I first encountered Rumpelstiltskin in a school assembly. It was extremely creepy and yet something of it seemed vaguely familiar: a tale discovered rather than written.  

The cautionary fairy tale, first collected in the Brothers Grimm 1812 Children’s and Household Tales, speaks to our base fears. How would we act in the impossible situations the girl finds herself in? What would we do if we had to guess the imp’s name, knowing that to fail meant losing, and in time having to hand over our child? There is certainly an implication the child won’t be seen again (finer details like this really should have been thrashed out between the girl and the imp before the deal is struck).  

What on earth could the imp want with a baby? How does he come to have such powers? He’s able to spin straw into gold! Do these powers need to be maintained in some way? Is this why he wants the child? Maybe he just wants a human child to raise as his own? If the king had been satisfied enough with two night’s worth of gold spun from straw, the girl would not have had to offer up her first born as a final bargain (greed).

Fairy tales are a way to explore the fundamentals of the human psyche; how we interact with each other and the world around us. They are weighty with symbolism and the absurd situations the characters find themselves in lead us to question how we might act when faced with the same circumstances; unintentional thought experiments to help us explore our own emotions. Would we too offer up our firstborn in a desperate attempt to save ourselves?

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index of folktale types categorises Rumpelstiltskin and its variants as tale type ATU 500: ‘The Name of the Helper’. Tales of this type share the same plot devices: a mysterious and threatening helper is defeated when the hero or heroine discovers his name.

The themes in Rumpelstiltskin are as old as humanity. An ‘idle boast’ lands the girl among the straw, greed ensures she stays there and is forced to deceive her helper (can we pity Rumpelstiltskin for being deceived?). The story is found the world over, with evidence of its origins being found as back as 2,000 BCE. In psychology, the Rumpelstiltskin Principle refers to the power held in using someone’s name.

Support the BCMG score recording for Rumpelstilszchen

Fertile ground for a composer. Timeless and deep. It’s easy to see what drew David Sawer to the tale when writing his 2009 ballet for BCMG.

Composers will agree that commissions and world premieres are essential, but it is legacy and repeat performances of a work that really matter. So, we were thrilled to hear from David of a new Sky Arts film to feature the original score.

Rumpelstilszchen promises to be wholly original with an all-star cast to boot. The age-old fairy tale will be retold as a silent film in the tradition of Keaton and Chaplin, whilst retaining many movements from the original ballet being. CGI and a custom designed adaptable set will allow a single location to become an opulent palace, a ramshackle hut, a claustrophobic room, dark woods, and an indulgent wedding party. 


Rumpelstilzchen – Jane Horrocks

The Girl – Tanya Reynolds

The Miller – John Marquez

The King – Daniel Francis Swaby

Bailiff Ed – Edward Davis

Bailiff Bailey – Bailey Pepper

The final cut airing on Sky Arts this December will be made to the music BCMG recorded beginning September 2021. This recording was made possible with the help of our supporters, many of whom helped fund the original world premiere.

We’ve kept our fundraising campaign open to new supporters, if you’d like to have your name against this project, click the button. 

Support BCMG Rumpelstilszchen score recording project