Let’s start off with what’s not revealed in the original Grimm’s version of Rumpelstiltskin:
- How did Rumpelstiltskin get his ability of turning straw to gold?
- How did Rumpelstiltskin know that the miller’s daughter needed help?
- Why does Rumpelstiltskin want the queen’s first child?
- Where did the name Rumpelstiltskin come from?
With this interesting retelling, Shurtliff answers all these questions and puts a spin on the information we do know.
When the book opens, Rump's mother dies in child birth only giving Rump half is name. In the story, a name is a powerful thing and can signify what you are meant to do in life. Only having half a name, Rump feels a little cheated in life. That is until he discovers he can spin straw into gold.
Answer 1) In the story, spinning straw into gold is a family trait. Rump's mother could do it and he later learns that his mother's sisters (his aunts) can do it as well. Though they choose to spin straw into other forms. But spinning gold comes with a price. Because of the amount of magic needed to spin straw to gold, it drains the spinner of strength making them unable to negotiate a price for the gold. As Rump sells the gold to the local miller, he discovers that no matter how much he wants to fetch a higher price, he is bound to take whatever the miller offers him. Yes, Rump and the miller, along with his daughter (Opal), know each other. Which is how Rump knew the miller's daughter was in trouble.
Answer 2) Because of the gold the miller was collecting from Rump and the fact the the King gets a percentage of all the gold produced, it was no surprise that Rump's gold caught the attention of the King. But when the King comes to town, just as with the original tale, the miller says it's his daughter, Opal, that can spin the gold. This puts the daughter in danger, now having to produce large quantities of gold for the king. Rump, being a good person, feels guilty for putting Opal in jeopardy and goes to save her, thus spinning the straw into gold at whatever price Opal gives him: her necklace, her ring, and her first born child.
Answer 3) In this story, Rump doesn't want Opal's first born. When Opal realizes she has nothing left to give, Rump makes a joke about the first born and without thinking Opal say yes. Because of the magic behind the spinning of straw to gold, Rump had no choice but to accept the payment even though the child was the last thing he wanted. In fact, he moves far away from the castle in hopes of never finding out that Opal, the now queen, has bore a child.
Answer 4) With no free will in the matter, Rump goes to collect his payment when he hears word that Opal has bore a child. As with the original story, Opal tries to get out of the deal and as a last resort Rump tells her to guess his name. Why three days? With Opal no longer with child, the King wants Opal to spin more straw to gold and has three days to complete the enormous task. Rump uses this time frame as he spins the gold for her. So, how did Rumpelstiltskin come to be?
Let's start with Rumple. In this story, Rumple means wrapped or trapped in magic. This was how Rump felt at times, having no control over the spinning of gold. Then there's Stiltskin, which in the story is pure magic, more powerful than any enchantment or spell or . . . curse. And that was what Rump's situation was considered, a curse. And so with the full name of Rumpelstiltskin, Rump could control his magic, control the spinning of straw to gold in a way that his mother never could.
And that is just the story in the context of Rumpelstiltskin. But there are little gems in the book as well:
- Rump's best friend is Red as in Little Red Riding Hood.
- Red's grandmother is The Witch In The Woods.
- Red's grandmother gives Rump a bean which he absentmindedly throws on the ground. One guess as to what the bean will sprout.
I have to say, I enjoyed this retelling. I'm going to check out Liesl Shurtliff next book called Jack. That is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. I wonder if Rump's bean is the stalk?