Sacred Texts  Household Tales Index  Previous: Little Snow-White  Next: The Three Feathers 

      Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter.
 Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the King, and in order to make
 himself appear important he said to him, "I have a daughter who can spin straw
 into gold." The King said to the miller, "That is an art which pleases me
 well; if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to-morrow to my
 palace, and I will try what she can do."
      And when the girl was brought to him he took her into a room which was
 quite full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and a reel, and said, "Now
 set to work, and if by to-morrow morning early you have not spun this straw
 into gold during the night, you must die." Thereupon he himself locked up the
 room, and left her in it alone. So there sat the poor miller's daughter, and
 for her life could not tell what to do; she had no idea how straw could be
 spun into gold, and she grew more and more miserable, until at last she began
 to weep.
      But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, and said,
 "Good evening, Mistress Miller; why are you crying so?" "Alas!" answered the
 girl, "I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it." "What
 will you give me," said the manikin, "if I do it for you?" "My necklace," said
 the girl. The little man took the necklace, seated himself in front of the
 wheel, and "whirr, whirr, whirr," three turns, and the reel was full; then he
 put another on, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times round, and the second was
 full too. And so it went on until the morning, when all the straw was spun,
 and all the reels were full of gold. By day-break the King was already
 there, and when he saw the gold he was astonished and delighted, but his heart
 became only more greedy. He had the miller's daughter taken into another room
 full of straw, which was much larger, and commanded her to spin that also in
 one night if she valued her life. The girl knew not how to help herself, and
 was crying, when the door again opened, and the little man appeared, and said,
 "What will you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?" The ring on my
 finger," answered the girl. The little man took the ring, again began to turn
 the wheel, and by morning had spun all the straw into glittering gold.
      The King rejoiced beyond measure at the sight, but still he had not gold
 enough; and he had the miller's daughter taken into a still larger room full
 of straw, and said, "You must spin this, too, in the course of this night; but
 if you succeed, you shall be my wife." "Even if she be a miller's daughter,"
 thought he, "I could not find a richer wife in the whole world."
      When the girl was alone the manikin came again for the third time, and
 said, "What will you give me if I spin the straw for you this time also?" "I
 have nothing left that I could give," answered the girl. "Then promise me, if
 you should become Queen, your first child." "Who knows whether that will ever
 happen?" thought the miller's daughter; and, not knowing how else to help
 herself in this strait, she promised the manikin what he wanted, and for that
 he once more spun the straw into gold.
      And when the King came in the morning, and found all as he had wished, he
 took her in marriage, and the pretty miller's daughter became a Queen.
      A year after, she had a beautiful child, and she never gave a thought to
 the manikin. But suddenly he came into her room, and said, "Now give me what
 you promised." The Queen was horrorstruck, and offered the manikin all the
 riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child. But the manikin said,
 "No, something that is living is dearer to me than all the treasures in the
 world." Then the Queen began to weep and cry, so that the manikin pitied her.
 "I will give you three days' time," said he; "if by that time you find out my
 name, then shall you keep your child."
      So the Queen thought the whole night of all the names that she had ever
 heard, and she sent a messenger over the country to inquire, far and wide, for
 any other names that there might be. When the manikin came the next day, she
 began with Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, and said all the names she knew, one
 after another; but to every one the little man said, "That is not my name." On
 the second day she had inquiries made in the neighbourhood as to the names of
 the people there, and she repeated to the manikin the most uncommon and
 curious. "Perhaps your name is Shortribs, or Sheepshanks, or Laceleg?" but he
 always answered, "That is not my name."
      On the third day the messenger came back again, and said, "I have not
 been able to find a single new name, but as I came to a high mountain at the
 end of the forest, where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, there
 I saw a little house, and before the house a fire was burning, and round about
 the fire quite a ridiculous little man was jumping: he hopped upon one leg,
 and shouted -
 "'To-day I bake, to-morrow brew,
 The next I'll have the young Queen's child.
 Ha! glad am I that no one knew
 That Rumpelstiltskin I am styled."
      You may think how glad the Queen was when she heard the name! And when
 soon afterwards the little man came in, and asked, "Now Mistress Queen, what
 is my name?" at first she said, "Is your name Conrad?" "No." "Is your name
 Harry?" "No."
      "Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?"
      "The devil has told you that! the devil has told you that!" cried the
 little man, and in his anger he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth
 that his whole leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard
 with both hands that he tore himself in two.