Thursday, November 28, 2013


Because it's always time for a good story,


There was once a miller who was poor but who had a beautiful daughter.  And so it came to pass that he had an audience with the king, and in order to gain his esteem he told him, “I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold.”  The king said to the miller, “Now that is an art that pleases me well; if your daughter is really as talented as you say, bring her tomorrow to my castle and I will put her to the test.”  When the girl was brought to him, he led her into a chamber that was filled with straw, gave her a spinning wheel and a reel and said, “Now get to work, and if by tomorrow morning you haven’t spun all this straw into gold, then you must die.”  Thereupon he shut and locked the door, and the girl remained alone in the chamber.

There the poor miller’s daughter sat, and did not for the life of her know what to do; she had no idea how to spin straw into gold, and her fear grew ever greater, so that she finally began to cry.  Then all at once the door opened, and a little man entered and said, “Good evening, Maid Miller’s Daughter, why do you weep so?” – “Oh,” answered the girl, “I am to spin this straw into gold and I don’t know how.”  The little man said, “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” – “My necklace,” said the girl.  The little man took the necklace, sat down at the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times around, and the reel was full.  He set another one on the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times around, and the next one was full – and so it went until the morning, when all the straw had been spun, and all the reels were full of gold.  At sunrise the king came, and when he saw the gold, he was amazed and happy, but his heart became only more greedy.  He had the miller’s daughter taken to another chamber full of straw, this one much bigger than the first, and commanded her to spin the straw again in one night, if she valued her life.  The girl didn’t know what to do and wept, when the door opened again and the little man appeared and said, “What will you give me if I spin this straw into gold?” – “The ring on my finger,” answered the girl.  The little man took the ring, the wheel began to whirr again, and by morning he had spun all of the straw into shining gold.  The king was exceedingly pleased when he saw this, but was still not satisfied, but instead led the girl into an even bigger chamber full of straw and said, “You must spin this again in one night – and if you succeed, I will make you my wife.” – Even if she is only a miller’s daughter, he thought, in the whole world I’d never find a richer wife.  Now when the girl was alone, the little man came for the third time and said, “What will you give me if I spin the straw for you again?” – “I have nothing more to give you,” answered the girl.  “Then promise me your first-born child after you become queen.”  Who knows what will happen, thought the miller’s daughter, and so she promised the little man what he wanted, and in return the little man spun once more the straw into gold.  And as the king came in the morning and found all that he had wished for, he held the wedding and the beautiful miller’s daughter became queen. 

After a year she gave birth to a beautiful child and thought no more of the little man, until suddenly one day he stepped into her room and said, “Now give me what you promised me.”  The queen was frightened and offered the little man all the riches of the kingdom, if only he would leave her the child.  But the little man said, “No, something living is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”  The queen then began to weep and plead, so much that the little man took pity on her and said, “I will give you three days.  If in that time you can guess my name, you may keep the child.”
So the queen pondered the whole night, thinking of all the names she had ever heard, and sent a messenger to inquire far and wide in the land after more names.  When the little man came the next day, she began guessing with Kaspar, Melchior, Balzer, and all the other names that she knew, one after the other, but after each one the little man said, “That’s not my name!”  On the second day she had all the names in the surrounding area collected, and spoke the most unfamiliar, oddest names to the little man:  “Is your name perhaps Rippenbiest or Hammelswade or Schnürbein?”  But he still answered, “That’s not my name!”  On the third day the messenger came back and told the queen, “I could not find a single new name, but as I approached a high mountain at the forest’s edge, where the fox and the hare make their home, there I saw a little house, and in front of the house was a fire, and around the fire a little ridiculous man was jumping, hopping on one leg and crying:

Heute back ich, morgen brau ich,
Übermorgen hol ich der Königin ihr Kind;
Ach wie gut ist, dass niemand weiss,
Dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiss!

Today I bake, tomorrow I brew,
The next day I’ll fetch the Queen’s first child;
What luck it is that noone knows
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!

Now you can well imagine how happy the queen was to hear this name, and when soon thereafter the little man appeared and asked, “Now, Your Highness, what is my name?” she first asked, “Is your name Kunz?” – “No.” – “Is your name Heinz?” – “No.”
 “Could your name be - Rumpelstiltskin?”

“The devil told you that, the devil told you that!” cried the little man, and he stomped his right foot in rage so deep into the earth that it was driven up into his body.  Then in his anger he grabbed his left foot with both hands and tore himself right down the middle in two.

Brothers Grimm, trans. Margaret Coote

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