A to Z Challenge Folklore

Rumpelstiltskin #folklore #AtoZChallenge

R is for Rumpelstiltskin

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

Rumpelstiltskin is probably the most famous of its kind, but there are other fae who have made bargains with unsuspecting humans.

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit: man & gold.


There’s this lovely Scottish folktale, Whuppity Stoorie, which you can read here or listen to here:

The original version of Rumpelstiltskin varies a bit from the one we all know:

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “Rumpelstilzchen,” Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1st ed, 1812



Once upon a time there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he got into a conversation with the king and said to him: “I have a daughter who knows the art of turning straw into gold.”

So the king immediately sent for the miller’s daughter and ordered her to turn a whole room full of straw into gold in one night. And if she could not do it, she would have to die. She was locked in the room, and she sat there and cried, because for her life she did not know how the straw would turn into gold.

Then suddenly a little man appeared before her, and said: “What will you give me, if I turn this all into gold?” She took off her necklace and gave it to the little man, and he did what he had promised.

The next morning the king found the room filled with gold, and his heart became even more greedy. He put the miller’s daughter into an even larger room filled with straw, and told her to turn it into gold. The little man came again. She gave him a ring from her hand, and he turned it all into gold.

The third night the king had her locked in a third room, which was larger than the first two, and entirely filled with straw. “If you succeed this time, I’ll make you my wife,” he said.

Then the little man came and said, “I’ll do it again, but you must promise me the first child that you have with the king.”

In her distress she made the promise, and when the king saw that this straw too had been turned into gold, he took the miller’s daughter as his wife.

Soon thereafter the queen delivered a child. Then the little man appeared before her and demanded the child that had been promised him. The queen begged him to let her keep the child, offering him great riches in its place.

Finally he said, “I’ll be back to get the child in three days. But if by then you know my name, you can keep the child.!”

For two days the queen pondered what the little man’s name might be, but she could not think of anything, and became very sad. On the third day the king came home from a hunt and told her how, two days earlier, while hunting deep in a dark forest, he had come upon a little house. A comical little man was there, jumping about as if on one leg, and crying out:

Today I’ll bake; tomorrow I’ll brew.
Then I’ll fetch the queen’s new child.
It is good that no one knows
Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

The queen was overjoyed to hear this.

Then the dangerous little man arrived and asked: “Your majesty, what is my name?”

“Is your name Conrad?”


“Is your name Heinrich?”


“Then could your name be Rumpelstiltskin?”

“The devil told you that!” shouted the little man. He ran away angrily, and never came back.

*The Grimms dressed this tale up considerably in succeeding editions. The most notable change is the introduction of the spinning wheel as a device for turning straw into gold. Further, in later editions the queen discovers the dwarf’s name through a messenger whom she herself sends forth to collect strange names, not through her husband’s chance meeting with the little man.

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit: man & gold.

English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs [1890]

Tom Tit Tot

ONCE upon a time there was a woman, and she baked five pies. And when they came out of the oven, they were that overbaked the crusts were too hard to eat. So she says to her daughter:

‘Darter,’ says she, ‘put you them there pies on the shelf, and leave ’em there a little, and they’ll come again.’ – She meant, you know, the crust would get soft.

But the girl, she says to herself: ‘Well, if they’ll come again, I’ll eat ’em now.’ And she set to work and ate ’em all, first and last.

Well, come supper-time the woman said: ‘Go you, and get one o’ them there pies. I dare say they’ve come again now.’

The girl went and she looked, and there was nothing but the dishes. So back she came and says she: ‘Noo, they ain’t come again.’

‘Not one of ’em?’ says the mother.

‘Not one of’ ’em,’ says she.

‘Well, come again, or not come again,’ said the woman, ‘I’ll have one for supper.’

‘But you can’t, if they ain’t come,’ said the girl.

‘But I can,’ says she. ‘Go you, and bring the best of ’em.’

‘Best or worst,’ says the girl, ‘I’ve ate ’em all, and you can’t have one till that’s come again.’

Well, the woman she was done, and she took her spinning to the door to spin, and as she span she sang:

‘My darter ha’ ate five, five pies today.
My darter ha’ ate five, five pies today.’

The king was coming down the street, and he heard her sing, but what she sang he couldn’t hear, so he stopped and said:

‘What was that you were singing, my good woman?’

The woman was ashamed to let him hear what her daughter had been doing, so she sang, instead of that:

‘My darter ha’ spun five, five skeins today.
My darter ha’ spun five, five skeins today.’

‘Stars o’ mine!’ said the king, ‘I never heard tell of anyone that could do that.’ Then he said: ‘Look you here, I want a wife, and I’ll marry your daughter. But look you here,’ says he, ‘eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the gowns she likes to get, and all the company she likes to keep; but the last month of the year she’ll have to spin five skeins every day, and if she don’t I shall kill her.’

‘All right,’ says the woman; for she thought what a grand marriage that was. And as for the five skeins, when the time came, there’d be plenty of ways of getting out of it, and likeliest, he’d have forgotten all about it.

Well, so they were married. And for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, and all the company she liked to keep.

But when the time was getting over, she began to think about the skeins and to wonder if he had ’em in mind. But not one word did he say about ’em, and she thought he’d wholly forgotten ’em.

However, the last day of the last month he takes her to a room she’d never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning-wheel and a stool. And says he: ‘Now, my dear, here you’ll be shut in tomorrow with some victuals and some flax, and if you haven’t spun five skeins by the night, your head’ll go off.’

And away he went about his business.

Well, she was that frightened, she’d always been such a gatless girl, that she didn’t so much as know how to spin, and what was she to do tomorrow with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sate down on a stool in the kitchen, and law! how she did cry!

However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail. That looked up at her right curious, and that said:

‘What are you a-crying for?’

‘What’s that to you?’ says she.

‘Never you mind,’ that said, ‘but tell me what you’re a-crying for.’

‘That won’t do me no good if I do,’ says she.

‘You don’t know that,’ that said, and twirled that’s tail round.

‘Well,’ says she, ‘that won’t do no harm, if that don’t do no good,’ and she upped and told about the pies, and the skeins, and everything.

‘This is what I’ll do,’ says the little black thing. ‘I’ll come to your window every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night.’

‘What’s your pay?’ says she.

That looked out of the corner of that’s eyes, and that said:

‘I’ll give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven’t guessed it before the month’s up you shall be mine.’

Well, she thought, she’d be sure to guess that’s name before the month was up. ‘All right,’ says she, ‘I agree.’

‘All right,’ that says, and law! how that twirled that’s tail.

Well, the next day, her husband took her into the room, and there was the flax and the day’s food.

‘Now, there’s the flax,’ says he, ‘and if that ain’t spun up this night, off goes your head.’ And then he went out and locked the door.

He’d hardly gone, when there was a knocking against the window.

She upped and she oped it, and there sure enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.

‘Where’s the flax?’ says he.

‘Here it be,’ says she. And she gave it to him.

Well, come the evening a knocking came again to the window. She upped and she oped it, and there was the little old thing with five skeins of flax on his arm.

‘Here it be,’ says he, and he gave it to her.

‘Now, what’s my name?’ says he.

‘What, is that Bill?’ says she.

‘Noo, that ain’t,’ says he, and he twirled his tail. ‘Is that Ned?’ says she.

‘Noo, that ain’t,’ says he, and he twirled his tail. ‘Well, is that Mark?’ says she.

‘Noo, that ain’t,’ says he, and he twirled his tail harder, and away he flew.

Well, when her husband came in, there were the five skeins ready for him. ‘I see I shan’t have to kill you tonight, my dear,’ says he; ‘you’ll have your food and your flax in the morning,’ says he, and away he goes.

Well, every day the flax and the food were brought, and every day that there little black impet used to come mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sate trying to think of names to say to it when it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it got towards the end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled that’s tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.

At last it came to the last day but one. The impet came at night along with the five skeins, and that said:

‘What, ain’t you got my name yet?’

‘Is that Nicodemus?’ says she.

‘Noo, ‘t ain’t,’ that says.

‘Is that Sammle?’ says she.

‘Noo, ‘t ain’t,’ that says.

‘A-well, is that Methusalem?’ says she.

‘Noo, ‘t ain’t that neither,’ that says.

Then that looks at her with that’s eyes like a coal of fire, and that says: ‘Woman, there’s only tomorrow night, and then you’ll be mine!’ And away it flew.

Well, she felt that horrid. However, she heard the king coming along the passage. In he came, and when he sees the five skeins, he says, says he:

‘Well, my dear,’ says he. ‘I don’t see but what you’ll have your skeins ready tomorrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan’t have to kill you, I’ll have supper in here tonight.’ So they brought supper, and another stool for him, and down the two sate.

Well, he hadn’t eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.

‘What is it?’ says she.

‘A-why,’ says he, ‘I was out a-hunting today, and I got away to a place in the wood I’d never seen before. And there was an old chalk-pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning-wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that’s tail. And as that span that sang:

‘Nimmy nimmy not
My name’s Tom Tit Tot.’

Well, when the girl heard this, she felt as if she could have jumped out of her skin for joy, but she didn’t say a word.

Next day that there little thing looked so maliceful when he came for the flax. And when night came she heard that knocking against the window panes. She oped the window, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and Oo! that’s tail was twirling round so fast.

‘What’s my name?’ that says, as that gave her the skeins.

‘Is that Solomon?’ she says, pretending to be afeard.

‘Noo, ’tain’t,’ that says, and that came further into the room.

‘Well, is that Zebedee?’ says she again.

‘Noo, ’tain’t,’ says the impet. And then that laughed and twirled that’s tail till you couldn’t hardly see it.

‘Take time, woman,’ that says; ‘next guess, and you’re mine.’ And that stretched out that’s black hands at her.

Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, pointing her finger at it:

‘Nimmy nimmy not
Your name’s Tom Tit Tot.’

Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit: man & gold.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


One of the best-known stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. The meaning of the name in German is literally “Little Rattle Stilt”. The same basic character is found in many other countries and cultures.


A Cornish spinning demon, with similarities to the European folklore character Rumpelstiltskin, Terrytop is described in Popular Romances of the West of England (1865) by Robert Hunt as “a queer-looking little man, with a remarkable pair of eyes, which seemed to send out flashes of light. There was something uncommonly knowing in the twist of his mouth, and his curved nose had an air of curious intelligence. He was dressed in black.”

Tom Tit Tot

One of many names used in English versions of the Rumpelstiltskin tale. Tom Tit Tot is a malicious, leering little imp with a long tail who helps a desperate bride with her spinning in return for her promise to belong to him if she cannot discover his name within a month.

*More can be read in the book.

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit: man & gold.

Further Reading:

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit: man & gold.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The tale of Rumpelstiltskin and others who make deals to help mortals, are quite wide-spread in folklore. From little old women in Scotland like Whoopity Stoorie who heal animals only to want the woman’s child as payment, to Tom Tit Tot who helps a hapless young woman turn flax into gold – again wanting the woman’s child as payment or the woman, depending on the variant. Each time, knowing the creature’s true name saved the child and the woman.

Which makes one wonder why people make deals with strange creatures to start with. Of course, in Rumpelstiltskin, the girl’s father boasts to the king and everyone else that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The girl can either die or make a deal with the creature who shows up to help her. The first few times, she has something to exchange for the creature’s services (a necklace, etc.). She then makes the deal to give the creature her first born child. Which makes it child trafficking… Grr. Of course, she also agrees to marry the man who threatens to behead her… So perhaps it’s about only having bad choices.

Each time, though, this helping hand becomes enraged when the woman saves herself and her child from its malicious intent.

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit.

Rumpelstiltskin in Modern Culture

Grimm TV series

Rumpelstiltskin in Grimm. Image credit

Fuchsteufelwild are highly intelligent and clever, which allows them to concoct their highly elaborate plans. Fuchsteufelwild are highly sadistic and love to play intricate games with their victims. While the nature of their games varies, they all have one thing in common: the victim must guess the Fuchsteufelwild’s name, which is always an anagram of the letters that make up the name Rumpelstiltskin. Due to their enormous egos, Fuchsteufelwild will become violent if they feel like they are about to lose, and they will frequently try to kill their victims. If they know there is no way they can win, Fuchsteufelwild will often commit suicide. Despite their formidable offensive capabilities, Fuchsteufelwild prefer to take on their prey one at a time via ambush, likely stemming from their small stature. If faced with multiple well-armed foes, Fuchsteufelwild will run. Fuchsteufelwild are particularly terrified of Grimms.

Learn more here.

(Once Upon a Wish anthology) Wish Upon a Straw by Devon Monk (My Review)

“I can’t spin gold! I have never been able to spin gold. I wish it were possible. I wish the straw could be spun into gold.”

She also wished the king had heard her. But the floor was stone, the walls were stone and the ceiling was stone.

No one could hear her.

She was all alone.

Except for the pile of straw.

Except for the spinning wheel.

Except for the little crooked man standing next to her. “Hey, Babes.”

“Ah!” she shrieked.

“Whoa, whoa.” He held up long-fingered hands. “You wished, and I came. No need to yell about it.”

Ruth took several deep breaths. One shouldn’t commit more than one murder a day on principle.

“You smell like lemons,” she said.

“I do.”

“And clover.”

“That too.”

“You’re a fairy.”

His eyes, brown as pine cones went wide. “The tunic and pointy shoes didn’t tip you off?”

“I don’t judge a person by their clothing.”

“The huge mouth?” He pointed to his mouth, which was a bit wide, she supposed.

“Mouths come in a lot of sizes.”

“The glowing sparkles floating around me? That didn’t make you think I might be magic?”

“Things,” she said, annoyed, “are rarely what they appear to be.”


He laced his large hands behind his back and rocked up on the balls of his feet. “So…you appear to be a prisoner.”

“I think I am.”

He pushed the spinning wheel so it slowly turned and gave the pile of straw a little kick. Dust puffed into the air, mixing with his golden magic and darkening his yellow hair.

“King Kage wants you to spin gold out of straw?”

Wish Upon a Straw by Devon Monk

Shrek movies

Rumpelstiltskin. Image credit

He is a scheming and devious trickster whose plot to take over the kingdom of Far Far Away was accidentally ruined thanks to Shrek rescuing Princess Fiona from the Dragon‘s Keep. When the opportunity arises, Rumpel decides to trick a vulnerable Shrek into signing him a contract that ends up altering the whole world. He is completely different from the fairytale character of the same name.

Years before the events of the fourth film, if any displeased customer wanted to break one of his deals with him, Rumpel allowed his contracts to break if his customers found out his real name and told him, but after so many broken contracts and the public knowledge on his name, Rumpel ceased to allow his contracts to be broken so easily.

Learn more here.

Rumpelstiltskin in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin is the name of one of many faery gangs who deal in child trafficking. Horrible as it is, they facilitate changelings, tithes that need the blood of babes, and other things even the most hard-hearted of fae steer clear of. They enjoy making deals with hapless mortals who should know better, but ignore the teachings of their elders to keep steel on them and steer clear of strange creatures. They are tricksters of the worst kind. This gang, as most of their kind, are made up of outcasts (goblins too pretty, red caps too tall, etc.). One of their favourite haunts is a crossroads, as many mortals know that they can “make a deal with the devil” in such a place. They are rarely caught and their victims cannot get out of their deal by merely knowing the gang’s name, as each deal has its own fine print.

Rumpelstiltskin translated to Afrikaans: Repelsteeltjie.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you first encounter Rumpelstiltskin? What do you think of this tricky faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

8 thoughts on “Rumpelstiltskin #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I LOVE Rumpelstiltskin stories! I think my daughter’s old The Rumpelstiltskin Problem (Vivian Vande Velde) is still on the bookshelf.

  2. I was going to put Rumpelstiltskin on my Villains R post, but thinking about it, I wondered how much of a villain he was, really. I can’t recall which fantasy writer said it, but he is the only character in the story who keeps his word. The king, IMO, is the real villain of this story. His greed causes the whole trouble and who’d really want to marry him?

    There is a story by Jane Yolen, in which the Rumpelstiltskin character is a young, recently married Jewish moneylender. He feels sorry for the girl, whose father has boasted she can do amazing tapestries, and helps her buy some, so she marries the mayor’s son. When she won’t repay the loan, his wife goes to ask for the money, and the girl accuses her of wanting her child, leading to a pogrom. The young man is killed. Sad!

    Anyway, here is the post I did put up! Two MCU villains for you.


  3. Rumpelstiltskin is a longtime favorite of many people. My kids and grandchildren all enjoyed it. I like the cartoon pictures you posted better than the truly scary pictures. But then, on the one who sleeps with the lights on if I read or see anything too spooky. 🙂

  4. Like Sue I always felt that Rumpelstiltskin was more sympathetic than the Miller or the King. I wrote a short story version of the story set in the early industrial revolution in which Rumpelstiltskin and the mill girls work together…

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