Some notes on spinning straw into gold

A brief note from editor Su Mwamba, upon researching the story of Rumpelstiltskin for a forthcoming issue of Enchanted Times:

My strongest memories from childhood of the Rumpelstiltskin tale are of his striped & bandy legs stamping through the palace floor in a fury, after being named by the Queen.  I later realised that this imagery came to me directly from Vera Southgate’s illustrations to the (now vintage) abridged version of the fairy tale published by Ladybird, originally in the 60s.  I didn’t think much more about it until I was recently searching for an appropriate picture to accompany a forthcoming E.T. special edition.  I was surprised to find that I could not find anything which matched the image in my head – of the straw being spun into a fine, golden thread:

To be fair, most of the Rumpelstiltskin illustrations I found did not even attempt to portray the scene of Rumpelstiltskin at work, in the actual act of transforming straw into gold.  But those who did – H. J. Ford, George R. Halkett, Margaret Evans Price – showed the straw somehow transforming into piles of gold coins:

Although there is obviously magic at work in this particular transmutation of form, I saw a logic in the straw becoming thread that was absent in this apparently more common transformation into actual coinage.  Given the relative frequency of the image, though, I assumed that there was a reference within the original tale to which these illustrations were alluding, and it was my own memory harking back to a Ladybird abridged edition that was in the wrong.

However, this appears not to be the case, certainly with reference to the Brothers Grimm version:

“The little man…sat himself down at the wheel, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the bobbin was full. Then he put on another, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the second too was full; and so it went on till the morning, when all the straw was spun away, and all the bobbins were full of gold.”

[Bobbins, for those unfamiliar with needlework terminology, are solid reels which are wound with thread or yarn.  It is impossible to successfully apply coinage to a bobbin without the aid of glue.  Or magic, I suppose. ;)]

And thus, in preparation of the aforementioned E.T. special edition, I felt entirely vindicated in honouring the illustrator of my childhood memories in choosing a cover illustration.  It is rare for my own interpretation to adhere so closely to the original text, but in this case I offer thanks to Vera Southgate for providing my imagination with these particular images when I was clearly at an impressionable age!

Enchanted Times #3.5 (see cover preview right) will be available shortly as both an online preview edition as well as a slightly expanded print edition available in the TangleCrafts Etsy Store.  Please look out for further details of release.


 Link to reviews of more stories & novels featuring Rumpelstiltskin


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