Exploring “Rumpelstiltskin” as a Drama for Lower Secondary Literature Component
-by Leela Chakrabarty
Angela Lanyon, the playwright
Rumpelstiltskin is taken from Grimm’s Tales that has been retold in the form of a drama by Angela Lanyon. She was born in Leamington Spain in 1930 and has lived all over the British Isles. Angela has written numerous dramas for children’s theatre and some have been published by New Playwrights Network. She has also written school plays and plays for adults published by Heinemann in their Literacy series.
What is Drama?
Actors usually work together to represent stories by impersonating the actions and speech of imaginary characters (humans or non-human entities) in a drama. It is usually performed on stage for the entertainment of the audience. Drama is a social art where no one person can produce a drama by himself. The words of the text are not the drama. The stage where it will eventually be produced is also not the drama. A drama is a collective effort and product of many relationships: writers, director, actors, a group of people who design and build the stage, props, costumes etc.
Synopsis of the Story
The King was making his rounds around his kingdom. The King visits Lisa’s cottage. Lisa’s parents began to praise Lisa and claim that she can bake the best pies in the world. In order to make himself appear more important, Lisa’s father lies to the king that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The King knows that his kingdom is poor, thus, the king called for the girl, shut her in a tower room with straw and a spinning wheel, and demanded that she spin the straw into gold by morning or be executed. She had given up all hope, when a strange little man appeared in the room and spun straw into gold for her in return for her necklace; then again the following night for her ring. But on the third night, with nothing left, the strange creature spun straw into gold for a promise that the girl’s first-born child would become his.
The greedy king was so impressed that he married Lisa, but when their first child was born, the strange little man returned to claim his payment. The queen was frightened and offered him all the wealth she had if she could keep the child. The strange little man refused but finally agreed to give up his claim to the child if the queen could guess his name in three days. At first she failed. Later, Lisa’s parents follow the little man and see him dance around a small fire and they hear him say out loud, “Tricks and riddles are my game, Rumpelstiltskin is my name.”
The King visits a cottage. The cottage belongs to Lisa’s parents. The King was lured by the smell of freshly baked apple pie. Lisa’s parents praised Lisa in an attempt to make the King marry their daughter. They tell the King that she bakes the best pies in the world. To impress the King further, they also tell the King that Lisa can spin straw into gold. The King brings her to his palace and asks her to turn straw into gold. If she fails she will be beheaded.
Rising Action (Action Starts)
Lisa sits and cries in the high tower. Then she hears scratching noise. A strange little man appears and promises to spin the straw into gold in exchange of her necklace. The King was impressed and takes her to another bigger room filled with straw. The King asks her to turn the straw into gold. If she fails she will be beheaded. That night the strange little man appeared again and promises to spin the straw into gold in exchange for her ring. The King was impressed and takes her to another bigger room filled with straw. This time he promises to marry her. Lisa has nothing else to offer to the little man. Her parents advised her to give whatever he asks for. That night, when the strange little man appeared, she promises her first born child.
A year passed. Lisa is the queen and she has a baby boy. The strange little man suddenly appears and reminds her of her promise. Lisa pleaded to the little man not to take her baby away as she is willing to give him all her money. The little man refuses but finally agrees to give her three days to guess his name. She fails to guess his name on the first and second day. Lisa’s parents follow the little man and find out his name.
On the third day, the little man comes to the nursery. Lisa guesses his name as “Rumpelstiltskin”. The strange little man gets angry and stamps his feet hard on the floor and disappears in a puff of smoke.
Lisa’s baby boy is now safe. Lisa’s parents promises that they will never boast again.
• Cottage where Lisa lives with her parents.
• Castle where the King lives
• Nursery where Queen Lisa looked after the baby and where the strange little man appeared.
• Woods where the strange little man lives.
• Medieval Times
• In order to live on these lands, the people must serve and fight for the Kings or Lord
• The story is set at a time when people talked about magical creatures.
Lisa: She is a young, sweet girl. She lives with her parents in a cottage. She loves to do household chores such as baking. She is very obedient as she listens to her parents. She feels hopeless when the King ordered her to spin straw into gold.
Rumpelstiltskin: A strange little man. He has magical powers. He is able to help Lisa by spinning the straw into gold. He likes riddles. Rumpelstiltskin is a fairy tale character, not a real person. We can say that he is manipulative as he takes advantage of the miller’s daughter difficulties to get to keep her first-born child. However, he is sympatric when he gives the Queen/ miller’s daughter another chance to keep her baby by giving her a riddle to solve.
The King: He is an opportunist. He uses Lisa to get him gold. He portrays an inhuman behavior as he locks the miller’s daughter up who was innocent in a room filled with straws. He is rather cruel as he threatens to kill her if she cannot spin the straw into gold. However he is very gullible as he believes that straw can be turned into gold.
Lisa’s Father : He is rather foolish as he goes to far to boast about his daughter. He is also greedy as he is willing to sacrifice Lisa’s life in order to get wealth. He was remorseful when he promised Lisa that he will not make the same mistake. Nevertheless, he is a loving father as he tries to solve the riddle for Lisa.
Lisa’s Mother: She is very proud of her daughter. She is kind hearted as she invites the King into her house and offers food. She is rather silly as she agrees with her husband that Lisa can spin straw into gold. She is also remorseful and promised never to boast again. It cannot be denied that she is a loving mother as she helps Lisa to solve the riddle.
We must think before we talk.
We must think and consider carefully the rational behind our thoughts before we say something to people. All the problems that the millers daughter faced from the start are caused by her father who was the one who made the impossible claim about her own daughter. Due to his foolishness, she faced with a treat of being executed by the King.
When people lie they are often trapped by their own deceit. In this story, claiming to be able to weave gold from straw got Lisa the attention of the king but also got her locked in a dungeon with a haystack and a spinning wheel.
Using one’s survival skills
Persistence pays off in the long run and to never give up. Lisa tried her best to find the answer to the strange man’s riddle. She did not give up.
Honesty and Integrity
We must always keep our promises. It is when we are able to keep our promises that people will respect us. Although the King was greedy, he kept his promise to marry Lisa once she was able to spin the straw into gold. Even the strange little man kept his promise to Lisa when she was able to guess his name. He did not try to cheat her.
We must think, speak and behave rationally at all times. Lisa’s parents speak irrationally when boasting about their daughter whom they are proud of. Lisa becomes irrational when she is desperate to save herself. She makes a promise knowing well that she will be unable to keep to it.
Point of view
Since this is a drama, the author uses the third person point of view. He is omniscient- this means that he knows everything in the story. However, the characters do think aloud when they are thinking. Thus, the readers are able to understand what the characters are doing.
Language and Style
The style of writing is very simple, uncomplicated and straightforward. The language is simple reflecting the lifestyle of the village people.
Before you can stage the drama; you must appoint the following members to work behind the scene:
Director – directs the drama
Stage manager – manages set design, prop design, lighting and sound
Set designer – designs the backdrop and set on the stage
Prop designer – designs the props used by the actors and actresses
Lighting engineer – produces proper lighting for the drama
Sound engineer – produces background music and sound effect
Stage crew – changes the set on the stage and handle the props for the casts
Costume designer – designs and produces costumes for the casts.
Make-up artist – emphasises the casts’ roles through proper make-up
Prompter – remind the casts’ lines when they forget their words during rehearsals and actual production