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Rumplestiltskin - Dumb man meets a ruthless woman

Submitted by greg on Mon, 07/01/2013 - 15:20

I previously wrote about how the diet of the very hungry catterpillar is not realistic. Now, rumplestiltskin.

Rumplestiltskin is a pretty horrible story in terms of what it might teach your kids.

The whol story starts with the miller lying about his daughter being able to spin straw into gold. The king is intrigued and asks to see the daughter. He falls in love with her at first sight.

Problem 1: love at first sight, superficial love.

The king's advisers then demand gold.

Problem 2: the advisers have more power than the king?

The miller's daughter (who never gets a name) then starts crying and the little man (Rumplestiltskin) shows up.

Problem 3: why's it gotta be the short man?

Rumplestiltskin has the ability to turn straw into gold (and presumably other things) but trades a night worth of work for a necklace and the second night's work for her ring. The second night he trades his work for a ring. A miller's daughter would no doubt have a simple necklace made of wood, bone, leather and some non-precious stone. Even if it were made of platinum, why would Rumplestiltskin trade a night's worth of work making gold to get a simple necklace or ring.

Problem 4: are short men also really bad in negotiating?

Rumplestiltskin asks for the first born child. Anyone with kids will tell you that they are glorious, but surely some children were available for adoption in this kingdom. Rumplestiltskin, as someone who can turn worthless objects into gold, could also hire a surrogate mother and even a surrogate father if necessary to make him a child. Are the king and the miller's daughter really such genetic speciments that Rumplestiltskin wants a child of their lineage?

Problem 5: Rumplestiltskin is apparently super dumb, his final work-for-goods barter doesn't make sense.

One year after their child is born, Rumplestiltskin returns to ask for the child. The Queen begs for an alternative proposal. Rumplestiltskin has a very strong BATNA: he gets the kid. He agrees to a plan wherein his upside is that the Queen will know his name and his downside is that he gets no child. Assuming that the child is actually valuable in some way (see problem 5) he's switched from a good agreement to a new agreement that has far far less value.

Problem 6: Rumplestiltskin is really really bad at negotiating.

The queen (still don't know her name) has a handmade who encounters Rumplestiltskin singing his name in the forest (see problem 5). Rumplestiltskin is portrayed as living like a vagabond in the forest yet we know that he is capable of making copious amounts of gold.

Problem 7: Rumplestiltskin should live in a much larger house with his own servants to protect him in this risky time.

The queen guesses rumplestiltskin's name (after pretending she doesn't know, what a cruel trick to do to a man who has only been very giving with her).

Problem 8: The queen goes back on her word and mocks her helper, a cruel cruel woman and yet she is portrayed as being virtuous (she gets to live happily ever after).

Rumplestiltskin's recourse is to stomp his feet and flee the kingdom in rage. If he were at all smart he would spin gold and hire an army and take the baby from the wicked queen. Or, if he were truly devious and not interested in personal wealth, he could flood the market with gold making the king weak by devaluing a major source of the king's worth and power.

It really is a horrible story:

  • Superficial love
  • An idiot who is horrible at negotiating
  • Short men villified for no real reason
  • No discussion of the potential economic impact of making scarce goods with great ease
  • Liars are tolerated (miller) and celebrated (queen) while an honorable man who helps a damsel in distressed is mocked - perhaps ONLY because he is short?