Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret: What Women Didn’t Tell the Grimms, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret

What Women Didn’t Tell the Grimms, 1st Edition

By Harry Rand


248 pages | 39 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-12-16
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Everyone knows Rumpelstiltskin's story. Or thinks they do. We heard it as children. We might affectionately remember the adult voices reciting the tale or recall the light in the room and the time of day when we enjoyed hearing this scripted performance. A grownup's voice added roughness and pitch to mimic the characters, to murmur tension-filled passages, to pause drawing out the suspense between the Queen's guesses. Maybe the storyteller's voice finally rose to exult when shouting the discovered name or, drawing close, whispered it malevolently. Those long-ago readers intended to enchant us, sometimes to sleep, and for awhile we delighted in this magical performance. Then we grew up: obligated to attend to an adult's endless travails we forgot little Rumpelstiltskin. But he eventually returned. Years later we told this story to our children joining a parade of generations stretching back…no one knows how far. We voluntarily enrolled in a long procession that greys toward the back of the line, blurred, nameless, and wispy before the figures pale translucent and finally become invisible. We became merely the foremost reciters of a tale whose narration enrolled us in a club whose rules we think we know, but don't really. This tale may count among the world's oldest dirty jokes. The punchline misplaced, over time its wickedly funny insights about adult life passed for childish nonsense.

Table of Contents

Preface by Maria Tatar

1. The Story's History

2. Meaning is Purpose

3. Rumpelstiltskin's Author

4. The Spinner's Libido

5. Fairytale Contracts & Commerce

6. Supernatural Zoology

7. The Talking Cure

8. The Devil vs. Motherhood

9. The Unknown Name

10. A Bad Reputation, Unearned

11. A Lamentable Example of Self-Abuse

12. Rumpelstiltskin's Competition

About the Author

Harry Rand, PhD., is a Senior Curator of Cultural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature
LITERARY CRITICISM / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 18th Century
LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Women