January 17, 2011

Golden Inspiration

Ever wonder how straw spun into gold might look? Well, the artist Hypho certainly has. It was her writing about Rumpelstiltskin's fate that grabbed my attention -- after seeing the glorious cuff she'd created. Hypho writes, "The standard version of the Grimm brothers' tale omits the telling of Rumpelstiltskin's later years. Following the fiasco with the miller's daughter, he set up shop to put his spinning and weaving to more noble ends. In time, his golden creations were coveted by the most acclaimed ladies of the court, including the queen herself. This bracelet is based on one of Rumpelstiltskin's most exquisite designs."

What a lovely idea, writing a useful future for the disappointed Rumpel. And just think, the "straw into gold"cuff Hypho created does seem to be gold from straw. Find this and other exquisite work at  Hypho's Etsy shop.

Hope this provides inspiration to poets, writers and fairy tale fans.

January 16, 2011

Sinfully Helpful?

Sin in fairy tales is one of the themes I hit pretty hard when I talk to students about messages and subtext in fairy stories. Greed, wrath, envy, lust -- they're all there. Sin, is, of course, deeply unfashionable, and  by "unfashionable," I don't mean to suggest that greed and lust and their five troublesome friends no longer beset we frail humans; after all the seven deadlies will always be with us. It's just that the concept of "sinfulness' is not accepted. We use the concepts of psychology and the legal system instead.

Yet belief in human sinfulness was very much alive when stories such as "Rumpelstiltskin" were being told at firesides, or even written down by early collectors such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. As in most fairy tales, greed has a starring role in "Rumpelstiltskin." There's the greedy, bragging  father, the greed of the king, the greed of Rumpelstiltskin for a child. The miller's daughter, who receives the dubious benefits of Rumpel's help is by no means admirable. Is she greedy? Yes, probably. But in the sense that many people would be in her case. Beyond her beauty, however, she is a cipher.

"Rumpelstiltskin" is one of the relatively rare fairy tales where men are more at the center of action than women.  But by focusing on greed, it fits in with its sister tales, including numerous variants of the story.