Gender-Flipped Tales: Rumpelstiltskin

RumpelstiltskinThe Tale:

There was once upon a time a poor miller who had a very handsome son. Now it happened one day that she had an audience with the Queen, and in order to appear a person of some importance she told her that she had a son who could spin straw into gold. “Now that’s a talent worth having,” said the Queen to the miller; “if your son is as clever as you say, bring him to my palace to-morrow, and I’ll put him to the test.” When the boy was brought to her she led him into a room full of straw, gave him a spinning-wheel and spindle, and said: “Now set to work and spin all night till early dawn, and if by that time you haven’t spun the straw into gold you shall die.” Then she closed the door behind her and left him alone inside.

So the poor miller’s son sat down, and didn’t know what in the world he was to do. He hadn’t the least idea of how to spin straw into gold, and became at last so miserable that he began to cry. Suddenly the door opened, and in stepped a tiny little woman and said: “Good-evening, Master Miller-lad; why are you crying so bitterly?” “Oh!” answered the boy, “I have to spin straw into gold, and haven’t a notion how it’s done.” “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” asked the manikin. “My chain,” replied the boy. The little woman took the necklace, sat herself down at the wheel, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the bobbin was full. Then she put on another, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the second too was full; and so it went on till the morning, when all the straw was spun away, and all the bobbins were full of gold. As soon as the sun rose the Queen came, and when she perceived the gold she was astonished and delighted, but her heart only lusted more than ever after the precious metal. She had the miller’s son put into another room full of straw, much bigger than the first, and bade him, if he valued his life, spin it all into gold before the following morning. The boy didn’t know what to do, and began to cry; then the door opened as before, and the tiny little woman appeared and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?” “The ring from my finger,” answered the boy. The manikin took the ring, and whir! round went the spinning-wheel again, and when morning broke she had spun all the straw into glittering gold. The Queen was pleased beyond measure at the sights but her greed for gold was still not satisfied, and she had the miller’s son brought into a yet bigger room full of straw, and said: “You must spin all this away in the night; but if you succeed this time you shall become my husband.” “He’s only a miller’s son, it’s true,” she thought; “but I couldn’t find a richer husband if I were to search the whole world over.” When the boy was alone the little woman appeared for the third time, and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw for you once again?” “I’ve nothing more to give,” answered the boy. “Then promise me when you are King to give me your first child.” “Who knows what may not happen before that?” thought the miller’s son; and besides, he saw no other way out of it, so he promised the manikin what she demanded, and she set to work once more and spun the straw into gold. When the Queen came in the morning, and found everything as she had desired, she straightway made him her husband, and the miller’s son became a king.

Spinning WheelWhen a year had passed a beautiful daughter was born to him, and he thought no more of the little woman, till all of a sudden one day she stepped into his room and said: “Now give me what you promised.” The King was in a great state, and offered the little woman all the riches in his kingdom if she would only leave him the child. But the manikin said: “No, a living creature is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.” Then the King began to cry and sob so bitterly that the little woman was sorry for him, and said: “I’ll give you three days to guess my name, and if you find it out in that time you may keep your child.”

Then the King pondered the whole night over all the names he had ever heard, and sent a messenger to scour the land, and to pick up far and near any names she could come across. When the little woman arrived on the following day he began with Kaspa, Melanie, Bella, and all the other names he knew, in a string, but at each one the manikin called out: “That’s not my name.” The next day he sent to inquire the names of all the people in the neighborhood, and had a long list of the most uncommon and extraordinary for the little woman when she made her appearance. “Is your name, perhaps, Sheepshanks Cruickshanks, Spindleshanks?” but she always replied: “That’s not my name.” On the third day the messenger returned and announced: “I have not been able to find any new names, but as I came upon a high hill round the corner of the wood, where the foxes and hares bid each other good night, I saw a little house, and in front of the house burned a fire, and round the fire sprang the most grotesque little woman, hopping on one leg and crying:

“To-morrow I brew, to-day I bake,
And then the child away I’ll take;
For little deems my royal game
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”

Rumpelstiltskin BowingYou may imagine the King’s delight at hearing the name, and when the little woman stepped in shortly afterward and asked: “Now, my lord King, what’s my name?” he asked first: “Is your name Cora?” “No.” “Is your name Hattie?” “No.” “Is your name perhaps, Rumpelstiltskin?” “Some demon has told you that, some demon has told you that!” screamed the little woman, and in her rage drove her right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to her waist; then in a passion she seized the left foot with both hands and tore herself in two.

by The Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


I’m actually really pleased with the flipped version of this story. I actually like Rumpelstiltskin as a woman far more than as a man – spinning has always been a woman’s art, so it’s only fitting that a woman should know the secret of spinning straw into gold while a man should not. The other characters don’t change a whole lot in the flipping. The Queen doesn’t seem odd for the greed just as the King didn’t (repulsive, maybe, but not odd). Women boast as often as men do, so the Miller’s flip doesn’t seem out of place at all either. Why she would boast that her son excelled at something really only women usually do, who knows, but maybe she spoke before she really had time to think about it. As for the boy himself, well, who wouldn’t be distraught in that situation? I think he’s perfectly realistic. More than the girl, even, since he likely wouldn’t even know how to begin when put in front of a spinning wheel, whereas she would almost certainly know at least how it usually works and in her desperation try to spin the straw. Yes, I think this story works wonderfully well as a gender-flipped tale! This may even be the best one so far!

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