There are many reasons why the story "Rumpelstiltskin" has endured for so long, despite its modification into a modern interpretation (Grimm, Household Stories. New York, Dover, 1963. Page 228, and Garner, James Finn, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New York, Macmillan, 1994, Page 13). The story, in both interpretations that I read, contains a element of human nature that has remained unchanged throughout the years.
In the story "Rumpelstiltskin" the miller’s daughter is a beautiful girl. However the miller has no money. He makes up a story that she is able to spin straw into gold. A king hears this story and challenges the girl. She is, alas, not able to do so and becomes very distraught. An enchanting little man comes to her aid, but only after she promises him her first born child. The daughter, who is now no longer a girl, goes to great lengths to get out of her promise and prospers by showing tremendous strength of character.
Exploitation is defined as the use or manipulation of another person for one’s own advantage ( Webster’s Universal College Dictionary. New York. Gramercy. 1997). This is an element of human nature that is found in the interpretations of this story that I read. The miller, The king and Rumpelstiltskin all exploit the girl (Esmeralda) in different ways for personal gain. She too uses them, as well as others around her to gain what she wants.
The miller, in both versions tells people that his daughter has a wonderful ability to make gold from straw so that he can become a rich man. "It happened one day that that he came to speak with the king, and, to give himself consequence, he told him that he had a daughter who could spin gold out of straw" (Grimm). " ‘If only I could get my daughter to marry a rich man,’ he mused . . . ‘she’ll be fulfilled and I’ll never have to work another day in my life’ " (Garner). The miller implies that his daughter is merely his property whom he should use to raise his station in life.
The king, upon hearing the story decides that the girl’s ability would be an asset to him, and his gold reserves. "He believed the rumor and invited Esmeralda to his castle for a May Day festival. But when she arrived he had her thrown into a dungeon filled with straw and ordered her to spin it into gold" (Garner). The king was so happy that he was now richer that he exploited her more, he threatened her with death if she could not perform again. "By the next morning all the straw was spun into glistening gold. The king was rejoiced beyond measure at the sight, but as he could never have enough of gold, he had the miller’s daughter taken into a still larger room full of straw" (Grimm).
Rumpelstiltskin, who is a lonely little fellow, decides to help her. However he agrees to do so only if she will give him something in return. "’What will you give me if I spin the straw for you this time?’ ‘I have nothing left to give’ answered the girl." She has already given him her only possessions, some jewelry. "‘Then you must promise me the first child you have after you are queen’ said the little man" (Grimm). "When all this was done the diminutive man in the funny hat laughed and said, ‘That is how you turn straw into gold.’ Then his expression became menacing. ‘Now that I have done my work, you must fulfill your part of the bargain" (Garner).
Esmeralda gets what she wants in the end. She does so by taking advantage of those that used her. Esmeralda finds happiness when she has a child. When she almost losses that child she uses her station to keep the baby.
"Rumpelstiltskin" teaches a lesson about human nature that crosses the barrier of time. Both versions of the story cited in this paper show examples of how the miller, Rumpelstiltskin, and the king used Esmeralda (the daughter) to get what they wanted. In both versions however, she used people too. I think that some of the characters in this story did know that their actions would hurt others. The king and Rumpelstiltskin