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Rumpelstiltskin Analysis

Author: poem of Anne Sexton Type: poem Views: 9

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Inside many of us

is a small old man

who wants to get out.

No bigger than a two-year-old

whom you'd call lamb chop

yet this one is old and malformed.

His head is okay

but the rest of him wasn't Sanforized?

He is a monster of despair.

He is all decay.

He speaks up as tiny as an earphone

with Truman's asexual voice:

I am your dwarf.

I am the enemy within.

I am the boss of your dreams.

No. I am not the law in your mind,

the grandfather of watchfulness.

I am the law of your members,

the kindred of blackness and impulse.

See. Your hand shakes.

It is not palsy or booze.

It is your Doppelganger

trying to get out.

Beware . . . Beware . . .

There once was a miller

with a daughter as lovely as a grape.

He told the king that she could

spin gold out of common straw.

The king summoned the girl

and locked her in a room full of straw

and told her to spin it into gold

or she would die like a criminal.

Poor grape with no one to pick.

Luscious and round and sleek.

Poor thing.

To die and never see Brooklyn.

She wept,

of course, huge aquamarine tears.

The door opened and in popped a dwarf.

He was as ugly as a wart.

Little thing, what are you? she cried.

With his tiny no-sex voice he replied:

I am a dwarf.

I have been exhibited on Bond Street

and no child will ever call me Papa.

I have no private life.

If I'm in my cups the whole town knows by breakfast

and no child will ever call me Papa

I am eighteen inches high.

I am no bigger than a partridge.

I am your evil eye

and no child will ever call me Papa.

Stop this Papa foolishness,

she cried. Can you perhaps

spin straw into gold?

Yes indeed, he said,

that I can do.

He spun the straw into gold

and she gave him her necklace

as a small reward.

When the king saw what she had done

he put her in a bigger room of straw

and threatened death once more.

Again she cried.

Again the dwarf came.

Again he spun the straw into gold.

She gave him her ring

as a small reward.

The king put her in an even bigger room

but this time he promised

to marry her if she succeeded.

Again she cried.

Again the dwarf came.

But she had nothing to give him.

Without a reward the dwarf would not spin.

He was on the scent of something bigger.

He was a regular bird dog.

Give me your first-born

and I will spin.

She thought: Piffle!

He is a silly little man.

And so she agreed.

So he did the trick.

Gold as good as Fort Knox.

The king married her

and within a year

a son was born.

He was like most new babies,

as ugly as an artichoke

but the queen thought him in pearl.

She gave him her dumb lactation,

delicate, trembling, hidden,

warm, etc.

And then the dwarf appeared

to claim his prize.

Indeed! I have become a papa!

cried the little man.

She offered him all the kingdom

but he wanted only this -

a living thing

to call his own.

And being mortal

who can blame him?

The queen cried two pails of sea water.

She was as persistent

as a Jehovah's Witness.

And the dwarf took pity.

He said: I will give you

three days to guess my name

and if you cannot do it

I will collect your child.

The queen sent messengers

throughout the land to find names

of the most unusual sort.

When he appeared the next day

she asked: Melchior?


But each time the dwarf replied:

No! No! That's not my name.

The next day she asked:

Spindleshanks? Spiderlegs?

But it was still no-no.

On the third day the messenger

came back with a strange story.

He told her:

As I came around the corner of the wood

where the fox says good night to the hare

I saw a little house with a fire

burning in front of it.

Around that fire a ridiculous little man

was leaping on one leg and singing:

Today I bake.

Tomorrow I brew my beer.

The next day the queen's only child will be mine.

Not even the census taker knows

that Rumpelstiltskin is my name . . .

The queen was delighted.

She had the name!

Her breath blew bubbles.

When the dwarf returned

she called out:

Is your name by any chance Rumpelstiltskin?

He cried: The devil told you that!

He stamped his right foot into the ground

and sank in up to his waist.

Then he tore himself in two.

Somewhat like a split broiler.

He laid his two sides down on the floor,

one part soft as a woman,

one part a barbed hook,

one part papa,

one part Doppelganger.

Submitted by Emily


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