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The Spinner's Web (Rumplestiltskin Retold)
Jonathan Rumple was a man of great wealth, in his younger days. He’d inherited a small mill from his father, and was a collector of antique knickknacks; easily able to resell them at more than double the price he’d paid. Jonathan had never been in love, nor had he even loved his old father as he sat near his deathbed. His love was for materials- and he had a particular interest in things that were gold.
Angelina Baker was the young daughter of a miller: a miller that worked for Jonathan. Her father often came home stained with flour and the smell of grain, but always did he bring home food for the table and his pockets full of candy for Angelina and her siblings.
Angelina had just turned sixteen- the age in which her father wished for her to marry. Her mother had been gone since the last child, Emery was born, and since it was Angelina that had taken on the motherly responsibilities for her three younger siblings, she was reluctant to leave the household, though her father insisted.
Mr. Baker, being the man of the house, arranged for his daughter to be married to a tailor- a somewhat well off man, not near the line of poverty, but not near wealth either. Angelina was disappointed in what would be the loss of her family, for a man and life she’d never been face to face with.
Jonathan decided one day, as his boredom allowed, to visit the families of his workers and present them with a small monetary bonus in which he hoped would give them more will and momentum in their work. He arrived at the house of the Bakers, and knocked politely on the door.
“Just a moment,” a sweet voice echoed through the house in response to his knock. Jonathan stood tall, wiped a small bit of dirt off his jacket, and waited, poised for the lady to open the door and invite him in.
Angelina turned the knob and all pride was wiped from Jonathon’s face. He instantly believed her to be an angel, for only an angel could possess such rich, golden hair. He reached out for her hair, and she did not stop him, though she looked at him with an interested expression on her face.
“Can I help you, sir?” she asked, her cheeks tainted red from embarrassment. Jonathan’s face quickly matched hers as he realized what he had done. He cleared his throat and tried to regain his composure.
“Is-uh-your father home?” he asked, and she smiled sheepishly and shook her head in response.
“Unfortunately, he’s setting up a trade with the butcher. He should be home before dusk, if you’d like to wait.”
Jonathan knew he shouldn’t stay, but the golden hair tempted him with its glorious waves, and the girl’s sweet smile only added to his pleasure. He gladly allowed himself to be welcomed into the cottage, and sat down at the family’s worn wooden table.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked, her tone sweet and thick like honey. He shook his head, sending his caramel curls bouncing across his shoulders.
He watched as she began mixing something in a clay bowl that he guessed was supper. He suddenly had the urge to kiss her hand and brush the gold back from her face. She noticed him watching her and eyed him with curiosity, her eyes shimmering in the fainting sunset. The door burst open, and Mr. Baker stood in the doorway, holding fresh meat in his arms.
“Ah, Rumple-Sir,” he stuttered, not having expected the visitor to be sitting at his kitchen table. Jonathan reached into a hidden pocket and retrieved a small coin purse, handing it to his employee.
“Mr. Baker, is it possible I could speak privately with you for a moment?” Rumple inquired, a small smile tugging at the side of his mouth. Baker nodded, momentary fear glazed his eyes as he led his boss out of his home.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Sir?” Baker was nearly squirming on his feet.
“Mr. Baker,” Jonathan began, “I have noticed that you have an exceptionally… interesting daughter.” Baker’s eyes flickered with realization.
“Yes, Sir. She’s betrothed to a tailor in only a few short weeks.”
“Ah,” said Jonathan, disappointment tainting his tone, “I should have expected this for such a lovely young lady. Thank you for your time.” And he turned to walk away when Baker interrupted.
“But- Sir-“ Jonathan turned around again to face Baker, “I can imagine that for my Angelina, you could provide a respectable and comfortable home for the rest of her life, while it is possible that a tailor- he may not be so well-off. Come back tomorrow, as I will talk with the tailor in the morn before work.”
Jonathan’s blood grew warmer as he curtly nodded and turned to go on his way: the girl’s name echoing in his head.
And so it was decided, that Angelina and Jonathan Rumple should be wed in the spring. Soon after, Rumple sold off his mill and luxury items so he and Angelina would have no liabilities, but enough money to allow them to comfortably live together for the rest of their lives. Angelina become a spinner, finding joy in the small pleasure of creating beautiful threads. She found a way to spin her husband’s once-favorite color, gold, from straw and taught him the tedious way to do so.
Angelina was soon with child, and her belly grew over the course of a few months. Her cheeks were rosier, and her hair shimmered even more in the sunlight. Rumple no longer cared for any gold other than his wife’s luscious hair, and thus rid himself of all materials in this color- other than the thread that his wife had worked so hard to learn to create.
And then it was time for Angelina to give birth. A doctor and midwife came to the small cottage for delivery, Jonathan staying out of the room, unable to bear hearing his wife’s cries. He soon heard the cry of a babe, and the doctor emerged from the room, covered in blood.
“I’m afraid that your wife did not live through the birth,” the doctor said, and a moment of happiness was instantly crushed to a moment of immense grief. Jonathan’s heart raced, and he ran through the house, into the busy marketplace, where a merchant’s cart, pulled by a donkey collided with his leg. Jonathan Rumple screamed in pain- not anywhere near the simple physical pain, but the entire pain of the day.
Jonathan Rumple was permanently crippled that day, not only in his leg, but also in his heart. He had only moment to name his baby girl Isabel, before he recognized that he would not be able to properly care for her, so he took her to a young woman and her husband on the edge of town who were unable to birth a child of their own. The mother gladly took the babe, accepting Jonathan’s name and cradling the baby in her arms.
Jonathan walked home, wobbling on a thick walking stick. His house was empty of all that ever meant anything, other than the spinning wheel- and this was all he took with him when he disappeared.
Isabel Miller was the daughter of a seamstress and a butcher. Her mother taught her to spin thread when she was very young, to help with her sewing. Her mother was a stern-faced woman, handsome, but not beautiful, while Isabel was very much the opposite, having golden hair and blue eyes that shamed the sky.
She soon became a very skilled spinner, selling her threads and fabrics in the market, and every so often, a crippled man would also be selling threads, and only once had she approached him, and his eyes glittered when she did. He offered her a small piece of golden fabric, which she gratefully took and hid away in the folds of her skirt.
When Isabel was of the age to marry, her father looked for a suitable husband. He bragged her up, wishing to get her out of the house and into a decent home, and Isabel was ready for something other than the horrors that waited with her mother, whom had never really properly loved the child.
It was only time when Mr. Miller had found the small patch of golden fabric hidden in the girl’s possessions, and he inquired, she insisted that it was she who had learned to spin golden thread from straw, and this, became her father’s new way to bribe the richer bachelors.
When word of the girl who could spin straw into gold entered the king’s castle, everyone was intrigued. The king overheard discussions, and become interested, indeed. He asked where it was that he could find this girl, and a servant spoke of the butcher with the spinning daughter, saying that he could find the girl in the marketplace, and it was ordered that Isabel be brought to him at once.
As the king was a greedy man, perhaps as greedy as Jonathan Rumple had once been, he strived for the golden thread. He locked Isabel into a small room full of a straw, and a golden spinning wheel, and told her that she would spend the night there, and if she had managed to spin the straw into gold, her life would be spared.
Isabel cried and banged on the door, but there was no answer. She spent half of the night in fear of hanging, and the other sleepily staring at the straw, wishing there was a magical way that she could turn it to gold.
She was on the verge of sleep, when a creak turned her attention to the door. The crippled man from the market stood in front of her, leaning on his walking stick. He eyed the straw and the girl on the floor, and smiled down at her.
“Old man, why is it that you smile at me? Are you mad? If I do not spin this straw into gold, I will surely be killed!”
He put his finger to his lips and pointed to the ring on her finger. She took it off, and handed to him, and he sat beside the spinning wheel, beginning to spin. Isabel watched him spin until she fell into a deep sleep, hoping that she hadn’t been dreaming.
When it was morning, the king came to the room, and his eyes widened at the sight of gold strained across the room. He shook the girl awake, and she, herself, was surprised at the old man’s work.
That night, the king put her in an even larger room with more straw, and again the old man visited her. This time, he pointed to her necklace, which she gladly took off and handed to him to save her own life. He smiled and began to spin.
On the third night, Isabel was placed in an even larger room with the most straw she’d ever seen. The king promised that if she could spin all of the straw into gold, she would become his bride, and if she failed, she would be killed.
Isabel was frightened, for not only could she not spin the straw, she had nothing left to give the man if he arrived, and when he did, she presented this problem to him.
“Kind sir, if you spin for me tonight, I know not what I will pay you with. I haven jewelry left, but if you spin and wait until I am queen, I will pay you riches beyond your wildest dreams.”
Rumple shook his head and spoke, “No, my dear. There is something else I desire.”
“Anything,” the girl promised.
“I want your first born child.”
Isabel was shocked, but had no choice and agreed. She fell asleep on the floor, and woke up to the king’s booming congratulations.
The wedding was that very day.
It wasn’t long before the queen’s belly was swelling with a baby. Isabel feared the day that the crooked man would return for her child, for she already loved it so much.
The night of birth, Isabel held her baby girl in her arms when a soldier appeared at the bedroom door.
“My lady, there is a man to see you. He says it is important.”
Because Isabel had promised, she allowed the man to be brought to her bedroom.
“Hello, dear,” the old man said, eyeing the bundle in the crook of her arms hungrily.
“Oh please, sir, don’t take my daughter away from me. My heart will surely be broken if you do.”
Jonathan watched his granddaughter’s small fist being thrust into the air and longed to hold her; to hold his daughter and confess everything to her, but he knew it was impossible for her to understand. He shook his head.
“I will give you three nights to guess my name. I will return two nights after this one, and if you can guess what I am called, I will allow you to keep your child.”
Isabel guessed all names that she could think of for hours. At midnight, Jonathan left the castle and returned to his small cottage at the edge of the woods. He was assured that she would never guess the cruel nickname he had been given by the marketplace children: Rumplestiltskin.
The second night was as much as a failure as the first, the queen guessing as many names as she could from a list that the castle workers had come up with, and that night, she asked a small group of guards to follow him.
When the guards followed him, they found him dancing giddily around a campfire and chanting in a sing-song voice “she’ll never guess my name; I’ll never be lonely again; for I am Rumplestiltskin!”
The next night, the queen began the same way she had before, guessing many different names, and right before the clock struck midnight, she cried out, “Is your name, by chance, Rumplestiltskin?”
His face went from cheerfulness to shock and anguish, “how could you have known?” he asked, as his daughter smiled in triumph to his pain. Rumplestiltskin slunk from the castle, never again to be seen by any in the village. It is assumed that he died in isolated heartbreak.