Upon a hilltop stood a golden castle.
The castle—and all of its contents—were made from pure, twenty four carat gold. Even the moat surrounding the castle was filled with liquid gold, upon which swam the most glorious golden swans.
In the castle lived a Queen. A greedy, beastly woman loathed by her entire kingdom. This should not come as a surprise as she cared only for one thing—her precious gold.
One morning came a knock at her chamber door.
“Entaah,” she cried.
A skinny servant boy entered carrying a large scroll. He opened the scroll and began to read.
“A message from the mines, Ma’am,” he said, then paused and shuffled nervously on the spot.
The Queen stared at him, impatiently.
“Go on, boy!” she blurted.
“Ummm. Well, it just says all the gold is gone, Ma’am,” he replied, turning the scroll to show the Queen.
“Poppycock!’ roared the Queen, “this simply cannot be!”
But it was.
All of the gold in the kingdom had gone. The stockpiles were bare. And the mines were empty. Not a single morsel of gold remained and the Queen was—to put it mildly—furious.
She called a meeting.
Every man, woman and child from across the kingdom was forced to attend.
On the day of the meeting, everyone gathered outside the golden gates of the castle waiting for the Queen’s arrival.
Suddenly, a trumpet sounded.
“All rise for her Majesty The Queen,” bellowed an important voice.
The Queen stepped forward.
“We need gold!” she cried, “and I will not stop until I find someone in this kingdom who can get it for me!”
She pointed at a young man in the crowd.
“You!” she said, “can you get me gold?”
“Why no Ma’am. For I am just a poor baker’s son.”
“Banish him!” she cried, to which three armoured guards seized the man, and escorted him to the castle dungeons.
This time the Queen pointed at a young woman.
“What about you!” she said, “can you get me gold?”
“Why, no Ma’am. For I am just a poor woodcutter’s daughter.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, she cried, “Banish her!” and the armoured guards duly seized her, and—just as before—marched her swiftly to the castle dungeons.
By this point the crowd were decidedly anxious. People looked around nervously at one another. It had become obvious that this ruthless, greedy Queen would stop at nothing to get her precious gold.
This time, the Queen—clearly getting restless—pointed at a young boy standing next to his parents.
“You, boy!” she cried, “can you get me gold?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said.
To this, his parents looked bemused. For it was plain to them that the boy did not—nor his family—possess a single ounce of gold.
“Go on,” said the Queen.
“Well, you see, Ma’am, I am the son of a farmer and I can spin straw into pure gold.”
The Queen summoned the guards.
“Lock this boy in the barn, she cried, “he must spin all of my straw to gold by sunrise or he will be banished to the dungeons… forever!”
The guards seized him and threw him into the barn—the door slammed behind him, followed by the sound of clanking chains and a padlock snapping shut.
It fell dark.
The boy sat on the straw—his head cupped in his hands.
“Oh, what am I going to do,” he said aloud, “for I simply wanted to avoid the dungeons and I cannot spin any of this straw into gold.”
Then something very strange happened.
There was a brilliant flash of light and a tiny elf appeared before him.
“I can,” said the elf.
“You can what?” the boy replied.
“I can spin the straw to gold and save you from a life of pain and suffering in the dungeons.”
The boy smiled.
“However,” continued the elf, “it comes at a price. Gold has no value to me, but you… boy… you are of great value to me.
In return for saving your life, I will take you as my slave.”
The boy—faced with this impossible choice—reluctantly agreed.
“Very well,” said the elf.
And with a single snap of his tiny fingers, a loom appeared. The elf sat down and began to spin.
True to his word, the elf turned the straw into gold.
By sunrise all of the straw in the barn was gone. In its place—neatly stacked in one enormous pile—stood countless bales of spun gold. More gold than could be extracted from a thousand mines.
The boy began to sob.
“Whatever is the matter, child. I have saved you from the evil Queen’s beastly dungeons. Why do you cry these great tears of sorrow?” said the elf.
“I cry,” sobbed the boy, “for I will now become your slave and will see my family no longer. They care for me dearly and I cannot imagine my life without them—nor their life without me.”
Hearing this, the elf seemed to take pity upon the boy for a moment.
“I tell you what,” he said with a wry smile,
“I will give you until sunrise to guess my name. And if you do, then I too will spare you. Now hurry along to your family and meet me by my cottage in the woods in the morning.”
The boy returned home at once.
His family were delighted—if somewhat aghast—to see him.
“How can this be?” cried his Mother, as she opened the farmhouse door to the sight of her only son.
“Oh my dear son,” his Father said through welling eyes, “we did not expect to see you again. You lied to the Queen. You have no gold. How can it be that you stand before us?”
The boy told them everything.
The family sat around the farmhouse table—open mouthed—listening intently to every word.
After he finished, the room fell silent.
Then his father spoke.
“I know the cottage of which you speak, son. It is in the woods next to the top field. We will wait until dark, creep into the woods and look for any clues as to the name of this enchanted elf you speak of.”
Darkness fell that evening.
By the light of a single candle, they made their way across the field, through the top gate and into the woods. They walked until then came to a clearing. Then stopped.
Before them stood a tiny white cottage, with smoke pluming from the chimney.
Inside a roaring fire burned. And in front of the fire was the elf.
They peered in the window.
The elf—who had his back to the window—strummed gleefully on a banjo, singing a song.
This boy will simply not succeed,
To guess my name and then be freed,
He has no hope. Oh, what a shame,
For Rumpelstiltskin is my name.
Hearing this, the boy and his family were overjoyed. They skipped home arm in arm, then went to bed and waited for sunrise.
The following morning—at the break of dawn—the boy knocked on the door of the tiny cottage.
“Come in” said the elf.
The boy entered and sat in a chair opposite the elf.
“Now,” he continued, “would you like to guess my name?”
Not wanting to give the game away immediately, he forced a puzzled expression onto his face and said;
“Ha ha… Spindlewhip is not my name!” cried the elf. “Guess again!”
“Eh…” the boy said—still pretending not to know, “well, what about Goldspin?”
“Ha ha… Goldspin is not my name!” cried the elf. “Guess again!”
The boy lent forward slowly.
“What about Rumpelstiltskin?” he said, with a knowing smile.
The elf fell to the ground.
“Impossible!” he screamed, “only my mother knows my name. This cannot be! This cannot be!”
What happened next was extraordinary—and somewhat gruesome, so I hope you are sitting comfortably.
The elf placed a hand on either side of his head, grabbed his hair and pulled so hard that he tore himself clean in two.
The boy could not believe his eyes.
In front of him now stood two identical elves. One elf pointed at the other and said,
“You must be my slave now!”
“Absolutely not!” he cried, “You must be my slave!”
A mighty scuffle broke out between the two elves and—amid this commotion—the boy snuck quietly out the door and over the field to the farmhouse.
I am pleased to say that the boy did not end up becoming a slave to either of the elves. He returned safely to his family and they lived a long and prosperous life together.
The elves—on the other hand—were never seen again. And, to this day, it is said that the small white cottage in the woods remains empty.
Can you read the Rumpelstiltskin story for free?
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Who is Rumpelstiltskin?
Rumpelstiltskin is a character from German folklore first recorded in the 15th century. He is usually portrayed as an imp-like creature who grants wishes to people if they can guess his name, which no one ever does until the end of the story. Rumpelstiltskin has become a popular subject for fairy tales, and is often used as a symbol of greed or deception. He is known for his skill in spinning straw into gold, which he conspires to do with the help of a magical spindle.