Rumpelstiltskin is known as a fairy tale character who can spin gold from straw and loves making deals-but who is he and where did he come from? Get the facts about the legend of Rumpelstiltskin, first collected and published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.
Who is Rumpelstiltskin?
Rumpelstiltskin is a dwarf and the antagonist of the fairy tale of the same name.
When a miller's daughter is locked up by the king and ordered to spin straw into gold for three days straight or else be executed, Rumpelstiltskin appears and offers to do the job for her if she gives him her necklace in return.
The second day, he returns, and does the job for her again, this time in exchange for her ring.
On the third day, she has nothing left to give him, but promises him her first-born child in return for spinning the remainder of the straw into gold.
How was the deal broken?
When the king sees the spun gold, he is so impressed that he marries the miller's daughter. They eventually give birth to their first child, and Rumpelstiltskin comes to collect his payment.
The queen is frightened, and offers him all of her wealth in exchange for being able to keep her child. Rumpelstiltskin refuses this offer, but eventually agrees to let her keep the child if she can guess his name in three days.
On the second day, the queen's messenger overhears Rumpelstiltskin singing a song while dancing around his fire. The song has been translated several different ways, but one of the most popular goes:
Today I brew, tomorrow I bake;
And then the prince child I will take;
For no one knows my little game;
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name.
The messenger tells the queen what he has heard, and next time Rumpelstiltskin visits the queen, she excitedly tells him that she knows his real name.
How does Rumpelstiltskin die?
When Rumpelstiltskin realizes that he lost his end of the bargain, he becomes so distraught that, in several versions of the tale, he destroys himself. Some say that he drove his right foot into the ground so hard that the ground swallowed him whole, while the original 1812 version simply states he "ran away angrily, and never came back."
What does the name Rumpelstiltskin mean?
Literally translated, the German name Rumpelstilzchen means "little rattle stilt"-stilt referring to a pole or post supporting a house. The name 'rumpelstilt' or 'rumpelstilz' referred to a type of noisy house goblin, also called a poppart, which is similar in nature to a mischievous poltergeist who makes noise by rattling house posts and tossing objects around.
Like many fairy tales from the same period, Rumpelstiltskin has valuable underlying lessons-in this case, about the perils of greed and the dangers of entering into contracts. The beloved tale is still told to children today, and even alluded to in movies, television shows and other media sources.