A curious introduction to a classic fairy story
How old do you think the story of Rumpelstiltskin is? It was famously included in the 1812 volume Children’s and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm (a book that’s better known as Grimms’ Fairy Tales), but many of the tales written down by the German siblings were of a considerable vintage by then. The surprising thing is that the story of Rumpelstiltskin – albeit under a different name – is thought to be some 4,000 years old. To put that in perspective, that’s over a thousand years before Homer, and roughly contemporaneous with the earliest surviving versions of the tales that comprise the Epic of Gilgamesh, widely regarded as the oldest epic. Rumpelstiltskin, it turns out, is one of the earliest known narratives in Western literature.
The plot of the fairy tale can be summarised in a couple…
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