Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

“Pleased to meet you. Won’t you guess my name?”

 

Rumpel-baby

Of all the folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, the one I find most captivating is the tale of Rumpelstiltzkin. It stands out from the usual crowd of fairy tales, of goodness and wickedness; it is resistant to Disneyfication.

To summarize:

A boastful miller claims that his daughter has the ability to spin straw into gold. The king of the realm, hearing this incredible tale, demands that the daughter be brought to him. Once this order is carried out, the king demands that the poor girl be locked in a dungeon with a spinning wheel and a pile of straw, and the directive that the straw had best be spun into gold by the morning or she will be executed. At this point, wracked with despair, she is visited by the titular (and at this point nameless) dwarf, who offers to spin the straw into gold in exchange for her jeweled necklace. She agrees, the dwarf spins the straw into gold, and the next day the king is impressed.

Not so impressed, mind you, that he doesn’t feel the experiment requires verification. So he brings more straw and gives her the same task: straw into gold by morning or your life is forfeit. And the dwarf does it again, this time in exchange for a ring. When the king comes back the next day, however, he decides that he still needs one more trial as definitive proof, as though young women spinning straw into gold were a hoax he encountered often from clever con artists in the streets of the market.

Yet again she is locked in the dungeon overnight; yet again the dwarf appears, and this time he demands her firstborn child. What can she do? She accepts. Straw into gold, and finally the king is so impressed he decrees that this woman be married to his son the prince.

She is. The king dies and she ascends to queen. She never spins straw into gold again, but considering she could never do it in the first place, this is for the best. And one day she gets pregnant, gives birth, and the dwarf comes a-calling to claim his promised payment.

Of course, as a new mother, she refuses. The dwarf is upset, but makes a second deal with her…if she can guess his name in three nights, the deal is off, and the baby stays with her.

She fails the first two nights, and then one of her servants hears the dwarf singing to himself around a fire, happily announcing that his name is Rumpelstiltzkin. The servant tells the queen, and the queen calls the dwarf by his proper name when he comes on the third night. Incensed at being bested, the dwarf throws an incredible tantrum, and either stomps open a chasm that swallows him whole or rips himself in half accidentally.

There is nobody to root for in the story and the resolution, although satisfactory for the default protagonist, is not the result of anybody’s moral purity or even heroic acumen…it is dumb luck. The miller is a blowhard who sells out his own daughter; the daughter’s an innocent victim but hardly the brightest bulb in the socket, the king is a tyrant, the dwarf is a manipulative, self-serving huckster.

But what interests me here is Rumpelstiltzkin’s death. He is defeated at his game, yes, but his ultimate vanquishing occurs because he could not gracefully accept that defeat. He could not accept that he would not be given what he wanted, and so he destroys himself.

And that ending runs through my head over and over again as I watch what’s happened to the McCain/Palin campaign the past few weeks.

Oh. Didn’t think I was headed in that direction? You were wrong.

Because we’re watching the McCain campaign slowly tear apart at the seams; we’re watching over-the-top and incendiary attacks about Barack Obama the secret Muslim terrorist, Obama the destroyer of worlds. He has been dreaming of crushing America beneath his polished loafers since he was eight, when he first met William Ayers. No, since he was in kindergarten and writing that he wished to be President. No, since birth. Since before that. Barack Obama sees America as a terrible place that only al-Qaida can fix.

Kill him. Off with his head. Treason.

Once upon a time, John McCain seemed to make a genuine effort to try and run a respectful campaign, but then saw the poll numbers display an increasing gap between the old war hero and the young upstart. At that point, McCain was willing to take a meeting with that old devil Basic Hate, and it’s been something of a lopsided arrangement. Basic Hate allows vicious attacks, riddled with the factual inconsistencies of red meat. Basic Hate promises that John McCain will win the election.

Basic Hate is spinning straw into gold for John McCain and eyeing, hungrily, the empty cradle in the corner.

There was that moment, last week, when McCain was confronted head-on with what his devil’s bargain has wrought…when a supporter began to ask a question by prefacing it with “Obama scares me, he’s an Arab terrorist” and McCain hastily corrected her, saying that Obama was a decent family man with whom he disagrees…

…and the crowd booed what they saw as a failure of will. The woman in question later stated that she thought McCain was simply being politic, that he knew what she said was true but couldn’t admit it on television.

I don’t think McCain had it in mind to run such a campaign, but I won’t let him off the hook for being at the helm when the mercenaries took control of the ship. The honorable man they talk about when they talk about John McCain would have rather scuttled the ship than allowed it to fall into the hands of such men and women.

I can’t help but consider November 5th, after the returns come in, and the long knives that will reach out to attack those who they view as the weakest links in the Republican campaign. I think about the tantrum that will erupt. And yes, I’m sorry, I will worry about the safety of our first African-American president after these past few weeks, and indeed after the past few months, when I seemed unable to travel very far into the forums without reading somebody referring to their distress at an Obama presidency in terms of gunfire and “serious action.”

When John McCain loses, you will witness a collective outcry, and perhaps the GOP will stomp their feet as one, to be swallowed by a chasm of their own devising. One can only hope that the rest of us are standing far enough away that we aren’t pulled in afterwards.

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2008 by in Books, History, Politics, Society.
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