Hansel and Gretel by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by John Hassall

Grimm's Household Tales with the
Author's Notes
translated by Margaret Hunt

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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 the life of her 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 daybreak 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 that 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 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 manikin. But suddenly he came into her room, and said, "Now give me what you promised." The Queen was horror-struck, 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 neighborhood 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.

Next Tale:
Sweetheart Roland

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.


From four stories collected in Hesse, which agree with, and in some particulars, complete each other. In one of them, however, the conclusion varies in that the Queen does not send out any emissaries to enquire about strange names; but on the third day the King loses himself when he is out hunting, and accidentally listens to what the mannikin is saying, and hears what he calls himself. A fifth story begins in the following manner: a bundle of flax was given to a little girl to spin into yarn, but what she span was always golden thread, and not flaxen yarn. On this she became very sad and seated herself on the roof, and span and span, but still never any thing but gold. Then a little man came walking by, who said, "I will help thee out of thy difficulty; a young prince shall pass by, and shall take thee away with him, and marry thee, but thou must promise me thy first child." Afterwards the Queen's maid goes out and sees the little man riding round the fire on a ladle, and hears his name. When Rumpelstilzchen sees that his secret is discovered, he flies out of the window on the ladle. Besides this, a sixth variant from Hesse may be named, in which nothing is said about spinning. A woman is walking past a garden wherein beautiful cherries are hanging; longs for some of them, and climbs in and eat some; but a black man comes out of the earth, and for this theft she is forced to promise him her child. When it is born, he forces his way through all the guards who have been set by her husband, and will only consent to leave the woman the child, if she can get to know his name. Then the husband follows him and sees him clamber into a cave, which is hung on all sides with ladles, and hears him call himself Flederflitz. See the Little Staff in Carol. Stahl's Stories, p. 85. In Müllenhoff, No 8, the mannikirk is called Rümpentrumper. In Kletke's Märchensaal, No. 3, he is Hopfenhütel. In Zingerle, No. 36, and Kugerl, p. 278, Purzinigele. In Pröhle's Kindermärchen No. 23, and in Bechstein's Märchen für die Jugend, No. 20, he is Hipche, Hipche. Compare Colshorn, p. 83. In Swedish see Cavallius, p. 210. Fischart can rove the age of this story, for in Gargantua (chap. 25), where a list of games is to be found (under No. 363), there is a game called" Rumpelestilt, or the Poppart." Now people also say "Rumpenstinzchen." Gnomes bear names which are not in use among men, so the mannikin believed himself quite safe when he imposed the condition that his name should he discovered. A being of the same kind (Müllenhoff's Sagen, pp. 306 and 578) is called Knirrsicker and Hans Donnerstag, and betrays himself in the same way. A similar story to ours is interwoven with D'Aulnoy's White Cat, No. 19. The French Ricdin-ricdon in the Dark Tower, by Mlle. l'Héritier from which is printed a Danish rendering, en smuk Historie om Rosanie . . . tjent ved Fandens Hielp for Spindepige. Nyerop, Morskabsläsning, p. 173, also belongs to this group.

Millers and miller's daughters appear in numbers of German stories; this we are speaking of reminds us strangely of the Northern Fenia and Menia, who could grind whatsoever was wanted, and who were ordered by King Frode to grind peace and gold. The spinning gold may also refer to the difficult and painful work of preparing gold-wire which is left to poor girls. Thus in the ancient Danish song, Kämpe Viser, p. 165, verse 24:

"Nu er min Sorg saa mangefold [1],
Som Jongfruer de spinde Guld."

Compare Wolfdietrich, Str. 89, and Iwein, 6186-6198.

The task of guessing a name occurs also in a Danish saga. (Thiele, 1. 45) where a certain man, in return for services performed, has to give his heart and his eyes to a trold if he cannot get to know his name. He listens however to the trold's wife when she is comforting her child, and saying, "To-morrow thy father will come," and at the same time says his name. Besides this there is the saga of Turandot, in The Thousand and one days. Calaf has guessed all her riddles, but will renounce his rights, if she can guess his name. One of her maids goes cunningly to him and tells him of Turandot's horrible inhumanity, who is going to have him murdered because she cannot guess his riddle. Then he imprudently cries, "Oh, unhappy son of Timurtas, oh Calaf worthy of pity!" Thus Turandot learns his name. A Swedish popular Story of St. Olaf turns upon discovering the name of a spirit in this way. See Gräter's Iduna, 3. 60, 61. The incident of demanding the child enters into a great number of myths.

1: "Now my sorrows are manifold,
For I'm a maiden who spins gold."

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