Mind Matters — Remember Rumpelstiltskin?

Bet you though it was a far-fetched fairy tale of little consequence. Just as Rorshachs have meaning beyond being “just” inkblots, so too can fairy tales have a deeper psychological significance

I remember Rumpelstiltskin, or at least I recall the epiphany I had about him when I heard James Hillman, a great Jungian psychologist, reframe the story.

Quick refresher: Rumpelstiltskin is the tiny guy who helps the miller’s daughter spin straw into gold. She needs to do this or else the king will kill her. Rumpelstiltskin will help her if she gives him her first born. She agrees, assuming that will never happen. She strikes a devil’s bargain.

The third time she spins the straw into gold, the king decides she is worth marrying. Within a year, she has a baby. Enter Rumpelstiltskin, demanding this new life.

The queen pleads with him and he gives her a reprieve of three days in which time she must discover his name or he will take the child. Rumpelstiltskin believes it is impossible for her to do this. Note that the name Rumpelstiltskin is related to a German name meaning Rattling Ghost.

The queen did discover his name in time, with the aid of her messenger. When she informs Rumpelstiltskin of his true name, he angrily disappears into the earth.

The psychological point of this? That indeed we all have shadows of our family past that haunt us. It may be the unnamed ghosts of physical abuse, sexual abuse, addictions, you “name it!” When we face these rattling ghosts and do name them, they lose their powerful grip on the psyche. Furthermore, that means new life is not stolen from us, but can be cherished and can grow!