A Totally Sweet Look At The Protagonist’s Name in Rumpelstiltskin. Awesome!
Wednesday February 09th 2011, 1:25 am
Filed under: Knowledge Junkie, Who Knows?, Word Nerd

A few days ago, I asked what the protagonist’s name is in the classic fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. Thanks for all your answers! This wasn’t a trick question, however, I think there is some valid reasoning behind two different answers. The answers come down to who the protagonist is in the tale.

1) “She doesn’t have a name,” referring to the Miller’s daughter who becomes the Queen is correct. So is “The Miller’s daughter.” The Miller’s daughter is the main character of the story and is most often regarded as the protagonist of the story. In short, she is put in a bad position by her father, she makes deals with Rumpelstiltskin, she becomes the Queen and she overcomes a legal dispute with Rumpelstiltskin. If Disney ever makes a Rumpelstiltskin movie, she will get a name like Mabel or Gertrude or Sharon and she will sing songs and we will empathize with her.

2) I would like to offer up an alternative answer. Put aside all of your childhood memories and preconceived notions about the story and the characters of Rumpelstiltskin. Once you’ve safely stowed all of those notions and memories, read the following brief refresher on the story that I have prodivded:

-A Miller flat out lies to people, saying that his daughter Mildred can spin straw into gold.

-Mildred cannot spin straw into gold. This is a ridiculous claim and is clearly untrue.

-Nevertheless, the incredibly stupid King believes this to be true and locks young Mildred in a tower.

-The King orders Mildred to spin straw into gold or she’ll be executed, while her lying s.o.b. father can presumably just go on with his life as a liar whose lies got his daughter killed.

-Millie, who has no idea how to transmute matter, is visited by Rumpelstiltskin, who is some sort of short impish demon alchemist who’s always wanted to be a father, but due a genetic disposition, cannot procreate.

-Rumpelstiltskin enters into a contract with Mildred to save her life by spinning straw into gold in exchange for her necklace.

-The King, who likes shiny objects, is absolutely thrilled with all this stringy gold, but he’s also a greedy bastard and tells Mildred to spin more gold or else he’ll kill her.

-Rumpelstiltskin returns. Millie and he enter into a new contract in which he will save her life again in exchange for her ring.

-The King is so elated to have more strands of gold that he tells Milford he’s going to kill her if she doesn’t make more.

-Once again, Rumpelstiltskin saves the day. He and Milbert enter into their final agreement, in which he will save the her life a third time in exchange for her firstborn child. This may seem like a steep price, but keep in mind the following: he will have literally saved Milbot’s life three times from the bloodthirsty king; he has thus far only asked for a necklace and a ring; he’s always really wanted to be a dad; and most importantly, Milktoast entered into this agreement, fully understanding what she agreed to.

-The King, who is in a state of euphoria at the sight of all his new gold guitar strings, decides he’ll marry the fair and beautiful Maid Millman, whom he was threatening with death mere hours earlier. He is unaware that his new queen is a big fat liar and that their relationship is built on a foundation of lies.

-The Queen has a baby whom she loves. The King also has some fondness for the young lad despite not being able to throw him in a tower, demand something unreasonable of him and then kill him. This seems to be the King’s favorite activity.

-Rumpelstiltskin, dressed to the nines, strolls into the castle, beaming because he’ll finally get to be a daddy, and politely asks the Queen for his compensation for saving her life that third time.

-The Queen wants to break her contract with Rumpelstiltskin, who is heartbroken at the thought of not being able to adopt this child.

-While it would be well within his legal rights to take custoday of the baby and raise him as his own, Rumpelstiltskin offers the Queen a way out of the contract. All she has to do is guess his name.

-The Queen overhears Rumpelstiltskin talking to himself about how wonderful and fulfilling it will be to play catch with Rumpelstiltskin Jr and to go fishing with Rumpelstiltskin Jr and to pay for Rumpelstiltskin Jr’s college education with all the things he’s turned into gold. From this, the Queen surmises that her hero’s name must be Rumpelstiltskin Sr or Rumpelstiltskin the First or something. On her third guess, she finally guesses plain old suffixless Rumpelstiltskin.

-With a heavy heart, the grief-stricken Rumpelstiltskin withdraws his claim to the baby, his chance at parenthood destroyed for ever and ever. He is so sad that he flies away in a cooking ladle which he crashes into a mountain. THE END.

A protagonist doesn’t have to be the narrator or main character of a story. The protagonist can be someone we, as readers, get to know through other characters. These characters give us many different insights into the protagonist, but they also each have their own biases, opinions and perceptions, which can either help or hinder our understanding of the protagonist. A protagonist doesn’t have to be a hero, or even a good person at all. A protagonist must be someone we empathize with and someone we want to see succeed.

Based on these points and on the summery of the story above, I submit to you that the tragic protagonist’s name in Rumpelstiltskin is, in fact, Rumpelstiltskin. Take it or leave it!

Happily ever after,


4 Comments so far
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Fantastic essay! I agree. And considering the above, it’s clear why Disney has not done this film yet.
It’s so strange- theres absolutely no moral lesson here at all.
Actually, if anything, it teaches you the advantages of threats, domestic abuse, lies and disloyalty…why do we read this as children!!??

Comment by Margie 02.09.11 @ 6:53 am

That was awesome and I think you should summarize more fairy tales solely for my amusement!

Comment by Sarah McD Dyer 02.09.11 @ 8:54 am

I will take it, in exchange for your first born child, or leave it in exchange for some gold, whilst you live in a tower.

Apple-y ever halved-her.


Comment by Matt Gallo 02.09.11 @ 2:02 pm

Thanks guys!

Don’t forget that Rumpelstiltskin also teaches that if people are different than you, they are evil and it’s okay to treat them as such. Even if they’ve saved your life multiple times.

Oh, and Sarah McDyer: maybe I will summarize more fairy tales. That’s a good idea, thanks.


Comment by Reid 02.11.11 @ 11:49 pm

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