Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/157

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149
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN.

payment, or the alternative of finding out the witch's name within a year. The girl becomes a queen and a mother, and as the dreaded time for fulfilment of the contract draws near, she is relieved by a courtier telling her that he heard a witch in the forest singing over a cauldron a song of exultation that the queen does not know she is called Siperdintl.

A number of closely-corresponding stories from neighbouring districts could be cited, but it suffices to say that abstracts of them are given in the notes to Vernaleken's collection of folktales from Austria and Bohemia, from which the foregoing are quoted.[1] In some of these stories the devil in disguise, as in the variant from Cornwall, takes the place of witch or fairy, granting certain favours on the condition that his name is found out within a given time, usually seven years. In the majority of cases he is outwitted. Probably some of the stories are echoes of the many medieval legends of the "stupid beast," as Pope Gregory the Great called him, the gullibility of the devil being the main feature in the popular conceptions of him in the Middle Ages. In connexion with this, the Austrian tale just cited, in which Kruzimügeli bursts through a hole in the wall, which could never be blocked up again, reminds us of one of the legends of a church-building devil given by Grimm. The fiend had bargained for the soul of the first who should enter, so a wolf was driven through the door, when the devil in a rage flies up through the roof, and leaves a gap that no mason can fill up.[2]

The Magyar variant of Rumpelstiltskin bears the title of "The Lazy Spinning Girl, who became a Queen."[3] A woman, angry with her daughter for disliking spinning, chased her from home. As they ran, a prince passed by in his carriage, and, hearing what was the matter, offered to take the girl to his mother. This done, he put her into a large shed filled with flax, and told her that he would marry her if she spun all of it within a month. For three weeks she sat

  1. In the Land of Marvels. (Swan Sonnenschein and Co. 1884.)
  2. Teut. Mythol. 1621 (Eng. trans.)
  3. Magyar Folktales. Kropf and Jones, p. 46.