Was Rumplestiltzchen intended as a Jewish Character?
SHORT ANSWER: I would say, no, he was not. The Encyclopäpie des Märchens entry for Rumpelstiltzchen directs to “Name des Unholdes” (name of the fiend/enemy). Entry 5 on pg. 1170-1171 discusses the name Rumpelstiltzchen. It states that the Grimms knew of the name from Johann Fischarts Geschichklitterung (1582). “Rumpele stilt oder der Poppart.” It was a game. What kind of game it was is unknown.
LONG ANSWER AND COMMNET: Also, look at what the Grimms wrote about the text in the Appendix they wrote to the KHM. I consider the Appendix (Anhang) to be a gold mine of information. Most translators ignore it thinking that people like yourself will have no interest in it. Only Margaret Hunt and myself have translated it completely. From my translation:
“Already Fischart, can testify as to the age of this tale in Gargantug where the games are listed, is under No. 363 a game: "Rumpele stilt or Poppart." One also says Rumpenstinzchen. The story itself is also started in the following manner differently: a little girl was given a Kaute flax, out of this it should spin flax, but what it spun, was always gold thread and not a single thread of flax could come out of her wheel. Since it was sad, sat on the roof and spun and spun for three days, but still nothing but of gold. Thereon a small man-ling came walking: I will save you from all your need, a young king's son shall pass here, and marry you, but you must promise me your first child, etc. Also the man-ling is discovered differently. A maid of the Queen goes out at night into the forest there she sees it on a cooking spoon and riding around a large fire, etc. At last the man-ling also flies on the wooden spoon out of the window.
In many German Märchen Millers and Miller’s daughters come up (see No. 31.), the current recalls very particularly to the Nordic Fenia and Menia, that all, that one wanted to have were able to grind, and who the king Frode let grind peace and gold. - The calling of the children grabs into many myths.
The spinning of the gold can also be understood in a different way, namely through the hard difficult, sorrowful work of making gold wire, which was left to poor maidens (virgins) to do. So it is called in an old Danish song:
nu er mim sorg saa mangefold,
fom Jomfruer, de spinde guld.
now my sorrow so many times,
as virgins, they spin gold.
Kaute = an old German expression for “a depression.”?
Handwritten notes:“After a different telling is begun in this way: the wife goes by a garden, wherein beautiful cherries are, gets strong desire for them and eats of them; a black man comes out of the earth and she must promise him her child. When is it born, he pushed through all watches [guards], who the husband has set out, and will only leave the woman the child, if when she knows his name. Now the man follows him, sees, how he climbs into a cave that is from all sides surrounded by hanging bone spoons[?] and hears how he calls himself Fleder Filtz.”
I can not see anything anti-semitic in what the Grimms say here. To them, the text is about the difficult work of spinning.
I am working on translating the 2nd Volume of the First Edition of the KHM into English. I would caution against using modern cultural norms to interpret, identify or ascribe meaning the tales. Things that are abhorrent to us today were common place a long time ago. Would anyone today take a young child to see an execution today? No. Way back it was common. While some today may us a phrase such as: “He should be hung, drawn and quartered,” most probably have no idea exactly how gruesome that actually was. The cutting off of horses heads and hanging them on a wall may seem “barbaric” to us today, but when one understands that horses in Norse mythology were sacred animals often raised and uses specifically for sacrifices, to ward off evil, enemies, etc., it puts the whole question more into perspective. I would say that before people such as Bunce make such statements as you wrote, that they understand the mythology and history behind the tales first. Statements like that are easy to say if one does not know the facts.
Regarding the Jew in Thorns – it is a text I have worked on. I would say that it was not the Grimms that first created the Jewish character in the text. The text has a rich history.
The Jew was first added in a Czech version from 1604. Johannes Bolte states that the German poem was brought into Čzech in 1604 by Tobias Mouřenin from Leitmischul: “Historia kratochvilná o jednom sedlském pacholku, kterak u sedláka za tři groše sloužil, a o poběhlým židu” (Entertaining History of a Fram-servant, who served a farmer for three Groscehn, and a lost Jew). It is in this Čzech version that the character of the monk is first changed into a Jew. Before that, in other versions, the hated character is a monk. For this I would consider Henry the VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Monks were not well liked in the past. Why has the monk's bad reputation mostly, if not entirely, been ignored?
I have looked at the origins of the text. I have looked at where, when and by whom the character of the Jew was added into different texts. I have not looked at the question as to why the figure of the Jew was added. The Grimm version, as Bolte stated, was also based on an oral version from Hessen.