Once upon a time in the kingdom of Schifful a miller lived with his daughter. His wife had passed away shortly after naming her Linda. Their daughter was fairer than every maiden in the kingdom, yet no one in the village seemed to think much of her because she was the child of the miller. The miller had high hopes for Linda because his wife was capable of using magic. He tried to help his daughter discover the gift but every attempt ended in failure.
“Father, I don’t think I have Mother’s gift.” Linda said one day.
“Nonsense. You must be capable of using magic. You got more from her than you did me.” The miller said. “Why when she was around she’d make the dishes do themselves and turn flour into a feast fit for the king. Why, she could even spin straw into gold!” He exclaimed loudly.
It was at that moment that the prince, Ronan by name, was passing by. He didn’t hear all of what was said but he did hear something about straw and gold. Peering into the window he saw Linda sitting at a spinning wheel and fell in love. He believed that she could spin straw into gold and once he mounted his horse he rushed to the castle to tell his father, King Ludwig, what he had heard and seen.
King Ludwig pondered with great interest. He had a great storeroom of treasure and was always seeking ways to make it grow. He had laid many taxes on the people yet that wasn’t enough to satisfy his greed. If someone could spin straw into gold, then he would be the richest king in the world. He didn’t stop to wonder why the miller’s home was so poor because all he cared about was getting the girl with the great ability.
That very night King Ludwig sent his guards to bring the miller’s daughter to him. They broke down the door of the house, killed the miller, and brought Linda to the castle.
“I hear you can spin straw into gold.” King Ludwig said. “I have filled three rooms with straw and will give you three nights to prove your ability to me. If you succeed in turning every single straw into gold I will let you live. Fail and you shall join your father.”
“This is why you brought me here? This is why you killed my father?” Linda screamed at King Ludwig.
“An unfortunate tragedy. If you fail, then you can look forward to a reunion with him.” With that the king dismissed her and the guards dragged Linda to a room filled with straw it filled every corner except the area where there was a spinning wheel. The guards pushed her in and locked the door.
Once she was alone Linda began to weep. Her family was now completely gone and she was being asked to do something that she knew was impossible for her. If she had her mother’s skills it would be easy. Yet she knew she had no gift and when the morning came she would die.
“Why are you so sad?” A voice asked. Linda looked up to see a little man sitting at the window. She was surprised because there was no way to climb up on the outside and she was sure no one else had been in the room when she was thrown in. None of the straw had been disturbed so he couldn’t have been hiding in the stacks.
“The king has asked me to do the impossible and spin all this straw into gold. If I fail then I shall…” Linda broke back into sobs as she remembered her father’s fate.
“Fear not. I can do it for you.” The man said as he jumped beside her. “I’ll spin this straw for you and you will be able to keep your life.”
“All three nights?”
“All three nights.”
Linda didn’t know what to think. She had never really trusted strangers and this strange little man just appearing out of nowhere and offering to help her seemed too good to be true.
“Who are you?” She asked finally.
“Someone who is willing to help you.” The man said.
Linda wasn’t fooled. “What do you want in return?”
“I’ll accept whatever you can give me.”
Linda had very few things she could give. All she had was the necklace that she had made years ago, the ring that had belonged to her mother, and the clothes on her back. The necklace and ring were her prized possessions. Yet her father had always taught her that sometimes things happen for a reason. With great reluctance she took off the necklace and handed it to the little man. The man accepted the gift and got to work.
As Linda watched the straw which the man spun turned to gold! She could hardly believe it. This man had to be magic if he could do the deed her father said her mother could. Her eyes grew heavy as the night dragged on and soon she fell asleep.
She awoke when the guards entered the room the next morning with King Ludwig. He inspected the room to make sure not a strand of straw had been left. To everyone’s amazement every last piece of straw had been turned to gold. The king’s greed however was not satisfied. He had Linda taken to another room filled with even more straw as if he was trying to intimidate her. After the door had been shut Linda looked around as if contemplating where to begin.
Prince Ronan visited her several times throughout the day. He brought her the meals himself and ate with her. He apologized for the events that had transpired last night and said he never would’ve said anything had he known that would happen. Linda didn’t answer him because she was still hurt. The kindness Ronan showed her healed some of the pain, but not all. She was reluctant to trust him, yet there was something about him that said he was nothing like his father.
When night fell she looked around for the little man. She didn’t see him by the window this time. She wondered if it had been a dream and that she somehow spun the gold herself. However she soon saw the little man sitting over the door.
“Night two. Do you have payment for my assistance?” The little man asked. Linda hesitated. Her mind went to her mother’s ring, yet it was all she had of her. As she thought, she felt that this was what the ring was meant for. With sorrow weighing down in her heart Linda took off the ring and gave it to the little man. Again the man spun the straw into gold, but Linda wasn’t interested this time. For some reason her thoughts kept going back to Ronan.
When morning came every single straw had been spun to gold. King Ludwig only had his avarice grow more. He took Linda to the final room where it seemed to be completely made of straw. The only open areas were the window and the spot where the spinning wheel sat. Before King Ludwig left Prince Ronan entered the room and faced his father.
“Father, what will become of Linda when she finishes spinning this straw into gold?” Ronan asked.
“I said she would be allowed to keep her life.” Ludwig answered.
“But what will become of her?” Ronan asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I would love to take her as my wife.” Looking at Linda Ronan added “If she will have me.”
“What? You marry her?” King Ludwig was astounded.
“Yes. When she finishes the task you have given her.” Ronan said.
King Ludwig thought about this for a moment, then agreed to let Ronan marry Linda if she succeeded in spinning all the straw into gold. Ludwig forbad Ronan from coming anywhere near her until the straw had been spun into gold. He wanted it done by nightfall. When the door was shut Linda saw the little man sitting at the spinning wheel smiling.
“You know how to get a good man’s eye.” He said.
“You heard all that?” Linda asked.
“Of course. And I can help you one more time by spinning all this straw into gold.”
“But I have nothing left to give to you.”
“Hmmm, that is a problem.” The little man thought about it. Finally he said, “If you promise to give me your firstborn son then I will spin this straw into gold.”
“My firstborn son? I…I can’t.” Linda said.
“Just like you couldn’t give your necklace or your mother’s ring?” The man asked. “It’s just one child. You’ll have plenty more. You have nothing to lose yet everything to gain. Just one child.”
Linda didn’t know what to think. There wasn’t much for her to lose, yet the idea of having to give her first son to this strange little man…it was too much. What would her father have done? After thinking for a minute Linda agreed. The man then spun the straw into gold while Linda sat worrying about what she had done.
When night fell King Ludwig entered the room to see all the straw had been spun into gold. Prince Ronan, when he saw the gold, escorted her out of the room promising her that she would never have to spin straw into gold again. Their wedding was one of the grandest Schifful had ever seen. The months following Prince Ronan gave Linda the attention and dedication that she deserved. As time went on she opened her heart to her handsome husband and felt happy again.
When their first son was born that happiness ended. Although all the kingdom had celebrated the birth of the new prince Linda mourned in her heart. She remembered the promise she had made to the man and dreaded seeing him again. Linda wanted to tell Ronan about all this, but she never could bring herself to do it.
As she sat trying to figure out a way to tell Ronan the truth the little man appeared.
“I have come for the child.” He said.
“Please, don’t take my son.” Linda begged. “I didn’t know what I was thinking then when I promised you I’d give him to you. I’ll give you anything else, all the treasure in the kingdom if you’ll just let me keep him.”
“Now now, that won’t do. You agreed that if I spun the straw for you he would be mine. You owe me your life and your happiness!”
“Please don’t take him. I’ll do anything if you will let me keep him. Please be reasonable, Mr.…” Linda then realized she never learned the man’s name.
The man opened his mouth as he was preparing to tell her his name but then stopped. His eyes widened as if he had just realized something. Smiling he said, “If you can guess my name within three days you may keep the child. Fail and he’s mine.”
Linda agreed and began listing every name that came to her mind. None of them was his name. The next day she sent out servants to every inch of the kingdom to gather names to try. When the second night came she listed all the names. None of them were right. Throughout the third day Linda mourned greatly. She did not know how she was going to be able to find out the man’s name before he came. How was she going to explain to Ronan when he came in to find their child gone?
She felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up she saw Ronan standing beside her. She turned away not wanting to give him the bad news.
“I know the man’s name.” He said. Linda was surprised. Before she could ask he explained, “Two nights ago I heard you talking with that man. I’ve sent out men to every corner of the land searching for names.”
“But why? Don’t you know that I’m a fraud? A sham?” She asked.
“It has nothing to do with the gold.” Ronan answered. “When I first saw you I felt like I had seen an angel. I knew you were the person I wanted to spend my life with and I have done all that I could to make you feel like a queen of heaven.”
Linda hugged Ronan. She felt peace in her heart. Her father was right. She did not understand why she had been brought here. Now she knew it was so she could marry this wonderful man. “What did you find out?” She asked.
“One of my men was on his way back last night when he saw a strange sight in the woods. It was a little man dancing around a fire singing a song to himself. He was worried that this man might’ve been doing some sort of black magic yet he stayed and listened to the song. He heard the man say a name that might be useful to remember.” Ronan then whispered the name into her ear.
That evening the little man came as usual. Linda listed off a long list of names to the man. Every single one of them was denied. However Linda was not worried because she was saving the best for last.
“Is your name Rumplestilskin?” She finally asked.
“How did you find out?” Rumplestilskin demanded. “There was no way you could’ve found out my name!”
“Well since your name has been revealed I think our business here is concluded.” Linda said as she held her son close.
Defeated, Rumplestilskin said “Very well. You may keep your son, but soon you shall learn that only more pain and suffering will befall you than had you given him to me!” With those words Rumplestilskin vanished.
Sure enough trouble did follow. King Ludwig arrested Linda on the accusation that she was a witch and locked her in the dungeon to await execution. The baby was taken from her and Ronan, and King Ludwig forbade Prince Ronan to visit his wife or to have his child. He ordered his son to go away and not come back for a month. Ronan refused and King Ludwig banished his son saying that if he ever returned he would die.
With his horse, sword, and the servant who had learned the name Ronan left the castle and all that he had loved. They wandered the forest avoiding the patrols who treated them like vagabonds and criminals. There seemed to be no light left in the world for Ronan.
However after traveling for quite some time the servant pointed out to Ronan the place where he had seen Rumplestilskin. Ronan had energy return to him with the thought of exacting revenge on the little man. Looking into the clearing he saw Rumplestilskin there packing as if he was going to leave soon. Sword drawn, Ronan charged into the clearing and seized the little man.
“Why did you curse my family? Why did you bring this misery upon us? Answer me!” Ronan said as he held his sword to Rumplestilskin’s neck.
“I didn’t do anything. I only said bad things would happen because the child stayed with you.” Rumplestilskin replied.
“What difference does it make if my son stayed with us or not?” Ronan asked.
“Because of your father. Long ago he found a family who could spin straw into gold and demanded that they serve him. They refused and he killed them all. Or so he thought. There were two survivors, a brother and a sister. They separated to keep the king from finding them. I thought my sister had been safe but because of this ring which I got from your wife I learned her fate.”
“But what does this all have to do with my family?”
“When the king heard of your wife’s gift he thought he could get the gift. That’s what he wants. The ability to spin straw into gold. He was going to use Linda’s failure as an excuse to get the power for himself. He knew that she did not know how to do it, so I stepped in to save her.”
“So why take payment?” Ronan asked.
“She insisted.” Rumplestilskin answered.
Ronan pondered all this. “You give a good story Rumplestilskin,” Ronan finally said, “But none of this explains why you wanted our child.”
“I did explain. King Ludwig wants the gift. He thought he could get it from Linda but knows that she doesn’t have it. However your son does. He could learn how to use it if given time. The king won’t give him time though. He’s going to use dark magic to transfer your son’s gift to himself. I only asked for the baby to keep that from happening. If the gift is mixed with dark magic it’ll become tainted and bring unspeakable evil upon the world.” Rumplestilskin answered.
“Now it makes sense.” Ronan said. “That’s why he locked Linda up and sent me away, so we couldn’t stop him from seizing the gift.”
“And to prevent you from seeing what will become of your child.” Rumplestilskin added. “If he succeeds in taking the gift from your son, the cost will be the life of the infant.”
Ronan dropped Rumplestilskin and rushed his horse back to the kingdom. If what Rumplestilskin said was true then he had to go back. It didn’t matter whether or not he died afterwards. His son was in danger and he had to get him to safety. Ronan didn’t know how it happened, but he found the journey back to the kingdom faster than the departure.
Many guards tried to impede his progress. However Ronan fought through them all. His skill with the sword was unmatched in the kingdom. He fought his way through the castle and rescued his wife from burning at the stake. Together they fought their way to King Ludwig who was just about to perform the ceremony.
“Why have you returned? I banished you from the kingdom forever!” King Ludwig shouted.
“I know why you did that. You’re trying to get the power to spin straw into gold for yourself!” Prince Ronan accused.
“Not just that. With the gift of your wife’s family I can do more. I can change entire forests into soldiers that never tire or need food. I can dry up rivers and lakes. That gift will make me the ruler of the world!” King Ludwig explained.
“You’re mad.” Linda said. “And I will not let you do that to my son!”
“Then face me in battle.” With that the king drew his sword and began fighting them. Ronan had taught Linda some skills with the sword some time ago and she still had them. King Ludwig was good, but he was no match for either of them. So calling on his dark powers he transformed himself into a massive cockatrice.
As a cockatrice King Ludwig was a force to be reckoned with. Their swords glanced off his feathers and the wind from his wings made it difficult to keep standing. Linda tried to crawl to the baby to get him to safety but with one swipe of his tale King Ludwig kept her away. Soon they were overshadowed by the monster that prepared to devour them.
“Excuse me your highness,” called Rumplestilskin from the other side of the room. “Don’t you want him?” He asked as he held up the baby.
King Ludwig roared in rage and turned to face the little man. Rumplestilskin leapt away and ran down the corridor with the child. The cockatrice that had been King Ludwig was not far behind him. Struggling to their feet Prince Ronan and Linda followed after them.
The size of the cockatrice kept him from going too fast in the narrow corridors yet he gained on Rumplestilskin. Prince Ronan and Linda could see him gaining on the little man and their child. However Linda recognized the corridors as leading to the rooms where she had been told to spin the straw into gold. She opened one of the doors to find the spinning wheel had not been moved. She and Ronan moved it out into the corridor and close to King Ludwig. Once the tail got close enough she tried to grab it. However it was too strong and smashed the spinning wheel.
The cockatrice roared as the corridor began to widen. In no time it snatched up Rumplestilskin and the baby. Linda and Ronan attacked the tail to try and distract him. With a mighty swing King Ludwig threw them out the window and onto the edge of a bailey. The cockatrice flew down to them where it prepared to finish them off. With the spindle she had taken from the spinning wheel Linda plunged it into the foot of the beast. King Ludwig roared in pain, dropping the baby and Rumplestilskin. They watched as the cockatrice turned into a golden statue and shattered.
With the death of the king came reform. Prince Ronan became the new king with Linda as his queen. Rumplestilskin stayed to show her how to further her magical abilities and to help teach her son as well. And they all lived happily ever after.