A father boasts of his daughter that she can spin straw into gold. The king takes her away to see for himself. Luckily Rumpelstiltskin appears to help her…
Rumpelstiltskin is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a miller’s daughter. The kings tasks her to spin straw into gold. A little man helps her in exchange for her future child. When he comes to collect the only way out is in guessing his name: Rumpelstiltskin. She finds out.
Complete text Rumpelstiltskin
The miller’s daughter must spin straw into gold
Once upon a time there was a miller who was poor, but had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the king. In order to make himself appear important he said to him, “I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold.”
The king said to the miller, “That is an art which I like; if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her tomorrow to my palace, I want to see what she can do.”
When the girl was brought to him he took her to a room which was full of straw, gave her a spinning wheel and a reel and said, “Now get to work. If by tomorrow early morning you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die.”
He locked up the room himself and left her alone. So there sat the poor miller’s daughter. For the life of her she could not tell what to do. She had no idea how straw could be spun into gold and grew more and more miserable, until at last she began to weep.
Rumpelstiltskin appears and helps out the girl
Suddenly the door opened. In came a little man, who said, “Good evening, Mistress Miller. Why are you crying?”
“Oh my!” answered the girl, “I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it.”
“What will you give me,” said the little man, “if I do it for you?”
“My necklace,” the girl said.
The little man took the necklace, seated himself in front of the wheel, and “whirr, whirr, whirr,” three turns, and the reel was full. He put another on, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times around, and the second was full too. And so it went on until the morning, when all the straw was spun and all the reels were full of gold.
By daybreak the king was already there. When he saw the gold he was astonished and delighted, but his heart became only more greedy. He had the miller’s daughter taken into another room full of straw, which was much larger. He commanded her to spin that also in one night if she valued her life.
Rumpelstiltskin helps out the girl a second time
The girl knew not how to help herself. She was crying when the door again opened and the little man appeared. He said, “What will you give me if I spin that straw into gold for you?”
“The ring on my finger,” the girl answered. The little man took the ring, again began to turn the wheel, and by morning had spun all the straw into glittering gold.
The king rejoiced beyond measure at the sight, but still he had not gold enough. He had the miller’s daughter taken into a still larger room full of straw and said, “You must spin this, too, in the course of this night; but if you succeed, you shall be my wife.”
“Even if she is only a miller’s daughter,” he thought, “I will not find a richer wife in the whole world.”
Rumpelstiltskin helps a third time in exchange for the future baby
When the girl was alone the little man appeared again for the third time. He said, “What will you give me if I spin the straw for you this time also?”
“I have nothing left to give,” the girl answered.
“Then promise me, if you would become queen, your first child.”
“Who knows whether that will ever happen?” the miller’s daughter thought. Not knowing how else to get herself out of this situation, she promised him what he wanted. For that he once more span the straw into gold.
When the king came in the morning and found all as he had wished, he took her in marriage. The pretty miller’s daughter became a queen.
Rumpelstiltskin comes to collect the baby
A year after she had a beautiful child. She never gave a thought to the little man, but suddenly he came into her room and said, “Now give me what you promised.”
The queen was horror struck. She offered him all the riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child. But he said, “No, something that is living is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”
The queen began to weep and cry, so much that he pitied her. “I will give you three days’ time,” he said, “if by that time you find out my name, then you can keep your child.”
The queen tries to guess the name of Rumpelstiltskin
The queen thought the whole night of all the names that she had ever heard. She sent a messenger over the country to inquire, far and wide, for any other names that there might be. When he came back the next day, she began with Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, and said all the names she knew, one after another. To every one the little man said, “That is not my name.”
On the second day she had inquiries made in the neighborhood as to the names of the people there, and she repeated to him the most uncommon and curious. “Perhaps your name is Shortribs, or Sheepshanks, or Laceleg?” but he always answered, “That is not my name.”
On the third day the messenger came back again and said, “I have not been able to find a single new name, but as I came to a high mountain at the end of the forest, where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, there I saw a little house. Before the house a fire was burning and around the fire quite a ridiculous little man was jumping: he hopped upon one leg and shouted—
“Today I bake, tomorrow brew,
The next I’ll have the young queen’s child.
Ha! glad am I that no one knew
That Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.”
Of course you realize how happy the queen was when she heard that name! And when soon afterwards the little man came in and asked, “Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name?” at first she said, “Is your name Conrad?” “No.” “Is your name Harry?” “No.”
“Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?”
“The devil has told you that! the devil has told you that!” the little man cried. In his anger he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard with both hands that he tore himself in two.
Tips for Telling Rumpelstiltskin
- A short but strong and well known tale. I cannot help but think that two of the biggest culprits in this tale get away: the father and the king. Take some time to think through this story and find out where your sympathies lie.
- There are not many scenes in this story, so the scenes that you paint with words should be powerful. The scene of the little man dancing around the fire is so powerful that you might to want to incorporate it multiple times in your story.
- Find your own words for the little rhyme of Rumpelstiltskin. Never be afraid to change rhymes to versions that dance and roll on your own tongue, it is what storytellers always have done.
All Questions Answered
This fairy tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the first edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Their sources: Dortchen Wild, Hassenpflug family and others. Variants of this tale existed long before the Grimm’s publication.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1812 edition of the Grimm’s fairy tales. They edited it quite substantially for the next editions. This tale was told long before it was written.
In German the names Rumpelstiltskin is Rumpelstilzchen. It means literally a rattling post of a house. A Rumpelstilz was a mischievous little creature that makes sounds (rattling the posts) and moves objects in the house (kinda like a poltergeist).
More useful information
Fairy tales with a miller
- The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs
- The Girl Without Hands
- The Juniper Tree
- The Robber Bridegroom
- The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats
- Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack
Photo credits: Sammy Williams on Unsplash
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).