Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to 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. If by to-morrow morning early, you have not spun this straw into gold, 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 Little Man, “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 till the morning, when all the straw was spun, and all the reels were full of gold.
By daybreak, the King was 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. 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 Little Man 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 difficulty, she promised the Little Man what he wanted. And for that he once more span 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 Little Man. But suddenly he came into her room, and said, “Now give me what you promised.”
The Queen was horror-struck, and offered the Little Man all the riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child.
But the Little Man said, “No, something that is alive, is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”
Then the Queen began to weep and cry, so that the Little Man pitied her. “I will give you three days’ time,” said he; “if by that time you find out my name, then you shall 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 there might be.
When the Little Man 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 neighborhood as to the names of the people there. And she repeated to the Little Man 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. Before the house a fire was burning, and round about the fire a funny Little Man was jumping. He hopped upon one leg, and shouted:
“To-day I brew, to-morrow I bake,
And next, I shall the Queen’s child take!
Ah! well it is, none knows the same—That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”
You may think how glad the Queen was when she heard the name! And when soon afterward the Little Man came in, and asked, “Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name?” she said:
“Is your name Conrad?”
“Is your name Harry?”
“PERHAPS,” SAID SHE, “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 stamped 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.