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History of Rumpelstiltskin


Tom Tit Tot: An Essay on Savage Philosophy in Folk-Tale
by Edward Clodd

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Rumpelstiltzkin has been studied by many folklorists with a critical study of it dating back to Edward Clodd's Tom Tit Tot, An Essay on Savage Philosophy in Folk-Tale, a full length book from 1898. The tale is well-known throughout most of Europe, ranging from Italy to Scandinavia to Spain. In all of the versions, its principal traits are usually the same. In fact, the Grimms collected four versions of the tale in their research in Hesse which they combined into the Rumpelstiltzkin that is best known in English speaking countries today.

Rumpelstiltzkin's name and story appears to have been around for centuries. The earliest known version of the tale has been traced back to Johann Fischart's adaptation of Book 1 of Francois Rabelais' (1494?-1553) Gargantua, Geshichtkitterung also known as Gargantua and Pantagruel which was published in 1575-1590. The 363rd amusement given in the book is titled "Rumpele stilt oder der Poppart."

Of course, Rumpelstiltzkin is not the only name known in the many versions of the tale across Europe, including the British Isles. For example, the dwarf has been known as Trit-a-Trot in Ireland, Tom Tit Tot in Suffolk, Terrytop in Cornwall, and Whuppity Stoorie in Scotland. A book published in Amsterdam in 1708, titled Tour tenebreuse et les jours lumineux, Contes Anglois tirez d'une ancienne chronique composee par Richard surnomme Coeur de Lion, Roy d'Angleterre presents the dwarf, but his name is Ricdin-Ricdon.

The oldest known version in English was published in German Popular Stories, Translated from the Kinder and Haus-Marchen, Collected by M. M. Grimm, From Oral Tradition, 1823. A copy of the story published in that book can be found in Iona and Peter Opie's Classic Fairy Tales. It still remains the best known version in the English speaking world and is very close to the version included by Andrew Lang in his fairy tale books. The Lang version is what I have annotated on this site.


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Rumpelstiltskin illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

Rumpelstiltskin by Paul Galdone

The Whuppity Stoorie by John W. Stewig

©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 1/1999; Last updated 7/9/07