This illustration by Charles Folkard, from Rumpelstiltskin in Grimm's Fairy Tales, 1911.
Illustration by Charles Folkard, from Rumpelstiltskin in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, 1911.

“Nägendümer” is a German story re-told by Alfred Haas in Rügensche Sagen und Märchen, 1903. It’s a type 500 folktale, in which a mysterious and threatening helper is defeated when the hero or heroine discovers his name, like Rumpelstiltskin. One day I might have to do a post about the folktale classification system, since I don’t know much about it myself.

The story is pretty short and fairly uncomplicated. There’s a girl whose job it is to spin a certain amount of flax every day, but she never manages to complete the whole task.  One day a man comes by and promises to spin the flax for her every day if she can guess his name. I don’t know why he made the offer, he doesn’t seem to gain anything from it except teasing the girl. Of course, she has no idea what his name is. The man goes away and turns himself into a bird. He flies around, singing to her who promised her that he would spin the flax for her every day if she could guess his name. But the girl could not guess his name. Then the man went away and turned himself into a bird. He flies around, singing:

“It is good, it is good,
That the girl does not know
That my name is Nägendümer.”

Stupid fellow. Of course a shepherd nearby hears the song and repeats it to the girl. When the man returns another day and repeats the offer, she announces that his name is Nägendümer.

The man answered, “A bad person told you that!” But he kept his promise, and from then on he spun all her flax every day.

Seems like the man shouldn’t have made the offer in the first place, let alone come back and offer again. I think it’s a little too simple a story, there are too many why’s. It just seems random.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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