Rumple What? by Nancy Springer

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We've all heard the fairy tale of the girl who could spin straw into gold, and the creature that would demand her first-born as payment for helping her achieve the horrible tasks put to her by her father.

Let's face it, though, The Brothers Grimm couldn't get the facts of a story straight if their lives depended on it, and this classic tale of excess and woe is certainly no different. Here, revealed for the first time, is the absolutely true account of the events surrounding the spoiled little gold-spinner and her entire wretched family and the poor, innocent imp cheated out of what was rightfully his.

A hilarious retelling of a classic fairy tale from legendary wordspinner Nancy Springer.


To take first the point of view of the miller’s daughter, her father is just the sort of consummate jackass who would brag to the king that his girl can spin straw into gold. So when she is unceremoniously escorted to a shed full of straw, locked in there with a spinning wheel, and told to do her thing or die, she weeps—but not pathetically, as the tale would have it; rather, she howls with rage. No matter how dire her fear, no miller’s daughter has ever been able to weep the dewy, snot-free tears of a damsel in distress; our wench bawls with messy, grimacing fury, all the more so because crying is not what she wants to do. It is one of the Seven Most Unfair Fates of the female condition that when you really want to thunder, threaten revenge, scare your asinine father and his new crony the king shitless, what happens? You goddamn cry.

Even so, when the shed door opens and the most peculiar little man comes in, she does not seize the opportunity to thump someone smaller than she, for quite sensibly she wonders what the hell is going on. The king locked the door himself. By what power did this dwarf, who is too short to reach the handle, open it? And what does he want? The miller’s daughter has heard some nasty rumors about what really went on with Snow White. Perversely, because there is now clear and present danger, her weeping ceases. Wiping her face and blowing her nose upon her apron, she tries to study the visitor, but through her traumatized eyes she can see only that he is sharp, all points, including his face. Pointy nose, steeple brows, wishbone chin, skinny birdy arms and fingers, chicken legs in velvet trousers tailored to fit. Peaked velvet cap, curling feather. Probably never went “heigh-ho off to work” in his life.

“What’s the matter?” he wants to know. His voice is thin and pointy too, like a needle.

She replies very politely, in case he might be somebody, “Thank you for asking. It’s my allergies. I’m horribly allergic to dusty places, straw, stables, that sort of thing.” This happens to be true, making her whole rotten day even rottener.

“What will you give me if I spin the straw into gold for the king?” Of course he knows all about it; otherwise, why would he be there?

The miller’s daughter offers, “Um, my necklace?” and is puzzled when he accepts that commonplace string of beads without further bargaining. As he spins all the straw, quite quickly, into gold, she feels relieved, naturally, that she need not die in the morning, but also apprehensive, for there’s no getting around it: she’s dealing with the supernatural, and has not yet paid a sufficient price. Even as she thanks the little man effusively for saving her butt, even as he takes his leave, she is hoping she will never see him again, yet has a miserable feeling that she will. These things happen in threes.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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