History of Rumpelstiltskin and a Feminist Version of the Story

Today I am going to share a bit of the history of the tale, Rumpelstiltskin as well as a newer version of it that will make many feminists very happy. Let's just say the miller's daughter does not marry the mean king!! Let's start with the history of the tale of this funny, little man who can spin straw into gold.

History of Rumpelstiltskin

The story of Rumpelstiltskin can be traced back to the 16th century in Europe. The name Rumpelstiltskin comes from the German name, Rumpelstilzchen, which means little rattle stilt. A rumpelstilt was the name of a type of goblin who liked to make noise rattling posts or rapping on planks. The earliest known record of Rumpelstiltskin occurred in one of Johann Fischart's books from 1577. The best known version of Rumpelstiltskin is from the Brother Grimms which they published in 1812. I shared about this version in our first Rumpelstiltskin post

The story itself is thought to have been derived from an old children's game called Rumpele stilt odor der Poppart. Children would take turns being the goblin by making noises--rattling posts and rapping on planks. One source described it a bit like duck, duck, goose. 

Now let's face it, the miller's daughter is not very lucky. Her father in the most common version lies and gets her into an impossible position. The king who becomes her husband locks her up and threatens to kill her each night if the impossible is not done. And finally Rumpelstiltskin helps her but also wants things from her. Some historians say the story itself could have sexual connotations and serve as a warning to young, naive, married women. The number three seems to also be reoccuring in this story. Three nights to spin three rooms of straw into gold, three people who betray the girl and so many more. Now I will admit this was my least favorite fairy tale when I was a child. I am finding it interesting now to see what has been done with it.


Rumplestiltskin's Daughter

The fun version I am sharing today is Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter by Diane Stanley. You can read it on-line here. In this version the miller's daughter gives Rumpelstiltskin her cheap necklace and cigar-band pinkie ring. On the third night she tells him how the situation will change. If he spins the straw to gold she will be forced to marry the greedy king and if he doesn't she will die. He offers to do it if he can adopt her firstborn child, because he really wants to be a father. She however does not want to marry the king and says she would rather marry Rumpelstiltskin than the king. So Rumpelstiltskin and Meredith (yes in this version she gets a name) sneak off and are married. They live far away from the castle and have a simple life. They even have a daughter. When she is sixteen they let their daughter go see bits of the world--a little at each time. They send her to sell the goldsmith some of the gold Rumpelstiltskin has spun when they need money. The goldsmith tells a friend about her and that friend tells someone until the greedy king hears about the mysterious country girl who keeps coming in with gold to exchange for coins. Well the king remembers the miller's daugther and wants to make sure this one does not get away. The king's guards waited for Rumpelstiltskin's daughter outside the goldsmith and brought her through town where the land was barren and the people were starving to the palace which was full of gold and wealth. Rumpelstiltskin's daughter however is clever and she finds a way to help the poor and to teach the king a lesson about true wealth and happinese. 

I love that this story realizes how crazy it is to want to marry a king who locks you away in a room of straw and demands you do an impossible thing or he will kill you. I love that Rumpelstiltskin's daughter is smart enough to out smart the greedy king and help all the people. Oh, and I love that she also didn't want to marry the king but becomes the prime minister instead. Talk about women's rights!! This is a must read book for anyone who wants their daugthers to grow up with positive influences!!