Trumpelstiltskin; the Fairy Tale

prairie grass

I’m a big fan of the television show “Once Upon a Time.” I enjoy fairy tales and magic, the battle of good against evil. Even if real fairy tales are not like Disney’s version — good doesn’t always win — I still hope that such losses hold a lesson. And in the case of the recent election, I hope the lesson reinvigorates people like me to never again sit back and assume the worst can’t happen.

Fairy tales, television and movies divide the world and people into good and evil in order to simplify the story. But that kind of black and white thinking is rarely found to be accurate in real life, even though we act as though it exists. We have the division of Democrat and Republican. Of Liberal and Conservative. Of majority and minority. Of legal citizen and illegal alien. Of white and any-other-color. And all the other divisions we have created because it’s easier to categorize and villainize the “other” so you can disregard anything they have to say. It’s not that divisions don’t exist — we know they do from the election. The problem comes when those divisions are used to divide because it provides a political and power advantage.

So what do fairy tales and TV programs have to do with my nickname for Trump that I titled this post with?

Well in “Once Upon a Time,” the character Rumpelstiltskin started out as a frightened man who seemed to fail at everything. He was accused of being a coward by the people around him. When he had the chance to become The Dark One and gain power over others, he was quick to take the offer. He became a bully.

Now that I’ve mentioned fear and failure, you may wonder about my comparison of Trump to Rumpelstiltskin. The bully part, however, is pretty obvious, and since most bullies are at the core insecure and frightened, it makes me wonder what lies below Trump’s surface. Of course, there is also madness that can make someone exhibit bullying behavior, but I’m giving Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Be Calm coffee cup

Rumpelstiltskin became known as a shrewd deal maker and businessman.

Which is how Trump is also viewed.

Rumpelstiltskin tries to overcome his true nature when he falls in love with beautiful, fair Belle. And Belle believes there is good in Rumpelstiltskin. Since R wants to retain Belle’s love, he tries to become the man Belle sees him to be.

Now, I don’t know that Trump is trying to gain anyone’s love exactly. He needed to gain the love and backing of a significant number of voters to get elected. And now he needs to take on another persona to gain the trust of people in government. He needs to work with legislators and staff. And while he may not need to work with the public, it would certainly make life easier for him if he could convince those who are protesting against him (literally or in social media) that he’s really a good guy and completely competent for the job.

He needs to get us to quit worrying about all the things he said and did during the campaign. And Trump has been sounding more reasonable since he won the election. His acceptance speech came from a stranger — a man we’d never seen before. Did that make me relax? No. And his cabinet picks since the election have made me utter, “Oh, there he is. The Trump I know is back.

horse trail riding

I’ve heard political commentators say that a campaign is different than actually being elected and governing. Trump is now part of the system that he so heavily criticized. He’s part of the club. He’ll have to work within government processes.

So this leads me to wonder whether campaign talk is like locker room talk. Is it something everyone does that we shouldn’t take seriously? Boys will be boys… It’s just talk, after all.

But how do the people who voted for Trump feel about that?

And how does this work as far as credibility? Although I’d love for everything Trump said to have been a lie, doesn’t that make him a liar and someone we shouldn’t trust? Doesn’t that mean he’s everything that he accused Hillary Clinton of being?


Rumpelstiltskin for awhile actually does seem to have been changed by his love for Belle. But there is a dagger that has magic power to control Rumpelstiltskin. Anyone who holds this dagger can force Rumpelstiltskin to do things he doesn’t want to do and prevent him from taking the actions he does want to take.

Therefore, Rumpelstiltskin returns to his pattern of deception and destruction and harm in an attempt to destroy the dagger and free himself. He does this while maintaining an outward persona of still being a changed man.

Yet, Rumpelstiltskin does occassionally do things that help his community. He doesn’t completely regain their trust but they will, with reservation, give him another chance, not wanting to become full of hate and revenge and distrust themselves.

Can you see how this scenario could be the fairy tale of Trumpelstiltskin? Perhaps the metaphorical dagger is certain government laws or procedures. Perhaps the dagger is certain news sources. Perhaps the dagger is the court, other legislators or you and I. I can hope each individual has that much power, at a minimum, the power to irritate. Or, one could worry, the dagger could be more sinister — another country or a person or group with monetary or other power over him.

The unknown is how far Trumpelstiltskin will go to destroy the dagger. And whether we will be fooled by the deceptive appearance of normalcy and good intentions.

Perhaps that sounds paranoid. A bit like conspiracy theory talk.

But fairy tales and history contain lessons to learn from.

Like the Storyville townspeople in “Once Upon a Time,” most likely we do not want to spend our lives feeling hatred, distrust, and anger or seeking revenge.

dog in cornfield

I am not going to fight against Trump and his supporters. Some of Trump’s supporters want the same thing I do, although they see a vastly different path to getting there.

But I do want to fight FOR something. I want to act rather than react.

I used to be heavily involved in fighting to protect children from bullying in schools and for gay rights.

Before that, I was involved in fighting for improved protection for women from their abusers. I fought for laws to level the playing field for battered women in custody battles, where men often had the advantage of money and power and well, just being men.

But eventually I got burned out with congressional committee hearings, rallies, letter writing, and visits with my representatives.

So I know that “doing something” is hard. You need the support of other people. You need to feel like you are not alone. And you need to have a life outside of political battles.

But this is important. I don’t want to make America great AGAIN because it wasn’t all that great before for people who were discriminated against, people who were victims of hate crimes, or for women, children, and a whole slew of less-powered, not-listened-to people. So I will be looking for the actions I can take as a citizen who wants to participate in the creation of a more inclusive and healthy world.

This hasn’t been a political blog and most likely won’t become one. But it has always been a blog about curiosity, reflection, experimentation, and discovery. And what has been happening in this country and the world will be something I’ll be further exploring.

“Living well has something to do with the spirituality of wholeheartedness of seeing life more as grace than as a penance, as time to be lived with eager expectation of its goodness, not in dread of its challenges.” ~ Joan Chittister, “The Gift of Years”

p.s. I’ve been finding some peace and solace in music. Terri Windling brought this beautiful piece to my attention in her blog yesterday: “The Gentle Good” – Un i Sain Ffagan

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    1. Thank you Anyes. I love reading about your creative explorations. They’ve been helping me rethink my own endeavors.

  1. I love your fairy tale analysis! And “Trumpelstiltskin”–OMG talk about spinning something into gold. I love it.

    My fear is that the magic dagger is simply flattery. I recognize Trump as a narcissist who is easily controlled by flattery, so my greatest fear during his presidency isn’t that he himself is inherently evil (just lacking in compassion, which is not the same as actively malicious) but that he could be easily manipulated by, let’s say, a Nazi in his cabinet.

    However, I’m holding onto that hope that there is a valuable lesson in all of this that is not to be missed. I am listening and watching for every opportunity to help build the world I want to see, starting with the people and community around me. The election sure has been a wake-up call for America.

    1. Hi Jeannie and thank you for your comment. It led me to your blog where I’ll be spending a bit of time reading your take on recent events. The things you have done to study mythology and fairy tales is very intriguing to me (and yes, I love Terry Windling’s writings too).

      The election has indeed been a wake up call. It sounds like we are on the same path in seeking ways to build the world we’d like to be living in and beginning at the local level.

  2. Preach it sister! I couldn’t agree more…excellent post. “So I will be looking for the actions I can take as a citizen who wants to participate in the creation of a more inclusive and healthy world.” Please continue to share…I’m looking too.

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