Vocabulary (Review)

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Lesson Transcript

There was a puppet show at the library today. The puppeteers put on the folk tale Rumpelstiltskin. I had forgotten the main drama in the story. The female character, hoping to keep her father out of the king's dungeon, agrees to give Rumplestiltskin her first-born child if he will only spin straw into gold for her. And why, you may ask, does she have to spin straw into gold? Well, because her father wanted to impress the king so that the king would marry his daughter. How did he impress the king? By telling him that his daughter was so clever that she could spin straw into gold, of course.
In the United States, the idea that a father would be so desperate to marry off his daughter that he would lie to the king, endangering both himself and his daughter, is disturbing. In the time period of this tale, however, the only hope for an "aging" daughter of a widower was to be married to as wealthy a man as possible. The idea that a woman would promise her firstborn in order to save her father's life is touching and abhorrent at the same time. The idea that a strange little man would ask for a child in return for a favor is even worse.
But, I suppose it does teach a lesson. Don't make promises you don't intend to keep. Of course, Rumplestiltskin loses even though he upholds his end of the bargain. In a moment of weakness or of arrogance, he allows the girl one last chance to keep her baby. She must guess his name. And she does, albeit she cheats a little bit. So what, really, is the moral of this story? That weird little men who live in the woods always lose? Perhaps there is no moral. Perhaps I should let it just be a story. When I asked my daughter what her favorite part was, she answered, "Spinning the gold, Mommy."