In 1812, the fairy tale 'Rumpelstiltskin,' which was recorded by Jacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm based on the stories and folktales they had heard while travelling was published. I remember reading this when I was young and I recently read it to my grandchildren, and they enjoyed it. It is not only a simple children's story, Rumpelstiltskin warns the reader of the dangers of speaking without thinking through the story of a miller's daughter who is forced to do the impossible.
The fairy-tale begins with a poverty-stricken miller, a person who grinds grain into flour, who tries too hard to seem important when he gets his chance to talk to the king. The miller brags that his daughter is so talented that she can 'spin gold out of straw.'
The king is prepared to teach the miller a lesson because he orders the miller to bring his daughter to the castle so she can provide proof of her abilities. The miller's daughter is locked into a room filled with straw, a spinning wheel, and a spindle. The King says, 'Now set to work, and if by the early morning you have not spun this straw to gold, you shall die.'
Obviously, the miller's daughter is in a panic and fears for her life because she can't deliver on her father's boast. As she cries, a little man walks into the room and tells her that he will spin the straw for her in exchange for her necklace.
The king is pleased when he discovers the gold the next morning but is too greedy to stop there. He locks her in another larger room and once again threatens her life if all the straw is not spun into gold by morning. The little man returns the second night, agreeing to spin the straw into gold in exchange for her ring.
The king is happy to find gold once again. On the third night, the king takes the miller's daughter to a room with even more straw in it, but this time, he says, 'This, too, must be spun in one night, and if you accomplish it you shall be my wife.'
The young girl is distraught once again because she has nothing left to give the little man. He tells her that in exchange for spinning the straw for her, she must give him her first-born child after she becomes the Queen. The young girl, thinking that this seems far away, and she may not even have children, agrees. In the morning, the king is happy. He follows through on his promise and makes the miller's daughter his wife.
The following year, the Queen gives birth to a child. By this time, she has forgotten about the little man. When he arrives demanding payment, she is terrified. The Queen offers to pay him with treasures, but the little man is not interested in lifeless riches. The little man gives the Queen three days to find out his name. She tries on the first two days all the exotic names she can think of, but none are the little man’s name. The Queen had also sent out scouts to comb the kingdom for his name, on the evening of the third day a scout came back with this story.
I saw a little house, and before the house, a fire was burning, and round about the fire quite a ridiculous little man was jumping, he hopped upon one leg, and shouted –
to-day I bake, to-morrow brew,
the next I'll have the young queen's child.
Ha, glad am I that no one knew
that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.
You may imagine how glad the queen was when she heard the name. And when soon afterwards the little man came in, and asked, now, mistress queen, what is my name, at first, she said, is your name Conrad? No. Is your name Harry? No. Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?
The little man cursed and jumped up and down and left the Queen in peace.
This story also has four ideas that we should think about at this time of year.
1. Honesty is the best policy. The story starts with a Miller lying to the King to look better, which put his only daughter at risk
2. Greed is dangerous. The King in his greed is willing to kill the Millers daughter, but as she can perform the task she is given, she wins his heart.
3. Pride can be your downfall. Rumpelstiltskin is boasting about how he won the day and because of his pride, he loses what he wants.
4. Before you make a promise make sure you understand the consequences of keeping the promise. The Millers' daughter promises her firstborn child without understanding what that would mean.
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