There once lived a miller with his daughter. When the miller was at work all day turning grain into flour, he loved nothing more than to think up tall tales to amaze people.
One day the King came to town. He heard the miller talking about his daughter. The miller was saying that his daughter was the most amazing girl in their village, if not in all the land.
“You there!” said the King. “What is so amazing about your daughter?”
The father bowed. He said, “Your Majesty, my daughter is so clever that she can spin straw into gold!”
“Spin straw into gold?” said the King. “That is amazing! She must come to my palace. I will put her to the test!”
“But I mean…” said the miller. He wished he had not told the King such a thing! But now it was too late.
So the miller’s daughter had to go to the King’s palace at once. The King took her to a room piled with straw from floor to ceiling. He pointed to the spinning wheel in the middle of the room. He said, “Now get to work! If by morning you have not spun this straw into gold, you will die!”
The King slammed the door and locked it behind him. The girl was all alone.
For the life of her, she did not know what to do. She had no idea how to spin straw into gold! “What will I do?” she called out to the air. “No one can do such a thing!”
Just then, an odd little man stood before her. “Did I hear you say, ‘no one’?” he said.
“What?” said the girl, shocked. “Where did you come from?”
“Never mind that!” said the imp. “What matters is I can save your life. For a price, of course.”
“You can spin straw into gold?” said the girl. “What kind of price do you have in mind?” She did not know if she should trust this stranger.
“What you give must be important to you,” said the imp. “How about that necklace?”
The girl thought, “Indeed, my necklace is very dear to me. But not as much as my freedom.” So she said to the imp, “Very well. If by morning you can turn this room full of straw into gold, this necklace is yours.”
The little man got to work. Very busy he was, all night long. Whirr, whirr, whirr, until morning. By then, not one piece of straw was left in the room – all of it was turned into piles of pure gold thread!
“You did it!” said the girl.
“Of course I did!” snapped the imp. “Now hand over that necklace!”
“A deal is a deal,” said the girl. She took off her necklace and gave it to him. And he was gone.
When the King stepped into the room, he was very glad. “Look at that!” he said, running the gold thread through his fingers. “Pure gold!”
“Yes,” said the girl. “Now if you please, sir. I’d like to go home now.”
“Not so fast!” said the King. “I will have my servants bring new straw to fill up a room larger than this one. You will stay there tonight. Beware – by morning all the straw must be spun into gold. If you care about your life!”
“Look at that!” he said, running the gold thread through his fingers. “Pure gold!”
“But I already–!” said the girl.
“No ‘buts’ about it!” said the King. And he left, slamming the door behind him. It locked with a click.
“Oh!” the girl called out. “I was lucky last night. It will not happen again.”
“Who says?” said a voice. The girl turned. There before her was that odd little man again!
“I will do this job for you,” said the imp, “But you must give me that ring on your finger.”
“I always loved that ring!” thought the girl. “But after all, it is just a ring.” “All right, she said to the imp. It’s a deal.”
So the imp spun the straw all night.
By morning, nothing but piles of spun gold thread lay on the floor. The girl gave the ring to the imp, as she said she would do.
The next morning, the girl felt sure the King would be so happy, he would let her go home. But alas! If two rooms of gold look good to a king, three rooms of gold looked even better. The King took the girl to the biggest room yet. He had already filled with straw. He told her she must turn that straw into gold by morning. Or else!
This time, however, the King said his son was coming back from a long journey that very night. In the morning he would send his son to the room to see if the work was done. If it was, she was to marry the prince. The king thought, “Even if she is a miller’s daughter, I could not find a better wife for my son.” But he told the girl in a loud booming voice, if she could not do the task, she would marry no one at all for she would die!
He told her she must turn that straw into gold by morning. Or else!
When the King left, the girl fell into a deep gloom. How long would this go on? Would she ever get out?
When she lifted her head, there was that little man again. “I bet you knew I would come back,” he said
“I could not know for sure,” said the girl. “But this time I no longer have anything to give you. I cannot pay you anymore.”
“We will find a good price,” said the imp. And he went to work, spinning the straw into gold.
“Stop!” said the girl. “Please! I have nothing left to pay you.”
But the imp did not stop! He worked all night long. Though the girl waved at him and begged him to stop, hour after hour, it was no use.
By morning, the job was done. “There!” said the imp. “All done. Now I will tell you my price.”
“That’s not fair!” said the girl.
“Lots of things are not fair,” said the imp with a shrug.
“Very well,” she sighed. “What is your price?”
“Oh, nothing right now,” he said. “But later…. If you become Queen, I will take your first born child.”
“What?!” said the girl in fear. “I cannot imagine I would ever be Queen. But even if I were, I would never agree to such a thing!”
“There!” said the imp. “All done. Now I will tell you my price.”
“Oh, but you already have. The straw is spun into gold. And so the deal is made!” said the imp. And he was gone.
A moment later, a young man stepped into the room. “Miss, are you all right?” said the Prince. “I know how hard my father can be.”
“True, that,” she said, and they smiled. This young man seemed very different from his father.
“When I am King,” he said, “I will not rule as he does.” The Prince looked around. He saw the large piles of gold, shining on the floor.
“How can you do such a thing?” he said in wonder. The girl said nothing. “I was told that if the straw were spun into gold by this morning, you were to marry me. But know this. If you really want to get out of here, I will help you. Do not worry. I will find a way to tell my father.”
This young man was very different! The girl wanted to get to know him better. The two stayed in the room and talked about all sorts of things. Before long, they had fallen in love. Then he asked her to marry him. And the girl said yes.
So the two were married. It was not long after the wedding when the terrible old King died. The prince became King and the miller’s daughter became Queen. In time, the new Queen had a baby of her own, a son. Joy filled the palace.
Until one day, when the Queen was alone in her room.
All of a sudden, the imp stood before her. “Give me what you promised!” said the imp, pointing at the baby. “Now!”
“I never promised it!” said the Queen. She held her baby tightly. She said, “I will give you gold instead. More gold than you have ever seen.”
“Why do I need gold?” said the little man. “I can make all the gold I want!”
“Then, I will give you a castle,” said the queen.
“I come and go where I want,” said the imp. “What do I want with a castle?”
“Then, I will give you servants to take care of you,” said the queen.
“No one takes care of me!” said the imp. “No one even knows who I am!”
“I will find out who you are,” said the queen.
“Oh, REALLY?” said the imp. For he knew that no one on earth knew his true name.
“Very well,” he said. “I will give you three days. After three days, if you cannot tell me my true name, the baby is mine. But if you guess my name, you can keep that baby for all I care. And no one must know about this! If you say but one word of this to anyone, the baby will be gone forever.”
Three days is a long time to come up with a lot of names, thought the Queen. And so she agreed.
The next day, the Queen wrote a very long list of every name she could think of. That night, in the baby’s bedroom, the imp appeared before her. “Well?” he said in a loud voice.
The queen read the whole list of names, one by one. “Could your name be Nathan?” she said. “Lucas?” “Jacob? “Hugo?” “Felix?” “Oliver?” As you can imagine, many other names, too.
“Not even close!” laughed the imp. “See you tomorrow night.” And he was gone.
The next day, the Queen looked through every book in the royal library. She found names from faraway places. Names she had never heard of.
That night when the imp appeared, the Queen read her list.
“Perhaps your name is Maximilian,” she said. “No? How about Gunnar?” “Alfonso?” “Pointdexter?” And many more.
“This is boring,” said the imp. “But I will not be bored tomorrow night. The third night is when that baby is mine!” He laughed again, and was gone.
That night when the imp appeared, the queen read her list.
The third day, the Queen did not know what to do. She wished she could tell her husband her woes, but she dare not. She walked to one side of the room, then back again. Back and forth, over and over. “This does not help a thing!” she said. She put on her royal cape and hood, and walked outside the castle.
“If I have peace and quiet, maybe I will think of something,” she thought. The Queen went into the woods. She followed a brook to a big lake, and went past the lake to the deep forest hidden in the darkness.
All of a sudden, the queen saw the light of a fire far away. And there was a voice that was hard to make out. There was something about that voice, too, but what? She stepped closer. At last, there in front of a fire, danced a little man. It was he, the very same imp! Very quietly, the queen listened.
As the little man danced, he sang:
Tonight, tonight, my plans I make
Tomorrow tomorrow, the baby I take.
The queen will never win the game
For Rumpelstiltskin is my name!
“Rumpelstiltskin!” said the queen.
That night when Rumpelstiltskin appeared, the queen went through more names. “Is your name Yusaf? Bobek? How about Salaman?”
“No, a thousand times, no!” said the imp. “You are wasting my time. I will give you one last guess. Then that is the end!”
“Well, I am sure this is not right. But could your name be – Rumpelstiltskin?”
“RUMPELSTILTSKIN?” yelled the imp. “How could you know?” He was so mad that he stamped his feet. He stamped them so hard that a very big hole opened in the ground, and he fell right down into it. And Rumpelstiltskin was never seen again.