Gateway to the Classics: For the Children's Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey
For the Children's Hour by  Carolyn S. Bailey


I N a certain kingdom once lived a poor miller who had a very beautiful daughter. She was very shrewd and clever, too. The miller was so vain and proud of her that one day he told the king that his daughter could spin gold out of straw.

Now, the king was very fond of money. When he heard the miller's boast he ordered the girl brought to him. Then he led her to a chamber where there was a great quantity of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and said:

"All this must be spun into gold before morning, as you value your life."

It was in vain that the poor maiden said she could do no such thing. The chamber was locked and she was left alone.

She sat down in the corner of the room and began to cry, when the door opened and a droll-looking little man hobbled in.

"Good morrow to you, my pretty lass," he said. Why are you weeping?"

"Alas!" she answered, "I must spin this straw into gold, and I know not how."

"What will you give me," said the little man, "to do it for you?"

"My necklace," said the maiden. So he set himself down at the wheel; round about it went merrily, and presently the gold was all spun.

When the king came and saw this he was greatly astonished and pleased. But he grew still more greedy and he shut up the poor miller's daughter again with a fresh task. She knew not what to do, and sat down once more to weep; but the little man presently opened the door and said:

"What will you give me to do your task?"

"The ring on my finger," replied she. So the little man took the ring, began work at the wheel, and by morning all was finished again.

The king was pleased to see all this glittering treasure. But still he was not satisfied. He took the miller's daughter into a still larger room and said: "All this straw must be spun to-night; if you succeed, you shall be the queen."

As soon as she was alone the dwarf came in and said:

"What will you give me to spin gold for you this third time?"

"I have nothing left," said she.

"Then, promise," said the little man, "your first little child when you are queen."

"That may never do," thought the miller's daughter; but she knew no other way to get her task done, so she promised, and he spun once more a whole heap of gold.

The king came in the morning, and, finding all the gold he wanted, married the miller's daughter and made her queen.

At the birth of her first little child the queen was very happy, and she forgot the little man and her promise; but one day he came to remind her. Then she grieved sorely and offered him all her treasures, till at last her tears softened him and he said: "I will give you three days to find my name. If you succeed, you may keep your baby."

So the queen lay awake at night, thinking of all the odd names that she had ever heard, and she sent messengers all over the land to find out new ones. The next day the little man came and she began with Timothy, Benjamin, Jeremiah, but to all of them he said: "That's not my name."

The second day she began with all the comical names she could think of: Bandylegs, Hunchback, Crookshanks, and so on; but the little man still said: "That's not my name."

The third day came back one of the messengers and said: "Yesterday, as I was climbing a hill, among the forest trees where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, I saw a little hut, and before the hut burned a fire, and round about the fire danced a funny little man upon one leg and sang:

" 'Merrily the feast I'll make,

To-day I'll brew, to-morrow I'll bake;

Merrily I'll dance and sing,

For next day will a stranger bring.

Little does my lady dream

Rumpel-Stilts-Kin is my name!' "

When the queen heard this she jumped for joy. As soon as the little man came she said: "Is your name John? No? Then it is Tom? No? Can your name be Rumpel-Stilts-Kin?"

"Some witch told you! Some witch told you!" cried the little man, and dashed his right foot in such rage deep into the floor that he was forced to lay hold of it with both hands to pull it out. Then he made the best of his way off, while everybody laughed at him for having had his trouble for nothing.

— Adapted from Grimm by Charles Eliot Norton,
"Heart of Oak," Book III

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