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Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book, (1889)
Folk tale
Name Rumpelstiltskin
Also known as Tom Tit Tot
Aarne-Thompson grouping 500
Country Germany
Published in Grimm's Fairy Tales
English Fairy Tales

Rumpelstiltskin is the protagonist of a fairy tale that originated in Germany (where he is known as Rumpelstilzchen). The tale was collected by the Brothers Grimm in the 1812 edition of Children's and Household Tales.


  • Plot 1
  • Variants 2
  • Name origins 3
  • Names used in translations 4
  • Appearances in media 5
    • Literature 5.1
    • Comics 5.2
    • Music 5.3
    • Television 5.4
    • Film 5.5
    • Games 5.6
  • References 6
  • External links 7


In order to make himself appear superior, a miller lies to the king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold (Some versions make the miller's daughter blonde and describe the "straw-into-gold" claim as a careless boast the miller makes about the way his daughter's straw-like blonde hair takes on a gold-like luster when sunshine strikes it). The king calls for the girl, shuts her in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, and demands that she spin the straw into gold by morning or he will cut off her head (other versions have the king threatening to lock her up in a dungeon forever). She has given up all hope until an imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold for her in return for her necklace (since he only comes to people seeking a deal/trade). When the king takes the girl, on the next morning, to a larger room filled with straw to repeat the feat, the imp spins in return for the girl's ring. On the third day, when the girl has been taken to an even larger room with straw and told by the king that he will marry her if she can fill this room with gold or kill her if she cannot, the girl has nothing left with which to pay the strange creature. He extracts from her a promise that her firstborn child will be given to him, and spins the room full of gold a final time.

The king keeps his promise to marry the miller's daughter. But when their first child is born, the imp returns to claim his payment: "Now give me what you promised." The now-queen offers him all the wealth she has if she may keep the child. The imp has no interest in her riches, but finally consents to give up his claim to the child if the queen is able to guess his name within three days. Her many guesses over the first two days fail, but before the final night, she wanders out into the woods searching for the imp and comes across his remote mountain cottage and watches, unseen, as the imp hops about his fire and sings. In his song's lyrics, "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll go to the king's house, nobody knows my name, I'm called 'Rumpelstiltskin'", he reveals his name. Some versions have the imp limiting the number of daily guesses to three and hence the total number of guesses allowed to a maximum of nine.

When the imp comes to the queen on the third day and she, after first feigning ignorance, reveals his true name, Rumpelstiltskin, he loses his temper and his bargain. (Versions vary about whether he accuses the devil or witches of having revealed his name to the queen.) In the 1812 edition of the Brothers Grimm tales, Rumpelstiltskin then "ran away angrily, and never came back". The ending was revised in a final 1857 edition to a more gruesome ending wherein Rumpelstiltskin "in his rage drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a passion he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two". Other versions have Rumpelstiltskin driving his right foot so far into the ground that he creates a chasm and falls into it, never to be seen again. In the oral version originally collected by the brothers Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin flies out of the window on a cooking ladle.


The same story pattern appears in numerous other cultures: Tom Tit Tot in England (from English Tales by Joseph Jacobs), Whuppity Stoorie in Scotland (from Robert Chambers's Popular Rhymes of Scotland), Gilitrutt in Iceland, Joaidane جعيدان in Arabic (he who talks too much), Khlamushka Хламушка (junker) in Russia, Rumplcimprcampr, Rampelník or Martin Zvonek in the Czech Republic, Martinko Klingáč in Slovakia, Ruidoquedito (meaning "little noise") in South America, Pancimanci in Hungary (from A Csodafurulya by Kolozsvari Grandpierre Emil), Cvilidreta (whine-screamer) in Serbia and Croatia, Tremotino in Italy, Ootz-li Gootz-li עוּץ-לי גוּץ-לי in Israel (a compact and rhymy touch to the original sentence and meaning of the story, "My adviser my midget"), Daiku to Oniroku (daiku means "a carpenter", to means "and", and Oniroku is an ogre's name), "大工と鬼六" in Japan and "Myrmidon" in France.

These tales are Aarne-Thompson type 500, The Name of the Helper.[1]

Another of the Grimm's tales revolves about a girl trapped by false claims about her spinning abilities, The Three Spinners. However, the three women who assist that girl do not demand her firstborn, but instead ask that she invite them to her wedding and say that they are relatives of hers. She complies, and when the three appear at the wedding, amazing the king with their ugliness, they tell the king that their various deformities (an overgrown thumb in one, a pendulous lip in the second, an enormous foot in the third) are the result of their years of spinning. The horrified king decrees that the bride will spin no more. In contrast to Rumpelstiltskin's self-seeking, therefore, these helpers ask only the "payment" of extending their benevolence to the heroine, and ensure that she will not need their help again. In one Italian variant, the girl must discover their names, as with Rumpelstiltskin, but not for the same reason: she must use their names to invite them, and she has forgotten them.

Name origins

The name Rumpelstilzchen in German means literally "little rattle stilt". (A stilt is a post or pole which provides support for a structure.) A rumpelstilt or rumpelstilz was the name of a type of goblin, also called a pophart or poppart that makes noises by rattling posts and rapping on planks. The meaning is similar to rumpelgeist ("rattle ghost") or poltergeist, a mischievous spirit that clatters and moves household objects. (Other related concepts are mummarts or boggarts and hobs that are mischievous household spirits that disguise themselves.) The ending -chen is a German diminutive cognate to English -kin.

The earliest known mention of Rumpelstiltskin occurs in Johann Fischart's Geschichtklitterung, or Gargantua of 1577 (a loose adaptation of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel) which refers to an "amusement" for children named "Rumpele stilt or the Poppart".

Names used in translations

Translations of the original Grimm fairy tale (KHM 55) into various languages have generally substituted different names for the dwarf, whose name is Rumpelstilzchen in the original.

For some languages, a name was chosen that comes close in sound to the German name: Rumpelstiltskin in English, Repelsteeltje in Dutch, Rumpelstichen in Portuguese, and "Ram-Khel-Tilak_Singh" in Bengali. He is known as Päronskaft in Swedish[2] (literally "Pear stalk"); the sense of stilt or stalk of the second part is retained. In Danish and Norwegian, he is known as Rumleskaft (literally "Rumble shank"). In other languages an entirely different and generally meaningless name was selected, such as Barbichu, Broumpristoche, Grigrigredinmenufretin, Outroupistache, Tracassin or Perlimpinpin in various translations to French. Turkish translations use "Hariparibuşki Baripinpon" (doesn't mean anything. It was named just because the name was complicated.) Polish translations use Titelitury or Rumpelsztyk, Greek translations use Κουτσοκαλιγέρης, Czech translations use Rumplcimprcampr or Rampelník, Slovak translations use Martinko Klingáč, and Finnish ones Tittelintuure. Italian has Tremotino (which loosely means Little Earthquake), Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian Cvilidreta, and Hebrew עוץ לי גוץ לי (Ootz-li Gootz-li), a name chosen by the poet Avraham Shlonsky when using the fairy tale as the basis of a children's musical, now a classic among Hebrew children's plays. In Spain, the character's name is Rumpelstinski and Rumpelestíjeles.

Appearances in media

Cover of Classics Illustrated Junior issue 512


  • In Diane Stanley's short fiction, Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, Rumpelstiltskin falls in love with and marries the miller's daughter and helps her escape from the king. The main character turns out to be their only daughter, Hope.
  • In Shelley Chappell's short fiction, Ranpasatusan the miller's daughter is a minstrel's daughter who travels to Japan.
  • Elizabeth C. Bunce's novel A Curse Dark as Gold was inspired by the story of Rumpelstiltskin. The miller's daughter is written as a strong female character determined to save the failing mill and the town that depends on it.
  • Saviour Pirotta's "Guess My Name", published in the "Once Upon a World" series, is a retelling of the Welsh version of the story.
  • Rumpelstiltskin appears in issue 4 of The Muppet Show that was a part of "The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson" arc.
  • Rumplestiltskin makes a brief appearance at the beginning of Red Hood's Revenge, the third in Jim C. Hines's Princesses series, starring Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White as active heroines. He has abducted several children by luring princes in with promises of marriage to the children who can spin straw into gold; he is captured by the three heroines, but is subsequently killed by Roudette, the adult Little Red Riding Hood, now an efficient and deadly assassin, while being sent to Fairytown to answer for his crimes.
  • In 1984, a character of the Ingsoc party is described as being a "Rumpelstiltskin figure" (Ch.IX, p. 188).
  • In Einstein's Mistakes, Hans Ohanian characterizes the physicist Isaac Newton as a Rumpelstiltskin-like character, because he kept his great discoveries in gravity and light to himself for many years.
  • In John Katzenbach's novel The Analyst, a man who calls himself Rumplestiltskin threatens a New York psychoanalyst, "In two weeks, Starks must guess his tormentor’s identity. If Starks succeeds, he goes free. If he fails, Rumplestiltskin will destroy, one by one, fifty-two of Dr. Starks’ loved ones—unless the good doctor agrees to kill himself".
  • Breeana Puttroff, author of the Dusk Gate Chronicles series, has a new book Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, scheduled to debut in September or October 2014, in which Rumpelstiltskin's story is told from another point of view, where the king makes the queen spin gold and Rumplestiltskin is not the villain.[3]
  • Rumpel Stiltskin is the main character in J. A. Kazimer's book Curses!
  • Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale as a poem called "Rumpelstiltskin" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.[4]
  • In Tom Holt's novel, The Good, the Bad and the Smug (2015), a former commodities trader escapes to a fantasy world and becomes Rumpelstiltskin.
  • Michael Cunningham's short story "Little Man" is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story told from Rumpelstiltskin's point of view.
  • The Sisters Grimm series has Rumplestiltskin as the main villain for the second book, Unusual Suspects. He is the counselor for the only Elementary School in Fairy Port Landing, and he feeds off the emotions of those around him (the negative, the better, rage is his favorite). He made deals with three parents (Beauty/Beast, Princess/Frog, Ms. Muffet/Spider all gave away their firstborns to Rumplestilskin for a fake lottery winning). Apparently, in this version, Rumple stores all the rage and hatred and releases it by exploding.


  • The tale is adapted in the fourth issue of Zenescope's series Grimm Fairy Tales, but it is given an alternative, more tragic ending.
  • The Flesh priest from the Dark Horse series The Goon is actually Rumpelstiltskin, having escaped from the hell he was cast into he attempts the wrestle control of the town away from The Goon.


  • The song "Split Myself in Two" by the Meat Puppets is inspired and loosely based on the tale.
  • "Rumplestiltskin" is a song by the Columbus, Ohio underground band Earwig from their album Gibson Under Mountain,
  • Rumplestiltskin's Resolve is an album by folk-rock musician Shawn Phillips.
  • "Rumplestiltskin" is a punk retelling of the fairy tale by John Otway
  • The ballet "Rumpelstiltskin" by the British composer David Sawer is based on the tale.


  • In the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, Rumplestiltskin (also known as Mr. Gold) is played by Robert Carlyle and is one of the central characters and is shown as a malevolent trickster who can spin straw into gold and enjoys making deals with those he comes across. Throughout the first seasons he concentrates on searcing for his son, Bae. An expert on black magic and the dark arts (known as The Dark One) this man has wizardly powers to make him a fair match for anyone in the land - even the Evil Queen. The miller's daughter (the Evil Queen's mother) Cora eventually becomes the Queen of Hearts. In the season three episode Think Lovely Thoughts, he is revealed to be the son of Peter Pan.
  • Rumpelstiltskin appears in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child voiced by Robert Townsend.
  • Rumpelstiltskin was featured in NBC's Grimm, where the tale is the inspiration for the Season 2 episode "Nameless". He is a type of creature ('Wesen') called a 'Fuchsteufelwild'.[6] The episode featured a Fuchsteufelwild named "Trinket Lipslums", (an anagram of "Rumpelstiltskin"), who is revealed to have helped a team of video game programmers finish an enormously popular MMORPG. The programmers omitted him from the game's credits since they could not recall his name, so Lipslums starts hunting them down one by one; as in the original tale, much of the story centers around determining the character's name.
  • In an episode of the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled "If Wishes Were Horses", Miles O'Brien reads his daughter the story of Rumpelstiltskin at bedtime and then leaves her room. She comes out shortly afterward to inform her father that Rumpelstiltskin is in the room with her. O'Brien assumes that it is just her imagination and goes into the room with her only to discover that Rumpelstiltskin is indeed in her room. At the end of the episode it is revealed that Rumpelstiltskin (along with various other manifestations) are in fact aliens that were studying imagination.
  • In the TV show Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, the second episode, aired originally in 1982, titled "Rumpelstiltskin", stars Hervé Villechaize as Rumpelstiltskin, Ned Beatty as the king, and Shelley Duvall as the miller's daughter.
  • The fairy tale was spoofed in the Fractured Fairy Tales segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.[7]
  • In the German TV series Spuk unterm Riesenrad, Rumpelstiltskin is the only one of the three evil, living dummies (witch, giant, and Rumpelstiltskin) who doesn't turn good at the end and is frozen by a policeman with a fire extinguisher. He also tries to take over Burg Falkenstein by blackmailing the owner with a fire.
  • The German TV aired in 2009 an adaptation of the original story of the Grimm Brothers. Rumpelstiltskin was played by Robert Stadlober. According to the film makers: "We did not want overgrown dwarf, but a prince of the forest, and Stadlober is exactly the right thing." In this adaptation the title character was not created as the usual evil man "who comes out of the woods to do evil", but also shows the human side ". Their Rumpelstiltskin has a desire, namely, to have a man around.[8] The filming location was the same Schloss Bürresheim, which appears as Castle Grunewald in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'.
  • The character "Rumpledkiltskin" appears in the animated series Courage The Cowardly Dog as the title character. Rumpledkiltskin tricks Muriel and Courage into traveling to Scotland, where he reveals himself and forces Muriel to weave 5,000 quilts. At the end of the episode, his real name is revealed and he gains a change of heart.
  • Rumpelstiltskin appears in the animated television series Winx Club, in Season 6 episodes "The Music Café", "The Anthem" and "Acheron". Rumpelstiltskin is, according to both Selina and Daphne, the most cunning, most stubborn, and most brilliant dwarf. He lives in the clearing of Alfea. He is also very tricky but follows the agreements he makes with others. Due to being exposed in Alfea, he had learnt powerful enchantments when he lived there.


  • Rumpelstiltskin appears in the Shrek franchise:
    • Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by Conrad Vernon) makes an appearance in Shrek the Third as a member of the gang of fairy tale villains Prince Charming rounds up in an attempt to take over Far, Far Away. Prince Charming mispronounces his name as "frumpypigskin".
    • The character has also appeared as the antagonist in the film Shrek Forever After, voiced by Walt Dohrn, manipulating Shrek into making a wish that would erase Shrek from existence after the ogre indirectly thwarted Rumpelstiltskin's chance to become the ruler of Far, Far Away (The king and queen had been about to make a deal with him to free their daughter Fiona from her prison before Shrek saved her in the first film). It is implied throughout the film that Rumpelstiltskin's deals have fallen out of favour in Shrek's world as people have learned to be more comfortable with who they are thanks to Shrek's example (such as Pinocchio rejecting the offer to become a real boy), and Shrek's friend Donkey also mentions that Rumpelstiltskin has changed the clauses in his deals as now everybody knows his name.
    • Rumpelstiltskin is one of the zombified characters during the Thriller parody.
  • A 1996 supernatural horror B-movie wherein Rumpelstiltskin is trapped in a jade rock for five hundred years until a woman is compelled to purchase the rock from an unusual antique shop. The woman makes a wish that her dead husband come back to life to see their child. Rumpelstiltskin grants her wish, bringing her husband back for one night, then tries to steal the baby from the mother with an attempt to eat the baby's soul. This movie stars Max Grodénchik (as Rumpelstiltskin), and Kim Johnston Ulrich (as the mother of the child).
  • Avengers Grimm (2015 film) - When Rumpelstiltskin destroys the Magic Mirror and escapes to the modern world, the four princesses of "Once Upon a Time"-Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel-are sucked through the portal too. Well-trained and endowed with magical powers, the four women must fight Rumpelstiltskin and his army of thralls before he enslaves everyone on Earth. Casper Van Dien plays Rumpelstiltskin


  • Rumpelstiltskin appears briefly in the Dark Parables sixth installment, Jack and the Sky Kingdom, as a stone imp, (having once been a stone idol animated by a sorcerer, and having since its captivity reverted back to stone). He also appears in the bonus chapter, "Rumpelstiltskin and the Queen", where having claimed the Sky Kingdom's new queen newborn daughter, the queen quests to reclaim her child. After the queen has subdued the imp, the Sky King, corrupted by the imp's magic, keeps the imp hostage to spin him more gold.
  • Rumpelstiltskin makes an appearance in the first game of the series King's Quest, by Roberta Williams. While there are variants to his name (in some versions, the name is spelled with a backwards alphabet, a = z, b = y, etc.; in others it is spelled backwards as Nikstlitslepmur), Rumpelstiltskin offers the knight Graham (hero of the story) a reward for guessing his name. When the task is complete, Rumpelstiltskin gives magic beans to Graham, allowing entrance to the land of the giants to acquire the treasure chest of gold, a main quest item in the game.


  1. ^ "Tales Similar To Rumpelstiltskin". SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  2. ^ Grimm, Jacob; Grimm, Wilhelm (2008). Bröderna Grimms sagovärld (in Swedish). Bonnier Carlsen. p. 72.  
  3. ^ Elavsky, Cindy (18 September 2014). "Q and A: Week of Sept. 18". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Transformations - Anne Sexton - Google Books". Retrieved 2015-09-26. 
  5. ^ This comes from a section of Schumann's journals that is difficult to find and has not been translated into English. See "Rapunzel in Music" and "Sleeping Beauty in Music" for more corroboration.
  6. ^ Roots, Kimberly (2013-03-26). "Grimm Season 2 Spoilers — Rumplestiltskin Pages from Nick’s Books". TVLine. Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  7. ^ "Rumpelstiltskin". YouTube. 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2015-09-26. 
  8. ^ "Rumpelstilzchen | rbb Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg". Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  9. ^ "Rumpelstiltskin (1955)". Retrieved 2014-06-28. 
  10. ^ "Rumpelstilzchen | rbb Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg". Retrieved 2014-06-28. 

External links

  • Free version of translation of "Household Tales" by Brothers Grimm from Project Gutenberg
  • The Brothers Grimm's 'Rumpelstiltzkin'
  • 'Tom Tit Tot: an essay on savage philosophy in folk-tale' by Edward Clodd (1898)
  • Parallel German-English text in ParallelBook format
  • 1985 TV movie
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