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Once upon a time, there was a river. On the river was a little mill with a waterwheel. Mr. Miller was proud of his little mill, but most of all proud of his daughter Ethel. Ethel was ordinary looking. She had ordinary intelligence. She had the ordinary skill of spinning wool. She was very nice, but to the boys in the village she was no great catch.
Now, pride often comes before a fall. Which means if you go around acting too boastful you'll get yourself into a heap of trouble.
One day King Grady stopped at the mill. The miller tried to set him up with Ethel. He said "Your majesty, is not my daughter Ethel pretty?" The King shouted "Not!" and rode away.
The second time he rode by, Mr. Miller said, "Ethel is really smart." The King asked Ethel her thoughts on the latest fashions of France.
Ethel had never been anywhere, never mind another country. She just nodded. The King shouted sarcastically, "Yeah, she's a regular Einstein!" and rode away.
He was quite a rude young King.
The third time the King came by, Mr. Miller was desperate to get his daughter married. He proudly said, "Your majesty, my daughter is so skilled at spinning wool she can spin straw into gold!" This was not true.
Ethel's eyes bugged out even more to hear her father tell such a whopper of a fib. The King was not only rude he was greedy. He had a lot of gold and wanted more. When he heard Mr. Miller's boast, he stopped. The King said, "Ethel, eh? You are pretty, smart, and skilled. Come to the palace for a date."
Mr. Miller and Ethel were so excited. She was going on her first date! She wore her best necklace and ring. King Grady picked her up in a gold carriage. It was like a dream come true. But when they got to the palace, the King threw her into a small cold room filled with straw. "Uh oh", thought Ethel. "This doesn't look like dinner and a movie". The metal door slammed behind her. The King shouted through the door, "Start spinning! If this straw is not turned to gold by morning, then I will kill your father for lying!"
Ethel fell to the floor and cried. "Oh no! I give up! He will kill my father, all because my father told a proud, boastful fib! I wish I could turn straw into gold!" Suddenly a little man appeared. He had a pop eye and a squint and a nose like a pickle. He smiled a crooked smile at Ethel and said, "Wish, eh? Well I can do it for ye, but it'll cost ye". Ethel handed over her necklace. The little man grabbed it.
The little man jumped onto the spinning wheel, fed a handful of straw into it, and began to spin. The wheel spun so fast that the straw melted into fine hairs of gold, which twisted together into golden thread, and wrapped around the bobbin. The man sang a song:
"Golden straw, golden thread,
Thanks to me your dad's not dead!"
The wheel spun faster and faster.
In the morning Ethel woke up on the hard stone floor. The little man was gone. All around her, the room was filled with giant balls of golden thread. The King came in, saw the gold, and jumped for joy. He took Ethel by the hand and danced her from room to room. "I'm dancing with the King", though Ethel, "How romantic!"
He spun her into a second room, and slammed the door behind her. This room was larger and filled to the ceiling with straw.
The king shouted through the door, "Our second date is Games Night! The rules are, if you spin this straw into gold by morning, I don't kill your father." Ethel sagged to the floor and began to cry. Suddenly a little hand appeared with snotty handkerchief. As she dried her eyes the little man plucked the ring from her finger and began to spin. The man sang a song:
"Spinning faster, faster spinner
Thanks to me, you're the Games Night winner!"
In the morning, the King saw the room filled with golden thread. He grabbed Ethel and kissed her. "What a great date, my little cash cow! Will you be my wife?" Ethel knew her father wanted her to marry the King more than anything. She said "Yes my love!" The happy couple held hands and ran through the castle laughing and singing. As happy Ethel danced into the ballroom, she heard the now-familiar sound of the door being slammed behind her. The ballroom was filled with straw.
As the first tear rolled down her cheek the little man appeared.
"I have all your jewelry," he snapped at her, "so here's the deal. If I spin this, you will be Queen. When you have your first baby, you will give it to me." Now, we've mentioned that Ethel was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She thought she might figure it out later when she was Queen. She agreed. The man sang a song:
"Spinning wheel goes round and round,
I buy babies by the pound!"
In the morning the King came into the ballroom, which was chock full of gold. He smiled. The King and Ethel were married. Over time, he became nicer to her. All the gold made them very rich. Ethel got her teeth fixed, a nose job, and hair extensions. Now, by the King's shallow standards she was rich and good-looking. They went to parties every night. But she was not happy. One day she found out she was going to have a baby. "I'm going to be a mother," she thought. "Maybe that is what I am missing".
Queen Ethel was going to have a baby. For the first time in her life she began to read. She read books on babies, books of stories, books on how to be a good mother, and books on how to be a wise Queen. For the first time in her life she felt in control. Nine months later she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. Looking in her big book of baby names, she called him "Milford" which means "the Mill by the ford in the stream", because it reminded her of her father.
It was the middle of the night and Ethel was in the easy chair in the nursery with the baby in her arms. The clock struck one o'clock in the morning. But instead of the cuckoo appearing from the door in the clock, it was the horrible little man! Ethel had forgotten all about him. He looked mean and hungry. Instead of "cuckoo", he yelled, "I'm baaaaack!" He lunged at Ethel and tried to snatch the baby from her arms, but she held on tight.
Ethel thought fast. She decided to be polite to buy some time. "Let me introduce you. Little man, meet baby Milford. Baby Milford, meet - why, little man, you never told me your name. I bet you that if I can guess your name I keep my baby!" The little man had a name that no-one else knew, and no-one else had. He grinned a huge, evil grin. "Alright, Queen", he whispered, "it's a double or nothing bet. If you lose, and can not guess my name, I get this baby and the
Ethel ran to her bookshelf and took down her big book of baby names. She asked the little man, "Is your name Aaron? Abbot? Abdullah?" He shook his head. Ethel continued, "Is your name Abner? Abraham? Ace? Achilles? Adisa? Adler? Adolph? Adrian? Aiden? Aiken?" He shook his head. "How about A.J.? Is your name Ajax? Akbar? Alan? Albert? Aldous? Alfred? Alonzo? Alphonse? Amir? Amos? Angus?" At every name the little man shook his head.
Six hours later, Ethel was at her wit's end, as well as the book's end. She asked, "Is your name Zaid? Zeus? Ziggy? Zion?" He shook his head. She stood up and shouted, "Then I have it! Your name must be Zoltan!" The little man laughed a harsh laugh. "Nice try Ethel. But the sun is coming up. I'll be back tomorrow at the same time for the baby." And he jumped out
Ethel was no longer the type of person to fall down crying and give up. She sent her servants to collect all the names in the land. But when the servants returned with their lists, she had already tried all of the names. Finally the last servant arrived. She was named Alfreda (which means "speaks to elves"). She said, "I have some news. My elf friends showed me something strange in the woods. Under an oak tree, a little man was dancing around a fire with a stew pot bubbling over it. He was singing
Merrily I dance and rhyme,
Spinning, spinning, out of time
The good Queen cannot be a winner
And I will eat baby for dinner!
There's no way she can win the game:
For Rumpelstiltzkin is my name!"'
Queen Ethel hugged Alfreda tight and thanked her. She sat in the chair with baby Milford in her arms. When the clock struck one, the ugly little man popped out, shrieking "last chance!"
"Oh cut it out," said Ethel calmly. "There's no reason to be jumping up and down like a fool. Or maybe there is a reason, because I believe the name for a foolish little man is your name - RUMPELSTILTZKIN!"
Rumpelstiltzkin was hopping mad! The little man screamed. He growled and gnashed his teeth in rage. He stomped his left foot so hard, it smashed through the stone floor up to his knee. Then he stamped his right foot so hard that he disappeared all together!
The King heard the crash, and ran in. He saw a hole in the floor with black smoke coming out of it. The servant Alfreda told the King what had happened. Queen Ethel had saved the baby from Rumpelstiltzkin. The King realized that his wife was smart. She was brave. She was not the type to give up. He respected her and treated her better from that day forward. Prince Milford grew into a kind and brave young man. Ethel felt a new feeling, and that feeling has a name. It is called "happiness."