Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book, (1889)
|AKA||Tom Tit Tot
|Published in||Grimm's Fairy Tales
English Fairy Tales
Rumpelstiltskin (also spelt as Rumplestiltskin) is the title character and protagonist of a fairy tale that originated in Germany (where he is known as Rumpelstilzchen). The tale was collected by the Brothers Grimm in the 1812 edition of Children's and Household Tales. It was subsequently revised in later editions.
In order to make himself appear more important, a miller lies to a king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king calls for the girl, shuts her in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, and demands that 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). She has given up all hope when an imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold for her in return for her necklace. When the king takes the girl on the next morning to a larger room filled with straw to repeat the feat, the imp spins in return for the girl's ring. On the third day, when the girl has been taken to an even larger room with straw and told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold or kill her if she cannot, the girl has nothing left with which to pay the strange creature. He extracts from her a promise that her firstborn child will be given to him, and spins the room full of gold a final time.
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." The now-queen offers him all the wealth she has if she may keep the child. The imp has no interest in her riches, but finally consents to give up his claim to the child if the queen is able to guess his name within three days. Her many guesses over the first two days fail, but before the final night, her messenger (though he does not know the significance of his mission) comes across the imp's remote mountain cottage and watches, unseen, as the imp hops about his fire and sings. In his song's lyrics, "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll go to the king's house, nobody knows my name, I'm called Rumpelstiltskin", he reveals his name.
When the imp comes to the queen on the third day and she, after first feigning ignorance, reveals his true name, Rumpelstiltskin, he loses his temper and his bargain. In the 1812 edition of the Brothers Grimm tales, Rumpelstiltskin then "ran away angrily, and never came back." The ending was revised in a final 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 (Heidi Anne Heiner).
The same story pattern appears in numerous other cultures: Tom Tit Tot in England (from English Tales by Joseph Jacobs), Whuppity Stoorie in Scotland (from Robert Chambers's Popular Rhymes of Scotland), Gilitrutt in Iceland, Joaidane جعيدان in Arabic (he who talks too much), Khlamushka Хламушка (junker) in Russia, Rumplcimprcampr/ Rampelnik in Czech Republic, Martinko Klingáč in Slovakia, Ruidoquedito (meaning "little noise") in South America, Pancimanci in Hungary (from A Csodafurulya by Kolozsvari Grandpierre Emil), Cvilidreta (whine-screamer) in Serbia and Croatia, Tremotino in Italy, Ootz-li Gootz-li עוּץ-לי גוּץ-לי in Israel (a compact and rhymy touch to the original sentence and meaning of the story, "He advised me and then turned me into a joke"), Daiku to Oniroku (daiku means "a carpenter", to means "and", and Oniroku is an ogre's name), "大工と鬼六" in Japan and "Myrmidon" in France
Another of the Grimm's tales revolves about a girl trapped by false claims about her spinning abilities, The Three Spinners. However, the three women who assist that girl do not demand her firstborn, but instead ask that she invite them to her wedding and say that they are relatives of hers. She complies, and when the three appear at the wedding, amazing the king with their ugliness, they tell the king that their various deformities (an overgrown thumb in one, a pendulous lip in the second, an enormous foot in the third) are the result of their years of spinning. The horrified king decrees that the bride will spin no more. In contrast to Rumpelstiltskin's self-seeking, therefore, these helpers ask only the "payment" of extending their benevolence to the heroine, and ensure that she will not need their help again. In one Italian variant, the girl must discover their names, as with Rumpelstiltskin, but not for the same reason: she must use their names to invite them, and she has forgotten them.
The name Rumpelstilzchen in German means literally "little rattle stilt". (A stilt is a post or pole which provides support for a structure.) A rumpelstilt or rumpelstilz was 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 that are mischievous household spirits that disguise themselves.) The ending -chen is a German diminutive and designates something as "little" or "dear", depending on context.
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 named "Rumpele stilt or the Poppart".
Names used in translations
Translations of the original Grimm fairy tale (KHM 55) into various languages have generally substituted different names for the dwarf, whose name is Rumpelstilzchen in the original.
For some languages, a name was chosen that comes close in sound to the German name: Rumpelstiltskin in English, Repelsteeltje in Dutch, and Rumpelstichen in Portuguese. He is known as Päronskaft in Swedish (literally "Pear stalk"); the sense of stilt or stalk of the second part is retained. In Danish and Norwegian, he is known as Rumleskaft (literally "Rumble shank"). In other languages an entirely different and generally meaningless name was selected, such as Barbichu, Broumpristoche, Grigrigredinmenufretin, Outroupistache, Tracassin or Perlimpinpin in various translations to French. Polish translations use Titelitury, Greek translations use Κουτσοκαλιγέρης, Czech translations use Rumplcimprcampr or Rampelník, Slovak translations use Martinko Klingáč, and Finnish ones Tittelintuure. Italian has Tremotino, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian Cvilidreta, and Hebrew עוץ לי גוץ לי (Ootzly-Gootzly), a name chosen by the poet Avraham Shlonsky when using the fairy tale as the basis of a children's play, now a classic among Hebrew children's plays. In Spain, the character's name is Rumpelstinski and Rumpelestíjeles.
Appearances in media
- The Rumpelstiltskin problem by Vivian Vande Velde.
- The Witch's boy By Michael Gruber.
- Rumpelstiltskin appeared in "The book of lost things" with the nickname "Crooked Man".
- In Diane Stanley's short fiction, Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, 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.
- Elizabeth C. Bunce's novel A Curse Dark as Gold 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.
- Susanna Clarke's On Lickerish Hill, found in The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, is a version of Tom Tit Tot.
- Saviour Pirotta's "Guess My Name", published in the "Once Upon a World" series, is a retelling of the Welsh version of the story.
- Rumpelstiltskin appears in the issue 4 of The Muppet Show that was a part of "The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson" arc.
- Rumplestiltskin makes a brief appearance at the beginning of Red Hood's Revenge- the third in Jim C. Hines's Princesses series, starring Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White as active heroines-, where 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 Walter Tevis's science fiction novel The Man Who Fell To Earth, Thomas Newton tells Nathan Bryce "My name is Rumplestiltskin" [sic]
- Jonathan Carroll's novel Sleeping in Flame is a modern variant on the story, which refers explicitly to the Grimms' version.
- In George Orwell's novel 1984, a character of the Ingsoc party is described as being a "Rumpelstiltskin figure" (Ch.IX, p. 188).
- The tale is adapted in the fourth issue of Zenescope's series Grimm Fairy Tales, but it is given an alternative, more tragic ending.
- Mister Mxyzptlk is an impish supervillain who appears in DC's Superman comic books. His origin story somewhat resembles the legend of Rumpelstiltskin.
- The song "Split Myself in Two" by the Meat Puppets is inspired and loosely based on the tale.
- "Rumplestiltskin" is a song by the Columbus, Ohio underground band Earwig from their album Gibson Under Mountain,
- Stiltskin is a Scottish rock band, notable for the fact that one of its band members, Ray Wilson, was temporarily a lead vocalist of progressive rock band Genesis.
- The industrial metal band Megaherz released a song named "I.M. Rumpelstilzchen" on their album Herzwerk II, which quotes the original German fairy tale.
- "Rumpofsteelskin" is a song by funk band Parliament from the album Motor Booty Affair. The song title is reminiscent of the fairy tale's title.
- The ballet "Rumpelstiltskin" by the British composer David Sawer is based on the tale.
- In the 2013 song by Eminem titled Monsters.
- Rumplestiltskin is a main character in the TV series Once Upon a Time from ABC, in which he is the pawn-shop owner Mr. Gold in the town of Storybrooke, Maine, where fairy tale characters are trapped with no memory of their true selves. Flashbacks reveal that Rumplestiltskin was originally a dark sorcerer who regularly made dark deals with other fairy tale characters. This version of Rumplestiltskin is also, in roundabout ways, Cinderella's fairy godmother (or at least he usurps that role after killing the fairy), the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and the crocodile that took the hand of Captain Hook. Rumplestiltskin is played by Robert Carlyle. The miller's daughter is also featured in the series, named Cora, she is revealed to be the Queen of Hearts and the mother of the Evil Queen. The events of the original story are reimagined: rather than merely spinning the straw into gold for her, Rumplestiltskin taught Cora how to do it herself, along with many other dark arts, and they had a romantic relationship. Cora, however, ultimately chose power over the "weakness" of love and removed her own heart so that she could bring herself to marry Prince Henry instead of running away with Rumplestiltskin. It's also revealed that the reason he became magical was killing a being called The Dark One in order to take it's powers so he would prevent his son Baelfire from being sent to fight in The Ogres War. In the Season 3 episode "Think Lovely Thoughts" it is revealed that his father is Peter Pan. He is trapped in Pandora's Box because Peter was being selfish.
- Rumpelstiltskin was also 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 hid his involvement (possibly unintentionally) so they wouldn't have to share credit, 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 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 TV show Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, the second episode, aired originally in 1982, titled "Rumpelstiltskin", stars Hervé Villechaize as Rumpelstiltskin, Ned Beatty as the king, and Shelley Duvall as the miller's daughter.
- 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.
- In 1962's The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, a dream sequence featured Rumpelstiltskin (played by Arnold Stang) alongside other Grimm characters such as Hansel & Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Tom Thumb.
- Rumpelstiltskin is one of the fairy tales featured in the direct-to-video film Muppet Classic Theater where the character was played by Gonzo the Great.
- In the Shrek films:
- The character has also appeared as the antagonist and archenemy in the film Shrek Forever After, voiced by Walt Dohrn, manipulating Shrek into making a wish that would erase Shrek from existence after the ogre indirectly thwarted Rumpelstiltskin's chance to become the ruler of Far, Far Away.
- Rumpelstiltskin already made an earlier appearance in Shrek the Third as a member of the gang of fairy tale villains Prince Charming rounds up in an attempt to take over Far, Far Away, where he mistakes his name as "frumpypigskin". However he had a very different look and was voiced by Conrad Vernon.
- Rumpelstiltskin appeared in Happily N'Ever After and its sequel, voiced by Michael McShane. He is one of the fairy tale villains that side with Cinderella's wicked stepmother Frieda.
- A 1987 live-action musical film, a fairly direct retelling of the fairy tale, starring Amy Irving as the miller's daughter and Billy Barty as the title character.
- A 1996 supernatural horror B-movie wherein 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).
- 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, and credit the queen's messenger for knowledge of the significance of his mission.
- Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Rumpelstiltskin"
- Grimm, Jacob; Grimm, Wilhelm (2008). Bröderna Grimms sagovärld (in Swedish). Bonnier Carlsen. p. 72. ISBN 91-638-2435-3.
- This comes from a section of Schumann's journals that is difficult to find and has not been translated into English. See "Rapunzel in Music" and "Sleeping Beauty in Music" for more corroboration.
- "Screenshot from beginning of episode 'Manhattan'". Retrieved 2013-12-02. Spelling of name is shown.
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- Free version of translation of "Household Tales" by Brothers Grimm from Project Gutenberg
- The Brothers Grimm's 'Rumpelstiltzkin'
- Rumpelstiltzkin with illustration by Mary Ellsworth
- 'Tom Tit Tot: an essay on savage philosophy in folk-tale' by Edward Clodd (1898)
- Web Essay on the Origin of Rumpelstiltskin
- Parallel German-English text in ParallelBook format