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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Secrets of Rumpelstiltskin's Name


By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Rumpelstiltskin is a fascinating fairy-tale with an outrageous antagonist. The story starts with a poor father who abandons his daughter to the King for no reason at all. Then, out of nowhere a man without a name, a little mischief maker or magician appears and offers to spin straw into gold. In any case, the obvious literal theme depends on discovering the obscure name of the gold spinner, Rumpelstiltskin. However, there are many symbols and motifs that indicate a deeper symbolic meaning to the story.   

Once upon a time, there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he got into a conversation with the king, and to make an impression on him, he said, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold."

The king said to the Miller, "That is an art that I really like. If your daughter is as skillful as you say, then bring her to my castle tomorrow, and I will put her to the test."

When the girl was brought to him, he led her into a room that was entirely filled with straw. Giving her a spinning-wheel and a reel, he said, "Get to work now. Spin all night, and if by morning you have not spun this straw into gold, then you will have to die."

Most readers miss the spiritual intent of fairy-tales by interpreting the story in a literally, assuming the story should entertain children on a cold night with a cup of chocolate in front of a warm fireplace. But what parent would read a story about abandoning their daughter to a greedy King? A mean King that locks her in a cold stone castle, in a dark room, and demands the impossible task of spinning straw into gold. The secret of fairy-tales longevity and continuing interest lay in their spiritual foundation, not their entertainment value.

Rumpelstiltskin is based on the path to self-realization from a feminine perspective. The miller's daughter is the main protagonist. Her life path (in allegorical form) leads to eventual freedom and happiness. One has to understand the many supporting characters represent aspects of the daughter’s psyche. The absent father forces the protagonist to discover her own inner strength, similar in theme to a tale of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

The miller’s daughter is imprisoned in a castle room that gives an impression of a cave or dark dungeon, especially at night, (only candlelight existed in those days). The dark room - or cave is a metaphor for the feminine matrix where all life is born, and the spiritual transformation occurs. It is similar to the place where Krishna was born (in a prison cell), or Mithras (born in a cave) or Christ (born in an enclosed manger). The cave is where the dragon (Kundalini) protects its hidden golden treasure (Higher consciousness.)

The 'divine child' refers to the birth of a higher form of consciousness, the essential immortal soul, which has reincarnated through countless lives. Sri Aurobindo it the "Psychic Being" or individualized soul.

In my article 'Sleeping Beauty,'  I link the connection between spinning, destiny, and fate with the three Greek Goddesses of Fate listed below.

'Lachesis' – 'allotter' or drawer of lots measured the thread of life allotted to each person with her measuring rod, a staff with which she points to the horoscope on a globe.

'Clotho' – 'spinner' which spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle (the book of Fate) and

'Atropos'-inexorable' or 'inevitable,' literally 'unturning,' was the cutter of the thread of life who chose the manner of each person's death; and when their time came, she cut their life-thread. She held a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, or a cutting instrument. At the birth of each person, they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life. 

Every part of spinning (the thread of life) was used as a metaphor for destiny, and fate. We could say the act of spinning worthless straw into gold symbolizes the transformation of the mundane into something of high worth - as gold is actually a symbol of the highest consciousness. 

Then he himself locked the room, and she was there all alone. The poor miller's daughter sat there, and for her life, she did not know what to do. She had no idea how to spin straw into gold. She became more and more afraid and finally began to cry.

Then suddenly the door opened. A little man stepped inside and said, "Good evening, Mistress Miller, why are you crying so?"

"Oh," answered the girl, "I am supposed to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it."

The little man said, "What will you give me if I spin it for you?"
"My necklace," said the girl.

The little man took the necklace, sat down before the spinning wheel, and whir, whir, whir, three times pulled, and the spool was full. Then he put another one on, and whir, whir, whir, three times pulled, and the second one was full as well. So it went until morning, and then all the straw was spun, and all the spools were filled with gold. At sunrise, the king came, and when he saw the gold he was surprised and happy, but his heart became even more greedy for gold.

Why does a little man appear out of nowhere to do her spinning? Actually, since this is a fairytale, no set fast rules apply, most notably because it takes place in the imaginary world of the mind. The little man is the part of the daughter's undeveloped psyche. He is like the ugly Frog that the Princess must kiss or the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast," that looks cruel and terrifying yet has the power to help the heroine to triumph. The little man, frog, and beast personify the unconscious masculine energies. Her task is to bring this undeveloped side of her psyche into awareness. She gives this 'little man' her necklace in return for the spinning gold, a trade that allows her to live on till the next day.

He had the miller's daughter taken to another room filled with straw. It was even larger, and he ordered her to spin it in one night if she valued her life. The girl did not know what to do, and she cried. Once again the door opened, and the little man appeared.

He said, "What will you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?"

"The ring from my finger," answered the girl.

The little man took the ring and began once again to whirl with the spinning wheel. By morning he had spun all the straw into glistening gold. The king was happy beyond measure when he saw it, but he still did not have his fill of gold. He had the miller's daughter taken to a still larger room filled with straw, and said, "Tonight you must spin this too. If you succeed you shall become my wife." He thought, "Even if she is only a miller's daughter, I will not find a richer wife in all the world."

When the girl was alone the little man returned for the third time. He said, 

"What will you give me if I spin the straw this time?"

"I have nothing more that I could give you," answered the girl.

"Then promise me, after you are queen, your first child."

Who knows what will happen," thought the miller's daughter, and not knowing what else to do, she promised the little man what he demanded. In return, the little man once again spun the straw into gold.

The little man takes her golden ring, something more valuable than a necklace, and a traditional piece of jewelry associated with marriage. A standard template in fairy-tales is number three, as it is three events which lead to physical manifestation. This third time she has to promise her firstborn to the little man! What a deal, either die or give up her child.

When in the morning the king came and found everything just as he desired, he married her, and the beautiful miller's "daughter became queen.

First, the King threatens her with death then marries her. (Talk about fickle–headed!). It appears that the King married only for money. But of course, it’s the exact opposite, as her journey is spiritual. The marriage is based upon the conjunction of opposite energies, male, and female or King and Queen. Just as Cinderella and Snow White marry their ideal Prince and live happily ever after. In Indian philosophy, this is achieved when Shakti (female Kundalini) rises to meet Shiva (God consciousness).

What is in a Name?

A year later she brought a beautiful child to the world. She thought no more about the little man, but suddenly he appeared in her room and said, "Now give me that which you promised."

The queen took fright and offered the little man all the wealth of the kingdom if he would let her keep the child, but the little man said, "No. Something living is dearer to me than all the treasures of the world."

Then the queen lamented and cryied so much that the little man took pity on her and said, "I will give you three days' time. If by then you know my name, then you shall keep your child."

The queen spent the entire night thinking of all the names she had ever heard. Then she sent a messenger into the country to inquire far and wide what other names there were. When the little man returned the next day she began with Kaspar, Melchior, Balzer, and said in order all the names she knew. After each one, the little man said, "That is not my name."

The second day she sent inquiries into the neighborhood as to what names people had. She recited the most unusual and most curious names to the little man:

"Is your name perhaps Beastrib? Or Muttoncalf? Or Legstring?"

But he always answered, "That is not my name."

On the third day the messenger returned and said, "I have not been able to find a single new name, but when I was approaching a high mountain in the corner of the woods, there were the fox and the hare say goodnight, I saw a little house. A fire was burning in front of the house, and an altogether comical little man was jumping around the fire, hopping on one leg and calling out:

Then I'll fetch the queen's new child,
It is good that no one knows,

Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

You can imagine how happy the queen was when she heard that name. Soon afterward the little man came in and asked, "Now, Madame Queen, what is my name?"

She first asked, "Is your name Kunz?"
"Is your name Heinz?"
"Is your name perhaps Rumpelstiltskin?"

"The devil told you that! The devil told you that!" shouted the little man, and with anger, he stomped his right foot so hard into the ground that he fell in up to his waist. Then with both hands, he took hold of his left foot and ripped himself up the middle in two.

We can obtain some insight into the power of a name, or the word, by researching ancient mythology. One such Egyptian Myth is called "The Legend of Ra and Isis." It seems the goddess Isis, a personification of Kundalini, wanted to become as powerful as Sun God-Ra, Egypt's most celebrated deity. Ra ruled for thousands of years but became hindered by old age. He dribbled from the side of his mouth when walking in his garden every morning. Isis secretly collected his spittle and mixed it with earth and created a poisonous snake. She placed it in Ra's path in his garden. While walking one morning, Ra was bitten by the snake,  causing a burning poison to surge through his body. 

Luckily, Isis had magic spells which could cure Ra. All she wanted was his secret name, the key to Ra's power and authority. After many requests, Ra finally agreed to tell Isis his real name. This allowed Isis and her son Horus (along with Osiris) to become the dominant gods of Egypt. From one viewpoint this myth is about the succession of Gods. The ancient sun worship of Ra faded as the cult of Isis (Kundalini), Osiris and Horus became dominant. Obtaining the name of a particular being, in this case, Ra, allowed Isis, to exercise power over his existence.

The power of words is very apparent in the Bible. One of the first tasks of the biblical Adam was to name all the animals. Naming a person or animal implies one has power over its existence. In Greek mythology, the concept of logos (word) was associated with the power of gods. Stoic philosophers identified the term, 'Logos' with the divine animating principle, pervading the Universe. The Gospel of John identifies the 'Logos' as the power that creates everything, a divine being or Theos, and Christ.

The little man and the King, symbolize the two faces of the daughter’s inner undeveloped masculine persona. The King, who she eventually marries, is a metaphor of her conscious male psyche, (associated with Gold and higher authority. The little man personifies her shadow side, which must eventually disappear or die when she gains insight into her psyche. Their 'divine child' symbolizes the birth of a new way of being, a new consciousness.

Throughout religious mythology, after a divine child is born, an evil king or opposing force attempts to murder it. King Kamsa tries to murder Krishna, Herod kills all the young Jewish boys in the hope that the Christ will die. Cronus eats his own children in an effort to stop the birth of his son Zeus, who was prophesied to usurp his authority. 
The Evil King motif is found in so many myths and religious narratives I consider it one of the significant keys to decoding the meaning of religion. The little man, like all evil Kings, represents the adverse forces opposed to humanities evolving consciousness.  Therefore, he tries to steal her ‘divine child.’ 

By finding the name of the little man-Rumpelstiltskin- (after three tries) the Miller's daughter gained her freedom–alluding to her power over unconscious masculine energies. Once she uncovers these unconscious shadows within the self, they disappear. Just as the little man falls back into the earth, rent into two pieces.

 An Esoteric Insight 

Within each person are many levels of being. As high as consciousness can rise it also may fall. Just behind our so-called ordinary awareness are astral planes, both high and low. The higher one travels inward-the brighter and more luminous are the surroundings and beings. Each is illuminated from the inside. In contrast, the lower astral levels, which are the stuff of nightmares, dark and forbidding.

There are low astral planes with a carnival atmosphere and loud, garish colors, hard pounding music, looking like a cross between Beetlejuice and the Vegas strip. They find there a particular astral being - a bizarre clown on stilts. With their white bald heads and red nose and red hair, these lower creatures live off negative energies of humanity. The shapeshifters can appear in many forms. The name 'Rumpelstiltskin' could subjectively mean- Rumple (messy or dirty), stilts-(high above others) and skin- (a fake persona). I would venture to say 'Rumpelstiltskin' is a lower dimensional being that opposes the human races spiritual advancement.


 1. Miller's daughter is the main character; she is on a spiritual path toward self-realization.

2. A "missing father," (or Mother) is a common motif in fairy tales. The Fathers absence frees the daughter, to develop her own inner masculine power.

3. Spinning straw into gold is a metaphor referring to the transformation of the mundane physical matter into spiritual.

4. The King represents the power of the masculine archetype when conscious. I always associate him with the gold of higher consciousness.

5. The King and Queen's marriage is symbolic of the achieving balance between psychological archetypes.  

6. Whenever a 'divine child' is born, it shows the soul has reached a higher state of consciousness and a complete change of personality.

7. The little man-Rumpelstiltskin-refers to the daughter’s deficient consciousness, which holds her masculine counterpart-while her feminine is a fact.

8.  The little man opposes the Miller daughters enlightenment.  

9. The Ancient's respected the logos (word) as much as the Christians, as it is the power of God. 

10. By finding the little man’s name-Rumpelstiltskin- her unconscious fears were uncovered and integrated.

Joseph Alexander

copyright 8/5/2016 / edited 12/24 2016, 12/8/2017

Images credit

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