|Folk Tale Name:||Rumpelstiltskin|
|Aka:||Tom Tit Tot |
|Published In:||Grimm's Fairy Tales|
English Fairy Tales
Rumpelstiltskin is the eponymous character and antagonist of a fairy tale that originated in Germany (where he is known as Rumpelstilzchen). The tale was collected by the Brothers Grimm, who first published it 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 lied to a king, telling him that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The king called for the girl, shut her in a tower room with straw and a spinning wheel, and demanded that she spin the straw into gold by morning, for three nights, or be executed (other versions have the king threatening to lock her up in a dungeon forever). She had given up all hope, when an impish creature appeared in the room and spun straw into gold for her in return for her necklace, then again the following night for her ring. On the third night, when she had nothing with which to reward him, the strange creature spun straw into gold for a promise that the girl's first-born child would become his.
The king was so impressed that he married the miller's daughter, but when their first child was born, the imp returned to claim his payment: "Now give me what you promised." The queen was frightened and offered him all the wealth she had if she could keep the child. The imp refused but finally agreed to give up his claim to the child if the queen could guess his name in three days. At first she failed, but before the final night, her messenger discovered the imp's remote mountain cottage and, unseen, overheard the imp hopping about his fire and singing. While there are many variations in this song, the 1886 translation by Lucy Crane reads:
Today do I bake, to-morrow I brew,
The day after that the queen's child comes in;
And oh! I am glad that nobody knew
That the name I am called is Rumpelstiltskin!
However, most American children today know it as:
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!
Heute back ich, morgen brau ich,
Übermorgen hol ich mir der Königin ihr Kind;
Ach, wie gut, dass niemand weiß,
dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiß)
When the imp came to the queen on the third day and she revealed his name, Rumpelstiltskin lost 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 version where 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 Fairy 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, 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 Croatia, 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), or "大工と鬼六" in Japan.
Another of the Grimm fairy 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 first born, but that she invite them to her wedding and say that they are relatives of hers. With this more reasonable request, she complies, and is freed from her hated spinning when they tell the king that their hideous looks spring from their endless spinning. In one Italian variant, she 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".
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, Slovak translations use Martinko Klingáč, and Finnish ones Tittelintuure. Italian has Tremotino, Bosnian and Croatian Cvilidreta, and Hebrew Hebrew: עוץ לי גוץ לי (Utzli-Gutzli), 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 "El enano saltarín" (something like "the jumping dwarf".)