gold.
The king is thrilled – and not satisfied. Since she did one room, why not another, even bigger room? Oh, and she’ll still be killed if she fails. So the process repeats, this time she offers a ring to the little man, and again, the straw is spun to gold.
The next morning, the king shows up, and again, is thrilled – and still incredibly greedy. Not content with two whole rooms of gold, he takes her to a third, the largest yet, and promises her that if she spins all that straw to gold, she’ll not only not be killed, she’ll get to marry him and become Queen, too!
Now, let’s be clear here. This is not a romantic gesture. He hasn’t fallen in love or anything like that. He’s just looked at this girl and seen the richest possible wife he could ever get. By marrying her, he’ll have a never ending supply of gold! And the girl can’t protest, or she’ll lose her life.
But no more able to spin straw into gold than she was before, she again calls the little man with her tears. Unfortunately, she’s out of cheap jewelry and has nothing to offer him. Luckily, the man assures her that she can offer something she’ll have at some time in the future. Room one was bought for a necklace, room two for a ring, so a reasonable price for room three is her firstborn child. Sounds legit.
And the girl agrees to this. Now, I have to take a minute and defend this nameless character against the readers who go, “How could she possibly promise away her child??” by reminding them that, at this point, it’s that or death. Also, it’s not like she has a child yet; any number of things could happen between now and birthing a potential future child, which she notes. So, yeah, I’m not condemning her for agreeing to these terms.
Well, when the king sees the room of gold, he makes good on his promise and makes the miller’s daughter a Queen. And soon enough, she gives birth to a baby boy, and then who should appear but the little man, come to claim his price. But the girl cannot bear to give up her son. She offers the man all the treasures of her kingdom, but no dice. However, she cries so heartily that the man feels sorry for her, and gives her a way out. She has three days to guess his name. If she can, she can keep her baby. If not, the little prince goes with him.
So she spends the first two days basically listing every single name she can think of, but the man answers no to each one. Desperate, she has a messenger sent to follow the man, to see if he can learn anything, and lo and behold, the little man is almost as stupid as the miller, because apparently he likes to dance around a campfire in the woods singing his name out loud. It’s Rumpelstiltskin, and the messenger takes this knowledge back to the Queen.
So on the third night, the Queen decides to toy with the little man. She asks if his name is Conrad or Harry (really?), and finally reveals that she knows his name to be Rumpelstiltskin. Rumpelstiltskin is so furious that he tears himself in two and dies. The end. No, seriously. That’s the end of the story. That’s it.
So . . .
Thoughts on the original tale?
This story raises so many questions. Why would the miller go around making up these stories? How did Rumpel learn to spin straw into gold? Why does he want a baby? Why on earth would he shout his name to high heaven when he’s specifically trying to keep it from the Queen and no one in the world knows it but him? Did the King have any idea that any of this was going on?
And . . . what happens in the end?
Basically, this is one of the more nonsensical fairy tales out there, and it really doesn’t seem to have a point. I mean, no one has any character growth or learns anything, and there isn’t really any sort of moral at all.
So what do I want out of an adaptation?
First and foremost, a point. Why are we telling this story? What is the reader supposed to get out of it? What’s the message? Not every story needs to have a moral, I grant you, but I’d like to finish the tale not feeling as if the last line should be “And then I found five dollars,” know what I’m saying?
Second, some motivation for Rumpelstiltskin. I want to know really anything about why he does all this. Why does he help the girl in the first place? What is he trying to get out of it? Why does he want a child? Why does he reveal his name? Why is it a secret in the first place? I really need this character to be fleshed out a bit more.
Third, some likeable characters. Because there really aren’t any. The miller’s an idiot, the king’s a bastard, Rumpel is ridiculous, and the miller’s daughter is just sort of . . . there. I mean, it works for a three-page fairy tale, but if I’m going to read a full length novel with these characters, I need to like at least one of them.
So! This month, the line-up is as follows:
Week 1: Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli
Week 2: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C Bunce
Week 3: The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde
Week 4: The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
Feel free to read along!