Once upon a time there was a rich hat maker. He told lots of lies. But he was so rich that nobody cared when he told lies.
“Oh, he’s just joking!” they all laughed.
The rich hat maker loved to go to dances with other rich people. At the dances, the rich people stood around and told lies to each other.
“My husband shot a turkey from three kilometers away…” said a rich lady.
“My son is so smart, he teaches his teachers!” said a rich man.
“My cat is so clever, she fetches sticks like a dog!” said another rich lady.
The rich hat maker wanted to join the conversation, so he told his biggest lie yet:
“My daughter is so amazing, she can turn hay into gold!”
All the rich people nodded and smiled. “Oh yes,” they said. “How wonderful.”
Suddenly there was a loud voice at the back of the room.
“SHE CAN TURN HAY INTO GOLD?!”
It was the king! Everybody bowed and gasped as he walked up to the hat maker.
“DID YOU SAY … SHE CAN TURN HAY INTO GOLD?”
“Umm… well… what I meant was…. errrr…. Yes?” stammered the hat maker.
“BRING HER TO ME!” bellowed the king. He stormed out of the room.
‘Oh dear,’ thought the hat maker. ‘What do I do now?’
The next morning the hat maker brought his daughter, Sophie, to a small room in the palace. Sophie was very confused.
“Why am I here? Father? What’s going on?”
“Your father is a liar,” explained the king. “Last night he said that you can turn hay into gold. I think that is a lie! And I HATE liars.”
Sophie looked at her father. He stared at his feet.
“Here is a bundle of hay,” said the king. “Please, turn it into gold. It must be done by morning.”
“Oh, and one more thing,” said the king. “If you fail, I will feed your father to my crocodiles. I HATE liars…”
Everyone left. Sophie was alone.
‘Oh dear,’ thought Sophie. ‘What do I do now?’
Night fell. Sophie felt angry.
“How ridiculous!” she fumed. “I can’t turn hay into gold! It’s impossible!”
Just then, she heard a strange little laugh.
“Tee hee hee… What do you have for me?”
A little man appeared in a corner of the room. He was very small. He had brown curly hair, a black hat, and red pointy shoes.
“Do you need some help, my dear?” he asked.
“I need to turn this hay into gold,” sighed Sophie. “That’s ridiculous! It’s not possible!”
“Oh, it is possible,” said the little man. “I can do it for you… ”
“Yes! Please help me!” begged Sophie.
The little man pulled two knitting needles out of his pocket. He began to knit the hay into clothes. As the hay passed through his needles, it turned into beautiful golden thread.
He knitted golden scarves. He made golden hats and golden socks. Soon the hay was gone, and there was a pile of golden clothes on the floor.
“And now, what do you have for me?” asked the little man.
“This diamond necklace?” suggested Sophie.
“Perfect,” said the man. “I need a diamond necklace.”
Sophie gave him her necklace. He said, “tee hee hee”, and disappeared.
The next morning, the king returned to the room. He opened the door and could not believe what he saw.
“Is this a trick? How did you do this?” he demanded.
Sophie’s father interrupted: “I told you! My daughter is amazing. Her mother was the same—”
“STOP LYING!” shouted the king. “Sophie, come with me, please.”
The king led Sophie to another room. Inside the room were TEN piles of hay.
“If you did it once, you can do it again,” said the king. “It must be done by morning. And this time I’m locking the door!”
Everyone left, and the door was locked. Sophie was alone.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Sophie.
But this time, Sophie knew what to do.
She searched the entire room. She looked high and low. She looked behind the curtains. She looked on top of the shelves.
“Little man? Little man? Are you here?”
Just then, she heard a funny little laugh.
“Tee hee hee… what do you have for me?”
The little man appeared in a corner of the room.
Once again, the little man pulled two knitting needles out of his pockets. He started to knit the hay.
He knitted golden sweaters. He made golden gloves and golden underpants. Soon the hay was gone, and there was a pile of golden clothes on the floor.
“And now, what do you have for me?” asked the little man.
“This ruby ring?” suggested Sophie.
“Perfect,” said the man. “I need a ruby ring.”
Sophie gave her ring to the man. He said, “tee hee hee”, and disappeared.
When the king opened the door the next morning, he could not believe what he saw.
“HOW DID YOU DO THIS?” he yelled. “TELL ME! NOW!”
Sophie shrugged. “I taught myself how to knit last winter…”
The king led Sophie to yet another room in the palace. This room was completely full of hay, from floor to ceiling.
“Here are ONE HUNDRED bundles of hay,” said the king. “And there are ten guards outside the door. This time, nobody can help you. I hope you are not lying, dear Sophie,” the king said quietly. “Remember, ALL liars will be fed to the crocodiles…”
Everyone left. Sophie was alone. And there were ten guards outside the door.
Again, Sophie knew what to do.
She searched the entire room. She looked high and low. She looked under the table. She looked in the closet.
“Little man? Little man? Where are you?”
But the little man wasn’t there.
Sophie sat down and cried. Soon she fell into a deep sleep.
When she woke up, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Every single piece of hay was gone, and there was a HUGE pile of golden clothes on the floor.
The little man was sitting on top of the clothes.
“Oh thank you!” cried Sophie. “I thought I was crocodile food, for sure!”
The little man smiled. “And now, what do you have for me?” he asked.
“This sapphire bracelet?” said Sophie.
“No. I don’t need a bracelet…” said the little man.
“These silver earrings?” suggested Sophie.
“No. I don’t wear earrings…” said the little man.
Sophie grew angry. “I don’t have anything else to give you!” she said.
“Hmmmm. I know what I want,” said the little man. Many years from now, give me your first child.”
“WHAT? NO!” cried Sophie.
“... Or I will tell the king you are a liar...” said the little man.
Sophie had no other choice. She agreed to the little man’s deal.
The king returned. When the king opened the door, he was amazed. There was huge pile of golden clothes, stacked from the floor to the ceiling.
“You really are amazing,” he said to Sophie. “You may go. But maybe, one day, you can teach me how to knit too?”
Sophie agreed. She ran out of the palace as fast as she could.
Ten years passed. Sophie grew into a clever and accomplished woman. She married a kind man. They had a baby boy.
One morning, Sophie was playing with her son in the garden when she heard that strange little laugh.
“Tee hee hee. What do you have for me?” The little man stepped out from behind a bush.
“NO! YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM!” screamed Sophie. She held the baby close to her chest. She cried and cried.
“We had a deal, my dear,” said the little man. “But I will make you another deal: Guess my name! If you know my name, you can keep your son. You have three days. Is it a deal?”
Sophie cried. “It’s a deal.”
The next night the little man returned, and Sophie guessed all the common names:
“Is it ... Tim?”
“Is it ... Jack?”
“Is it ... Chris?”
The second night, she guessed some less common names:
“Is it ... Balthazar?”
“Is it ... Ferdinand?”
“Is it ... Alfonso?”
The third day, Sophie was panicking. She went for a walk in the forest to clear her head. It was already getting late.
“His feet are pointy like a Norwegian,” she thought, “... so maybe his name is Bjørn? ... But his nose is red like an Australian, so maybe his name is Keith? ... But his hat looks Turkish! So maybe his name is Mustafa?...”
Sophie walked deeper and deeper into the forest. She jumped over logs and climbed over rocks, and then turned a corner. She was very surprised to see a small house.
A woman was sitting on the porch. She was knitting baby clothes and singing quietly. On her neck was Sophie’s necklace. On her finger was Sophie’s ring.
“Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin, my love!” the woman shouted. “Can you come here? I need you to help me knit!”
And guess who appeared at the door? It was the little man!
Sophie ducked down behind a bush. How lucky! She ran home as fast as she could.
That night, the little man came to see Sophie. He seemed very happy.
“It’s time, my dear,” he said. “So… do you know my name?”
“Is it Rhubarb?”
“Is it Roquefort?”
“Is it ... Rumpelstiltskin?”
The little man’s face turned red with anger.
He screamed and shouted and stomped his feet.
“How did you know my name? HOW DID YOU KNOW MY NAME?”
But then he stopped… and cried. He looked up at Sophie.
“We would have loved your son very much,” he whispered.
The little man wiped his tears away with a yellow handkerchief, and disappeared.
After that, Sophie and her family lived happily ever after, just like in the stories.
But what happened to the little man?
Well, look closely when you hear people telling big lies. Because big lies always need a big payment.
Rumplestiltskin will usually be there. Under the table, or on top of the cupboard. He is always waiting to make a good deal…
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