Many questions come up when exploring the class relationships in Rumpelstiltskin. The dominant issue is the concern that
this story is not a romance story but still ends in a marriage. The King acts out of personal greed and selfishness; he has
no problem threatening the Miller's daughter in death, and yet is just as happy to marry her as to cut off her head. In the
earlier Grimm versions of this story there are not as many reasons as to WHY the king requests all of these things of the
poor Miller's daughter, but the addition of these internal thoughts in later editions only make him seem more cruel. Also,
it is interesting to note that the Grimm brothers include the fact that the Miller's daughter is beautiful, but this characteristic
is never mentioned again. This alludes to the idea the the King is more interested in riches than love or even at least sexual
pleasure. The fact that the girl begins as a Miller's daughter and becomes a Queen also leads the audience to believe that
wealth is more powerful than class status (i.e the story advocates caste-switching.)
Besides specifically class and family relationships, there are other analyses dealing with the origin and political positions
of the characters. According to Jane Yolen, there is a strong possibility that Rumpelstiltskin is a story of German antisemitism.
Many thematic details allude to this prospect, for example, the main antagonist has an unpronounceable name that lives outside
the kingdom and is primarily known as a bargainer or money-changer(Yolen, 288.) Of course, many scholars would argue against
this reading alone as it would refract from the other readings of the texts, but it is possible the the roots of this folktale
(in Germany) were racially tainted.
The Family Construct
It is quite clear that the power of the family construct lies in the patriarchal figure in this story. First the girl is handed
off to another man by her father - the classic marriage scheme, then she is controlled by the decisions of her helper, Rumpelstiltskin.
Through all of the males' eyes, the girl is merely a bargaining technique; a way of gaining status (the Miller,) money (the
King) or power (Rumpelstiltskin.)
There are various ways of looking at Rumpelstiltskin through a Freudian analysis. Here, in point form are some ideas:
Rumpelstiltskin as representation of phallus:
- He visits her in the night time
- Spinning the thread for her is like taking her femininity into his own hands.
- The bargaining items (necklace, ring and first-born) are all symbolic of femininity, fertility or the female genitalia
- One female victimized by male power (see more in "Family Constructs section.)
In this reading, perhaps the moral of the story can be that if a woman rejects the phallus and its seduction (Rumpelstiltskin)
she will succeed in not only surviving but also marrying into wealth and power. Huge and quite obvious issues come from adhering
to the Freudian aspects too rigidly because:
- The miller's daughter succumbs to working with Rumpelstiltskin (a random phallus) in order to win the king over.
- There is practically no sexual context (literally or psychologically) between the King and the Miller's daughter and
yet they are the ones who end up together.
-She never actually uses the spinning wheel herself (the spinning wheel and spindle being common phallic imagery [i.e
Because of these discrepancies, this is probably one of the weakest readings of Rumpelstiltskin.