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The Trouble with Rumpelstilzchen

"But this is impossible!", says Little Red Riding Hood indignantly, as she closes the book of fairy-tales.

The Frog King sitting beside her in the moss is rocking his head from side to side.

"Have you ever read this story?", Little Red Riding Hood inquires.

"Which one?" asks the Frog King. The moss is damp and he would rather be in the bed of the king´s daughter.

"Rumpelstilzchen!", Little Red Riding Hood replies angrily. The answer of the Frog King gets lost in a yawn.

"Well", Little Red Riding Hood sits up and folds her hands on the book of fairy-tales. "Once upon a time there was a miller, who had a daughter and because he had nothing else, he bragged mightily about the daughter. He even claimed that she could spin straw into gold!"

The Frog King blinks.

"One day the king hears about it", Little Red Riding Hood continues, "and, imagine, the stupid king believes the miller. He locks the miller´s daughter into a closet full of straw and tells her that, if she does not spin it into gold this very night she will die." The cheeks of Little Red Riding Hood are now as red as her hood. "The miller´s daughter is desperate. But now Rumpelstilzchen appears and promises to spin the straw into gold, if she gives him something for it. The miller´s daughter gives Rumpelstilzchen her necklace, and he spins the straw into gold." The Frog King shoves the golden ball under his chin and closes his eyes.

"But of course the king is not satisfied. The next night the miller´s daughter has to spin a second closet full of straw into gold. Again Rumpelstilzchen appears and she gives him her bracelet. The third night, the king locks the miller´s daughter into an even larger closet and tells her that, if she manages to spin this straw into gold he will marry her."

The Frog King swallows without opening his eyes.

"But the miller´s daughter has nothing more to give Rumpelstilzchen, so he asks for her first child." Little Red Riding Hood sighs: "Yes, and the miller´s daughter promises him her first child, Rumpelsiltzchen spins the straw into gold, the miller´s daughter marries the king and one year later when she has her first child, there is Rumpelstilzchen asking for the baby."

The Frog King breathes calmly and in front of his lips small bubbles are forming.

"Are you sleeping?" Little Red Riding Hood snaps at him.

Startled the Frog King opens his eyes.

"Did you listen to me at all?"

"Of course", it gurgles from the frog´s throat, "the miller´s daughter does not want to give him her child and cries so much that Rumpelstilzchen says she may keep it " " if she can guess his name", Little Red Riding Hood cuts him short because she prefers to tell the stories herself. "The first night the miller´s daughter lists all the names she can think of. Then, she sends out messengers, and the second night she lists all the names the messengers have heard in the country. The third night, however, the miller´s daughter learns the name because one of her messengers overheard Rumpelstilzchen as he sang and danced around the fire. The miller´s daughter tells the name, Rumpelstilzchen bursts with anger, she keeps the child and ", Little Red Riding Hood chokes in her excitement.

"And they lived happily ever after ..." yawns the Frog King and closes his eyes again.

"But this is impossible!" Little Red Rdining Hood insists while coughing. "This braggart of a miller ends up with a queen for a daughter, and the king who torments the miller´s daughter gets all the gold. They must be punished for their bragging, their greed."

"That´s life" the Frog King comments dozing.

"It is not life, it´s a fairy-tale." Little Red Riding Hood flings the book into the moss and gets up. "In fairy-tales the bad ones get punished and the good ones rewarded." "You did get your kings´s daughter after all, didn´t you", she adds triumphantly and picks up her basket.

"Where are you going?" the Frog King inquires.

"To Rumpelstilzchen of course, he has to change the story."

Suddenly the Frog King is wide awake. "But you can´t just change a story", he shouts after Little Red Riding Hood.

"Watch me! I´ve done other things when the wolf and the huntsman ..." her words die away between the trees.

For a moment the Frog King sits and stares into the moss.

Then he takes the golden ball, and leaps after Little Red Riding Hood.

© G. Alioth, 2001