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Norman Robbins

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Rumplestiltzzkin is a play, or pantomime, for nine or ten men with two or three women and extras. In this adaption of the Grimmís story some children are discovered playing "Ladderwords", changing one word to another, a single letter at a time, retaining an actual word during each change. Grettle says she can turn "flax" into "gold". Unfortunately the King, whose gold has been mysteriously disappearing, hears this and mistakes it for an actual boast. He orders Grettle to work the change or she will lose her head, despite the protests of the Prince, who is in love with her. She is shut in the Tower to perform her task, and the gnome, Rumpelstiltzkin comes and offers to help her - at a price. The play then follows the story in te details of the defeat of the gnome by the guessing of his secret name and, despite other complications from the wicked Baron and his henchmen, all ends happily.

Author's Note

This version of the Rumpelstiltzkin legend was originally written as a childrenís play, and as such, achieved reasonable success in local schools and church drama groups around my home town.

Some time later, I was approached with a request to re-work the play into pantomime form to mark the opening of a new youth club a few miles away. The result was a highly spectacular and lavish pantomime involving Golden Spiders (who wove the flax into gold), skeletons dancing in the North Tower, a ballet of deer and rabbits in the forest, and much, much more. The youth organisers were delighted with it, but pointed out with regret that their stage could hold no more than ten people at once.

When Iíd recovered from this staggering news, I scrapped my new version and began all over again, this time confining the action and number of characters to the tiny space available. It was a huge success, and one which has been repeated several times.

The script you now have, combines the two styles of writing, and is a blend of straight play and traditional pantomime, so the would-be-director may choose for themselves which best suits their requirements.

If as a play, omit the songs (which should be of a popular type), and any dialogue leading into a song. Add your own dialogue as required to give your performers exits.

If as a pantomime, insert songs as indicated, plus Lane scenes if required. There is no hard and fast rule about inserting more musical numbers than printed. Many places in the script offer scope for additional songs and dances, and if you feel up to a ballet of Golden Spiders at the end of the Tower scene, then by all means go ahead. Youíll find the effort well worth while.

Scenery is very simple, and may be played in drapes with cardboard cutouts to illustrate the Tower, Throne-room, etc., but traditional painted scenery will score over this any time.

Costumes may be as simple or elaborate as possible, and the whole thing played on a stage ten feet by four feet or the size of Drury Lane. Props have been kept to a minimum.


King Marmaduke of Mirth
Prince Roland, his son
Alan, Squire to the Prince
Rosamund, his sweetheart
Mother Hubbard, the Millerís wife
Grettle, her daughter
Sammy Slowcoach, the village simpleton
Baron Bludshot of Grabitt Hall
Smash and Grabb, The Baronís Men
Rumpelstiltzkin, an evil gnome
A Herald and a Footman (may be doubled if desired)
Guards, Villagers, Courtiers


For Adam Godfrey Robbins.

Copyright © Norman Robbins 1979

Ladderword solution

I don't know what Grettle's solution was, but here's mine:-