24.RUMPELSTILTSKIN

By the side of a wood, in a country a long way off, ran a fine stream, and on the stream was a mill. The miller’s house was close by, and the miller had a very beautiful daughter. She was, moreover, very clever; and the miller was so proud of her, that he one day told the king of the land, who used to come and hunt in the wood, that his daughter could spin gold out of straw. Now this king was very fond of money; and when he heard the miller’s boast his greed was aroused, and he sent for the girl to be brought before him. Then he led her to a chamber in his palace where there was a great heap of straw, and gave her a spinning-wheel, and said, ‘All this must be spun into gold before morning, or you will die.’ It was in vain that the poor maiden said that it was only a silly boast of her father, for that she could do no such thing as spin straw into gold. The chamber door was locked, and she was left alone.

She sat down in one corner of the room, and began to bemoan her misfortune. Suddenly the door opened, and an odd-looking little man hobbled in, and said, ‘Good-day to you. What are you weeping for?’ ‘Alas!’ she said, ‘I must spin this straw into gold, and I don’t know how.’ ‘What will you give me,’ said the hobgoblin, ‘to do it for you?’ ‘My necklace,’ replied the maiden. So he sat himself down at the wheel, and whistled and sang:

 'Round about, round about,
    Lo and behold!
  Reel away, reel away,
    Straw into gold!'

And round about the wheel went merrily. The work was quickly done, and the straw was all spun into gold.

When the king came and saw this, he was greatly astonished and pleased, but his heart grew still more greedy so and he shut up the poor miller’s daughter again with more straw. Then she did not know what to do, and sat down once more to weep. However the dwarf soon opened the door, and said, ‘What will you give me to do your task?’ ‘The ring on my finger,’ she said. So her little man took the ring, and began to work at the wheel again, and whistled and sang:

 'Round about, round about,
    Lo and behold!
  Reel away, reel away,
    Straw into gold!'

Long before morning, all was done again.

The king was greatly delighted to see all this glittering treasure, but still he did not have enough so he took the miller’s daughter to a yet larger heap, and said, ‘All this must be spun tonight and if it is, you shall be my queen.’ As soon as she was alone that dwarf came in, and said, ‘what will you give me to spin gold for you this third time?’ ‘I have nothing left,’ she said. ‘Then promise you will give me,’ said the little man, ‘the first child that you may have when you are queen.’ ‘That must never be,’ thought the miller’s daughter. As she knew no other way to get her task done, she said she would do what he asked. Round went the wheel again to the old song, and the small man once more spun the heap into gold. The king came in the morning, and, finding all he wanted, was forced to keep his word, so he married the miller’s daughter, and she really became queen.

At the birth of her first little child she was very glad, and forgot the dwarf, and what she had said. But one day he came into her room, where she was sitting playing with her baby, and reminded her of her promise. Then, deeply regretting her misfortune, she said she would give him all the wealth of the kingdom if he would let her off. He refused till at last he said, ‘I will give you three days’, and if during that time you tell me my name, you shall keep your child.’

Now the queen lay awake all night, thinking of all the odd names that she had ever heard and she sent messengers all over the land to find out new ones. The next day the little man came, and she began with TIMOTHY, ICHABOD, BENJAMIN, JEREMIAH, and all the names she could remember; but to all and each of them he said, ‘Madam, that is not my name.’

The second day she began with all the comical names she had ever heard of, BANDY-LEGS, HUNCHBACK, CROOK-SHANKS, and so on but the little gentleman still said to every one of them, ‘Madam, that is not my name.’

The third day one of the messengers came back, and said, ‘I have travelled two days without hearing of any other names, but yesterday, as I was climbing a high hill, among the trees of a forest, I saw a little hut, and in front of the hut burnt a fire, and round the fire a funny little dwarf was dancing upon one leg, and singing:

 '"Merrily the feast I'll make.
  Today I'll brew, tomorrow bake;
  Merrily I'll dance and sing,
  For next day will a stranger bring.
  Little does my lady dream
  Rumpelstiltskin is my name!"'

When the queen heard this she jumped for joy, and as soon as her little friend came she sat down upon her throne, and called all her court round to enjoy the fun. The nurse stood by her side with the baby in her arms, as if it was quite ready to be given up. Then the little man began to chuckle at the thought of having the poor child, to take home with him to his hut in the woods; and he cried out, ‘Now, lady, what is my name?’ ‘Is it JOHN?’ she asked. ‘No, madam!’ ‘Is it TOM?’ ‘No, madam!’ ‘Is it JEMMY?’ ‘It is not.’ ‘Can your name be RUMPELSTILTSKIN?’ said the lady slyly. ‘Some witch told you that!—some witch told you that!’ cried the little man, and stamped his right foot in a rage so deep into the floor, that he was forced to take hold of it with both hands to pull it out.

Then he stormed out, while the nurse laughed and all the court jeered at him for having had so much trouble for nothing, and said, ‘We wish you a very good morning Mr RUMPLESTILTSKIN!’