Once upon a time a poor Miller had a beautiful daughter but little else, and because he was in his cups frequently at the local pub, and wished to impress his drinking friends, he bragged that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The King, who loved his ale more than anything but gold, overheard this tale, and ordered the Miller to bring his daughter to the palace.
The Miller dragged his reluctant daughter to the palace and the King dragged her to a room with a spinning wheel and a pile of straw. “Spin this straw into gold by tomorrow morning or you’ll die,” he said. He then locked the heavy door and left her.
This was most annoying. The girl uttered foul curses on all the men in her life, who had used her for their own selfish purposes. She thought and thought but could see no solution. Just then a raspy voice said, “I can help you.”
She turned and saw a small ugly man who smelled most foul. “I’ll spin the straw into gold, but what will you give me?”
“I have nothing but my body,” the girl said, wrinkling her nose.
“Agreed,” cried the little man, and worked through the night spinning, after which he enjoyed the girl’s favors while she held her nose.
The King was delighted, and dragged her to another room with more straw. “More gold,” he panted, “or tomorrow you die.”
What a bore this man was! She waited and fretted and suddenly the ugly little man appeared. “Need help again, I see. What will you give me?”
“Did you enjoy my body? You shall have even more of it tonight if you work quickly.”
“Agreed!” The little man spun and spun, and finished at last, leapt upon her and exhausted himself.
The King was ecstatic, but greedier than ever, and dragged her to a room overflowing with straw. “My kingdom’s treasury will pass any auditor’s test. Spin this straw into gold by morning and I’ll make you my wife.”
What a dilemma! Marry this royal yokel and have to endure that foul smelling gnome one more night! But she relented, thinking that being a Queen might not be so bad. Her first proclamation would be to lop off her braggart father’s head.
Once again the little man appeared, limping across the room. He was haggard-looking and uglier than ever. “Don’t you touch me, you vixen!,” he cried, “you’ve drained every ounce of strength from me with your wiles. You must promise to give me something else if I can manage to spin all this straw into gold.”
“What?” she asked, relieved.
“When you are Queen, you must give me your first born child.”
So he spun all night and fell to the floor in a swoon. She had the guards remove him and toss him into the moat to revive him. The King noticed none of this, so beside himself with joy as he was. He married the girl that very morning.
The new Queen forgot about the ugly little man, until a year later when she gave birth and he appeared, saying, “You have ruined me for other women; I have not been able to perform for this last year. Now you must give me what you promised, the child.”
“A promise is a promise,” she declared. “Take her, if you dare.”
“Her? Her?” He approached the cradle and drew back in horror. The babe was small and gnarled and very ugly, a mirror image of the little man.
“Her name is Rumplestiltskin.”
The little man shrieked and stamped his foot. “No no, that’s my name! Mine! It’s a magical name that gives me the power to spin straw into gold!”
The Queen shook her head, smiling. “No longer is it yours. The King has proclaimed that no one in his kingdom shall have the same name as his daughter. From this day forward, you shall be known as Murray.”
He raged and turned red as he whirled around the room, clenching his fists. Before he disappeared in a puff of smoke, his voice, much weakened, hissed out of the growing cloud. “I shall have my revenge! Your rooms of gold are even now fading back into the straw from whence they came!”
The King was displeased. He banished the Miller’s daughter and the child, and soon after, lost the palace because the treasury was bankrupt. He wandered his former kingdom, begging alms from his former subjects, for an occasional pint of ale. Not one of the good people believed that he had once been King, but they laughed at his drunken tale of rooms filled with gold.
As for the girl, she found an abandoned cottage in the deep woods at the edge of the kingdom, and moved in. She was a patient young woman, and her patience was rewarded, as year after year she watched her ugly little daughter at the spinning wheel, spinning little nuggets of gold from the bits of straw they were able to steal from the local farmers.
R.F. Marazas won first place in the Dahlonega Literary Festival 2007 Novel Contest, for his novel Dimensions In Ego, and has published short fiction in five Anthologies and in on-line venues.