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After the Guessing

Holley Cornetto was born and raised in Alabama, but now lives in New Jersey. To indulge her love of books and stories, she became a librarian. She is also a writer, because the only thing better than being surrounded by stories is to create them herself. She can be found lurking on Twitter @HLCornetto.
Shadows flickered in the nursery's dim light. Fiona kissed her daughter on the forehead.
"Once upon a time, my father lied."
The baby cooed and kicked.
"He told the king I could spin straw into gold. It didn't matter that it was impossible, the king commanded that I do so, or forfeit my life."
Fiona rocked the baby in her arms. "But I did the impossible. I spun straw into gold, and now I am queen. This is the story of your family, sweet girl, and why I must let you go."
The king had entered the room on the third day to find the piles of straw spun to gold. "Splendid!" he'd said, clapping his hands together. "You have done as promised. I shall make you my queen."
He hadn't asked if she wanted to be queen, but it was better than dying. The king only had room in his heart for wealth, and none to spare for Fiona or their child.
When that.. thing... had come to claim the child, Fiona was in denial.
Born a princess, not a miller's daughter, Fiona thought her child could have a better life. But she learned differently. Already the king was preparing to barter her away in marriage. The babe's future husband, one of the king's favorites, had a reputation for cruelty. She would be his fourth wife. A mere child, betrothed to a fifty-year-old man.
Fiona had the castle guards bring the pieces of the mannikin downstairs. The room still held the spinning wheel. The piles of straw had been replaced. She brought a reel of the golden thread the bent little man had spun to save her life.
Fiona used the straw to stuff the cracks and crevices of the mannikin, and sewed the edges together with the golden thread.
The following night, the bent little man appeared in the nursery. His face was weary, but not unkind. "You didn't keep your end of the bargain."
Fiona nodded. "I was afraid. What if you planned to sell her? To eat her?"
The man tilted his head, frowning. "When your father betrayed you and left you at the mercy of a king who threatened to kill you, who came to help you?"
"You did."
The bent little man opened his fist, holding out the necklace and ring she had given him when she was only a miller's daughter. "I asked for the child because I knew what its future would be. You promised the child because you were desperate."
A tear slid down Fiona's cheek. "What will you do with her?"
"Give her to a family who has no child of their own, who will not barter her for wealth or power."
Fiona nodded.
"All you need do is say my name, and I will take the child away in the night."
"Save her, Rumpelstiltskin. Do not let her share my fate."
In the morning, the babe was gone.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 9th, 2020


Fairy tales have a tendency to end once the maiden gets her prince. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see what's so happy about her ever after.

Even as a child, the story of Rumpelstiltskin didn't sit well with me. The heroine is given an impossible task, with only two outcomes: death, or marriage to a tyrant who has no more interest in her than he would the goose who lays the golden eggs. I decided to explore what kind of husband and father this man would make--and to see if our heroine, with the aid of our titular dwarf, could overcome him a second time.

- Holley Cornetto
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