Public Domain Super Heroes


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Real Name


First Appearance


Original Publisher

German Folklore

Created by



In order to make himself appear more important, a miller lies to a king, telling him that his daughter can spin straw into gold. 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 when an imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold for her in return for her necklace. 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 filled 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, her messenger (though he does not know the significance of his mission) comes across the imp's remote mountain cottage and watches, unseen, as the imp hops about his fire and sings. In his song's lyrics, he reveals his name.

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. 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.

Public Domain Comic Appearances

  • Fairy Tale Parade #3: The original tale.
  • Mysterious Stories #4: An old witch claims the character's real name was Rahm-Bul-Slotkin and that he originated in Egypt, where he spun straw into marbles.
  • The Thing #14: Rumpelstiltskin revealed to be a demon seeking the approval of other local demons by obtaining smooth human skin for a gruesome arts and crafts project.
  • Marmaduke Mouse #40: Rumpelstiltskin makes a bargain to marry a young princess rather than take her baby.

Public Domain Film Appearances

Rumpelstiltskin (1915)

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