Everyone knows Rumpelstiltskin’s story—or thinks they do. But this innocent-seeming tale hides generations of women’s shrewd accounts of their relationships with men. And the verdict is not flattering. The fairytale may count among the world’s oldest dirty jokes. The theme of the tale, an observation repeated and varied throughout, mocks male inadequacy in many forms, beginning with sexual failure. The punchline misplaced, over time its wickedly funny insights about adult life passed for childish nonsense. The story hides, in plain sight, criticism of workplace sexual harassment—centuries before society took notice of the indignity. Rumpelstiltskin tells a feminist tale with lessons for men and women, about what women said to each other when they thought their private conversation and complaints passed unnoticed. In the story’s different versions, the Brothers Grimm, who recorded the tale, missed women’s wry observations.

chapter |4 pages


chapter |4 pages

The Tale of Rumpelstiltskin

chapter 1|25 pages

The Story’s History

chapter 2|36 pages

Meaning Is Purpose

chapter 3|21 pages

Rumpelstiltskin’s Author

chapter 4|22 pages

The Spinner’s Libido

chapter 5|18 pages

Fairytale Contracts and Commerce

chapter 6|12 pages

Supernatural Zoology

chapter 7|12 pages

The Talking Cure

chapter 8|25 pages

The Devil versus Motherhood

chapter 9|13 pages

The Unknown Name

chapter 10|20 pages

A Bad Reputation, Unearned

chapter 11|14 pages

A Lamentable Example of Self-Abuse

chapter 12|14 pages

Rumpelstiltskin’s Competition