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Illustration from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book (1889)
In order to appear superior, a miller lies to the king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold (some versions make the miller's daughter blonde and describe the "straw-into-gold" claim as a careless boast the miller makes about the way his daughter's straw-like blond hair takes on a gold-like lustre when sunshine strikes it). The king calls for the girl, shuts her in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, and demands she spin the straw into gold by morning or he will cut off her head (other versions have the king threatening to lock her up in a dungeon forever). When she has given up all hope, an imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold in return for her necklace (since he only comes to people seeking a deal/trade). When next morning the king takes the girl to a larger room filled with straw to repeat the feat, the imp once again spins, in return for the girl's ring. On the third day, when the girl has been taken to an even larger room filled with straw and told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold or execute her if she cannot, the girl has nothing left with which to pay the strange creature. He extracts from her a promise that she will give him her firstborn child and so he spins the straw into gold a final time (In some versions, the imp appears and begins to turn the straw into gold, paying no heed to the girl's protests that she has nothing to pay him with; when he finishes the task, he states that the price is her first child, and the horrified girl objects because she never agreed to this arrangement).
Two illustrations by Anne Anderson from Grimm's Fairy Tales (London and Glasgow 1922)
The king keeps his promise to marry the miller's daughter, but when their first child is born, the imp returns to claim his payment: "Now give me what you promised." She offers him all the wealth she has to keep the child, but the imp has no interest in her riches.
He finally consents to give up his claim to the child if she can guess his name within three days (some versions have the imp limiting the number of daily guesses to three and hence the total number of guesses allowed to a maximum of nine).
Her many guesses fail, but before the final night, she wanders into the woods (in some versions, she sends a servant into the woods instead of going herself in order to keep the king's suspicions at bay), searching for him and comes across his remote mountain cottage and watches, unseen, as he hops about his fire and sings. In his song's lyrics, "tonight tonight, my plans I make, tomorrow tomorrow, the baby I take. The queen will never win the game, for Rumpelstiltskin is my name", he reveals his name.
When the imp comes to the queen on the third day, after first feigning ignorance, she reveals his name, Rumpelstiltskin, and he loses his temper and their bargain. Versions vary about whether he accuses the devil or witches of having revealed his name to the queen. In the 1812 edition of the Brothers Grimm tales, Rumpelstiltskin then "ran away angrily, and never came back". The ending was revised in an 1857 edition to a more gruesome ending wherein Rumpelstiltskin "in his rage drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a passion he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two". Other versions have Rumpelstiltskin driving his right foot so far into the ground that he creates a chasm and falls into it, never to be seen again. In the oral version originally collected by the Brothers Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin flies out of the window on a cooking ladle.
The same story pattern appears in numerous other cultures: Tom Tit Tot in England (from English Fairy Tales, 1890, by Joseph Jacobs); The Lazy Beauty and her Aunts in Ireland (from The Fireside Stories of Ireland, 1870 by Patrick Kennedy); Whuppity Stoorie in Scotland (from Robert Chambers's Popular Rhymes of Scotland, 1826); Gilitrutt in Iceland; (Joaidane "He who talks too much") in Arabic; (Khlamushka "Junker") in Russia; Rumplcimprcampr, Rampelník or Martin Zvonek in the Czech Republic; Martinko Klingá? in Slovakia; Ruidoquedito ("Little noise") in South America; Pancimanci in Hungary (from A Csodafurulya, 1955, by Emil Kolozsvári Grandpierre, based on the 19th century folktale collection by László Arany); Daiku to Oniroku ( "A carpenter and the ogre") in Japan and Myrmidon in France. All these tales are Aarne-Thompson type 500, "The Name of the Helper". The Cornish tale of Duffy and the Devil plays out an essentially similar plot featuring a "devil" named Terry-top.
Illustration by Walter Crane from Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm (1886)
The name Rumpelstilzchen in German means literally "little rattle stilt", a stilt being a post or pole that provides support for a structure. A rumpelstilt or rumpelstilz was consequently the name of a type of goblin, also called a pophart or poppart, that makes noises by rattling posts and rapping on planks. The meaning is similar to rumpelgeist ("rattle ghost") or poltergeist, a mischievous spirit that clatters and moves household objects. (Other related concepts are mummarts or boggarts and hobs, which are mischievous household spirits that disguise themselves.) The ending -chen is a German diminutive cognate to English -kin.
The earliest known mention of Rumpelstiltskin occurs in Johann Fischart's Geschichtklitterung, or Gargantua of 1577 (a loose adaptation of Rabelais'Gargantua and Pantagruel) which refers to an "amusement" for children, i.e. a children's game named "Rumpele stilt oder der Poppart".
Names used in translations
Illustration for the tale of "Rumpel-stilt-skin" from The heart of oak books (Boston 1910)
Translations of the original Grimm fairy tale (KHM 55) into various languages have generally substituted different names for the dwarf whose name is Rumpelstilzchen. For some languages, a name was chosen that comes close in sound to the German name: Rumpelstiltskin or Rumplestiltskin in English, Repelsteeltje in Dutch, Rumpelstichen in Portuguese, Rumpelstinski or Rumpelestíjeles in Spanish, Rumplcimprcampr or Rampelník in Czech. In Japanese it is called (Runperushutirutsukin). Russian might have the most accomplished imitation of the German name with (Rumpeltíl?cxen).
In other languages the name was translated in a poetic and approximate way. Thus Rumpelstilzchen is known as Päronskaft (literally "Pear-stalk") in Swedish, where the sense of stilt or stalk of the second part is retained. Likewise, in Danish and Norwegian, he is known as Rumleskaft (literally "Rumble-shank"). Italian has Tremotino (which loosely means "Little Earthquake"). French has - besides other names - Tracassin (like tracasser "to pester"). In other translations an entirely different and generally meaningless name was selected, such as Barbichu, Broumpristoche, Grigrigredinmenufretin, Outroupistache or Perlimpinpin in various translations to French. Turkish translations use "Hariparibu?ki Baripinpon" which does not mean anything and was chosen just because the name was complicated.
Slovak translations use Martinko Klingá?. Polish translations use Titelitury (or Rumpelsztyk) and Finnish ones Tittelintuure, Rompanruoja or Hopskukkeli. Serbian, Bosnian and CroatianCvilidreta ("Whine-screamer"). For Hebrew the poet Avraham Shlonsky composed the name (Ootz-li Gootz-li, a compact and rhymy touch to the original sentence and meaning of the story, "My adviser my midget"), when using the fairy tale as the basis of a children's musical, now a classic among Hebrew children's plays. Greek translations have used ? (from the English) or (Koutsokaliyéris) which could figure as a Greek surname, formed with the particle - (koútso- "limping"), and is perhaps derived from the Hebrew name. Urdu versions of the tale used the name Tees Mar Khan for the imp.
Appearances in media
Marianne Moore's feminist poem "Sojourn in the Whale" (1917) makes an allusion to this story, though she first changes the oppressor from a king to "hags" before then stressing a feminist reading of "Rumpelstiltskin": "You have been compelled by hags to spin/ gold thread from straw and have heard men say:/ 'There is a feminine temperament in direct contrast to ours....'"
Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale as a poem called "Rumpelstiltskin" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.
In Diane Stanley's short fiction, Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter (1997), Rumpelstiltskin falls in love with and marries the miller's daughter and helps her escape from the king. The main character turns out to be their only daughter, Hope.
In John Katzenbach's novel The Analyst (2002), a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin [sic] threatens a New York psychoanalyst, "In two weeks, Starks must guess his tormentor's identity. If Starks succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, Rumplestiltskin will destroy, one by one, fifty-two of Dr. Starks' loved ones--unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself."
Saviour Pirotta's "Guess My Name", published in Once Upon a World (2004), is a retelling of the Welsh version of the story.
Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm (2005-2012) series has Rumplestiltskin [sic] as the main villain for the second book, Unusual Suspects. He is the counselor for the only Elementary School in Fairy Port Landing, and he feeds off the emotions of those around him (the negative, the better, rage is his favorite). He made deals with three parents (Beauty/Beast, Princess/Frog, Ms. Muffet/Spider all gave away their firstborns to Rumplestilskin for a fake lottery winning). Apparently, in this version, Rumple stores all the rage and hatred and releases it by exploding.
Elizabeth C. Bunce's novel A Curse Dark as Gold (2008) was inspired by the story of Rumpelstiltskin. The miller's daughter is written as a strong female character determined to save the failing mill and the town that depends on it.
In Einstein's Mistakes (2008), Hans Ohanian characterizes the physicist Isaac Newton as a Rumpelstiltskin-like character, because he kept his great discoveries in gravity and light to himself for many years.
Rumpelstiltskin makes a brief appearance at the beginning of Red Hood's Revenge (2010), the third in Jim C. Hines's Princesses series, starring Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White as active heroines. He has abducted several children by luring princes in with promises of marriage to the children who can spin straw into gold; he is captured by the three heroines, but is subsequently killed by Roudette, the adult Little Red Riding Hood, now an efficient and deadly assassin, while being sent to Fairytown to answer for his crimes.
In the short story "Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope" in Angela Slatter's collection The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales (2010), the miller's daughter, now queen, gallops into the woods to her mother's cairn, and there, upon kissing her mother, which she had refused to do when her mother lay dying, obtains in a single breath the secret name, Rumpelstiltzkin, that will save her daughter.
Rumpel Stiltskin is the main character in J. A. Kazimer's book Curses! (2012).
In Shelley Chappell's short fiction, Ranpasatusan. A Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin (2014) the miller's daughter is a minstrel's daughter who travels to Japan.
Breeana Puttroff, author of the Dusk Gate Chronicles series, was scheduled in 2014 to publish a book, Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, in which Rumpelstiltskin's story is told from another point of view, where the king makes the queen spin gold and Rumpelstiltskin is not the villain.
In the book Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, Rumpelstiltskin appears as the eighth of the dwarves from "Snow White."
In Tom Holt's novel, The Good, the Bad and the Smug (2015), a former commodities trader escapes to a fantasy world and becomes Rumpelstiltskin.
Michael Cunningham's short story "Little Man" (in A Wild Swan and Other Tales, 2015) is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story told from Rumpelstiltskin's point of view.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is a fantasy novel loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin.
In Nikita Gill's 2018 poetry collection "Fierce Fairytales: & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul" she references the Rumpelstiltskin story in two poems, "The Miller's Daughter" and "An Apology to Rumpelstiltskin."
Rumpelstiltskin appears in issue 4 of The Muppet Show that was a part of "The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson" arc.
The tale is adapted in the fourth issue of Zenescope's series Grimm Fairy Tales, but it is given an alternative, more tragic ending.
The Priest from the Dark Horse series The Goon is actually Rumpelstiltskin, having escaped from the hell he was cast into he attempts the wrestle control of the town away from The Goon.
One of the starting lines in Ski Mask The Slump God's 2018 album STOKELEY. "Let's make a deal Rumpelstiltskin she wanna see my purple pickle up in the wind"
In the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, Rumplestiltskin [sic] (also known as Mr. Gold and Detective Weaver) is played by Robert Carlyle. Rumplestiltskin is originally a cowardly man, abandoned as a baby by his parents (the Black Fairy and Peter Pan) but when his son teenage Baelfire is to be drafted into war, he becomes the Dark One, a host to the darkness, becoming a malevolent, immortal trickster who enjoys making deals with those he comes across. After inadvertently abandoning Baelfire, Rumplestiltskin dedicates his entire life to finding him. Rumplestiltskin is also responsible for cutting off Captain Hook's hand after the pirate fell in love with his wife. With intentions to use a terrible curse to travel to the Land Without Magic and search for his son, Rumplestiltskin manipulates young woman Regina into becoming the Evil Queen who will cast the curse. He also takes the place of the Beast, falling in love with Belle after he takes her in as his maid. When the Evil Queen casts the curse and sends everyone to the Land Without Magic, Rumplestiltskin is known as Mr. Gold. When the savior Emma breaks the curse, Rumplestiltskin finally reunites with his now adult son, who is the father of Emma's son Henry. Rumplestiltskin travels to Neverland with the other main characters after Peter Pan kidnaps Henry, eventually leading to Rumplestiltskin sacrificing himself to kill Pan. However, he is resurrected by the Wicked Witch of the West Zelena as her slave, but he is freed from her control; however, Baelfire dies at her hands. Belle later banishes Rumplestiltskin from their town after she learns that he is still doing evil, but he returns with intentions to rewrite fate so that villains get their happy endings. Before this can be achieved, it is revealed that he is dying of the dark magic in his heart, leading to him being briefly purified, but things return to how they once were, with Rumplestiltskin gaining his powers again and continuing his relationship with Belle. Later, Rumplestiltskin and Belle have a son, Gideon, and face Rumple's evil mother the Black Fairy, but he finally does the right thing and kills her before she can unleash chaos. In the final season, Belle dies and Rumple begins a quest to find a way to become mortal again and join her in the afterlife. During a battle against an alternative version of himself threatening to take over the realms, Rumple sacrifices himself, purifying his heart and enabling him to die a hero and be reunited with Belle in death.
Rumpelstiltskin was featured in NBC's Grimm, where the tale is the inspiration for the Season 2 episode "Nameless". He is a type of creature ('Wesen') called a 'Fuchsteufelwild'. The episode featured a Fuchsteufelwild named "Trinket Lipslums" (an anagram of "Rumpelstiltskin"), who is revealed to have helped a team of video game programmers finish an enormously popular MMORPG. The programmers omitted him from the game's credits since they could not recall his name, so Lipslums starts hunting them down one by one; as in the original tale, much of the story centers around determining the character's name.
In an episode of the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled "If Wishes Were Horses", Miles O'Brien reads his daughter the story of Rumpelstiltskin at bedtime and then leaves her room. She comes out shortly afterward to inform her father that Rumpelstiltskin is in the room with her. O'Brien assumes that it is just her imagination and goes into the room with her only to discover that Rumpelstiltskin is indeed in her room. At the end of the episode it is revealed that Rumpelstiltskin (along with various other manifestations) are in fact aliens that were studying imagination.
In the German TV series Spuk unterm Riesenrad, Rumpelstiltskin is the only one of the three evil, living dummies (witch, giant, and Rumpelstiltskin) who doesn't turn good at the end and is frozen by a policeman with a fire extinguisher. He also tries to take over Burg Falkenstein by blackmailing the owner with a fire.
The German TV aired in 2009 an adaptation of the original story of the Grimm Brothers. Rumpelstiltskin was played by Robert Stadlober. According to the film makers: "We did not want overgrown dwarf, but a prince of the forest, and Stadlober is exactly the right thing." In this adaptation the title character was not created as the usual evil man "who comes out of the woods to do evil", but also shows the human side ". Their Rumpelstiltskin has a desire, namely, to have a man around. The filming location was the same Schloss Bürresheim, which appears as Castle Grunewald in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.
The character "Rumpledkiltskin" appears in the animated series Courage The Cowardly Dog as the title character of the episode "Rumpledkiltskin". Rumpledkiltskin tricks Muriel and Courage into traveling to Scotland, where he reveals himself and forces Muriel to weave 5,000 quilts. At the end of the episode, his real name is revealed and he gains a change of heart.
Rumpelstiltskin appears in the animated television series Winx Club, in Season 6 episodes "The Music Café", "The Anthem" and "Acheron". Rumpelstiltskin is, according to both Selina and Daphne, the most cunning, most stubborn, and most brilliant dwarf. He lives in the Legendarium World. He is also very tricky but follows the agreements he makes with others. Due to being exposed in Alfea, he had learnt powerful enchantments when he lived there.
In season 3 of the U.S. television series, The Closer, in the episode entitled "The Round File", the case involves an old man who confesses to the murder of seven people but who will not give the detectives his name and forces them to discover it on their own. As a result, the squad refers to him as Rumpelstiltskin throughout the episode. The story of the fairy tale itself is referenced several times.
In the Happy Tree Friends episode, entitled "Dunce Upon a Time", Petunia was spinning straw into gold within a castle, bearing a strong resemblance, while the rest of the episode bore a strong resemblance to the fairytale, Jack and the Beanstalk.
Rumpelstiltskin appears in a sketch on Studio C which aired in 2016.
Colorized still from the American film Rumpelstiltskin (1915)
Rumpelstiltskin appears as the main antagonist in the film Shrek Forever After, voiced by Walt Dohrn. In this film, it is made evident that he either is allergic to or simply dislikes cherries because he only licks frosting off of a cherry and leaves an uneaten cherry on plate in front of him.
Rumpelstiltskin is one of the zombified characters during the Thrillerparody.
A 1996 supernatural horror B-movie where in Rumpelstiltskin is trapped in a jade rock for five hundred years until a woman is compelled to purchase the rock from an unusual antique shop. The woman makes a wish that her dead husband come back to life to see their child. Rumpelstiltskin grants her wish, bringing her husband back for one night, then tries to steal the baby from the mother with an attempt to eat the baby's soul. This movie stars Max Grodénchik (as Rumpelstiltskin), and Kim Johnston Ulrich (as the mother of the child).
Avengers Grimm - When Rumpelstiltskin destroys the Magic Mirror and escapes to the modern world, the four princesses of "Once Upon a Time"-Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel-are sucked through the portal too. Well-trained and endowed with magical powers, the four women must fight Rumpelstiltskin and his army of thralls before he enslaves everyone on Earth. Casper Van Dien plays Rumpelstiltskin. A different Rumpelstiltskin appears in Avengers Grimm: Time Wars played by Eric Feltes.
Rumpelstiltskin is featured as one of the fairy tale characters the Brothers Grimm encounter in Once Upon a Brothers Grimm; during his segment, the Brothers Grimm help the miller's daughter guess his name, and when she succeeds at the last possible moment he angrily shouts "A plague on all your houses!" before disappearing.
Rumpelstiltskin appears briefly in the Dark Parables sixth installment, Jack and the Sky Kingdom, as a stone imp, (having once been a stone idol animated by a sorcerer, and having since its captivity reverted to stone). He also appears in the bonus chapter, "Rumpelstiltskin and the Queen", where having claimed the Sky Kingdom's new queen newborn daughter, the queen quests to reclaim her child. After the queen has subdued the imp, the Sky King, corrupted by the imp's magic, keeps the imp hostage to spin him more gold.
Rumpelstiltskin makes an appearance in the first game of the series King's Quest, by Roberta Williams. While there are variants to his name (in some versions, the name is spelled with a backwards alphabet, a = z, b = y, etc.; in others it is spelled backwards as Nikstlitslepmur), Rumpelstiltskin offers the knight Graham (hero of the story) a reward for guessing his name. When the task is complete, Rumpelstiltskin gives magic beans to Graham, allowing entrance to the land of the giants to acquire the treasure chest of gold, a main quest item in the game.
In the DLC of The Witcher 3 Hearts of Stone, the Rumpelstiltskin is represented by Master Mirror
In the Ragnarok expansion for Titan Quest: Anniversary edition, Rumpelstiltskin is a Troll mini-boss that has a random chance of being encountered by the player.
The value and power of using personal names and titles is well established in psychology, management, teaching and trial law. It is often referred to as the "Rumpelstiltskin Principle".