Naming the helper: maternal concerns and the Queen's incorrect guesses in the Grimms' "Rumpelstiltskin" Journal Article uri icon



  • Given three days to guess the name of the diminutive figure who spun straw into gold for her and now claims her child, the miller's daughter in the Grimms' "Rumpelstilzchen" - or, as known in English, "Rumpelstiltskin" - first guesses that his name is Kasper, Melchior, or Balzer, German variants of the names traditionally given to the Magi who came bearing gifts to the Christ child. On the second day, her guessing begins with Rippenbiest, Hammelswade, and Schnürbein, names whose connotations of disease and deformity are explored in this essay. Whereas the first trio of names suggests the daughter's psychological desire to recast the magical dwarf as a biblical gift-bearing Magus, the second trio suggests a fear that he is an agent of disease who will deform or kill her child. This essay analyzes the addition of these names to the second edition (1819) of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM) in the context of Wilhelm Grimm's editing of this edition. As is shown in this essay, the maternal concerns revealed by both sets of incorrect guesses do not merely illustrate Wilhelm Grimm's altering of the queen's role to fit nineteenth-century bourgeois conceptions of women as nurturing mothers; in addition to this, they shed significant light on the value placed on life in the tale, as well as on the often overlooked theme of disability and disease in the KHM.1 These aspects are related in this essay to Wilhelm Grimm's own precarious health, as well as to his later loss of his firstborn son. Reprinted with the permission of Wayne University Press

publication date

  • July 1, 2011

Date in CU Experts

  • September 30, 2013 2:34 AM

Full Author List

  • Schmiesing A

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1521-4281

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 298

end page

  • 315


  • 25


  • 2