The seven deadly sins for children
Back when I had Netflix I rediscovered the musical movie Rumpelstiltskin (1987) starring Amy Irving and Billy Barty. My sister and I enjoyed it as children and I couldn’t resist throwing it in my queue. It was as I remembered it, but with my adult outlook I found the story to be really awful for young children. It’s chock full of sin. The Seven Deadlies even.
We begin with Rumpelstiltskin deciding he needs a child to cook and slave for him because he doesn’t want to do it himself. Only a prince’s son will do.
We are introduced to Katie, the miller’s daughter as she sings of her aspirations for nothing other than to marry a prince so she can be queen, lounge around all day, and have nice things.
Once it’s established Katie has no redeeming qualities other than her beauty, her father lies about her ability to spin straw into gold. (Beautiful AND magical, you say? Well, damn!) This rumor reaches the king who calls the miller and Katie to court to discover the truth. When asked for the truth (several times, by the way) neither Katie or her father take the opportunity to say, “Sorry, we were tellin’ tales out of school.” Katie goes along with it to save face. (Fantastic message for kids: Be a follower and let others speak for you. It’s totally okay if you’re pretty)
3. GLUTTONY, and 4. ENVY
Katie is tested on her “skills.” Decapitation awaits if she doesn’t spin a bale of straw into gold threads by dawn. Mr. ‘Stiltskin shows up and offers to perform this task for the price of whatever shiny trinket she might have. Katie pays him a gold necklace her mother gave her. (She has no sentimentality!) While this is the only moral part of the story—someone getting paid for their labor—it seems futile when we take into consideration that he really has no use for gold necklaces when he can spin gold whenever he wants. (I’ve got PILES of gold at home, but, yeah, gimme that woman’s necklace.) Clearly he plots to take something else from Katie.
Katie passes her test but is asked to do it again, this time with more straw because the queen doesn’t believe her, and the king wants more gold. Why? He explains in his song, “I’m Greedy.” (That was a freebie)
For a second time the evil elf comes to the rescue, this time taking Katie’s gold ring. Again, this is silly.
The third time Katie is tested she hasn’t anything left to give to Rumplestiltzkin who tells her he’ll help her again if she promises to give him her first-born child (Envy again. THAT’S how you acquire a prince’s son. Take notes, guys) and she agrees. (What sin does selling your unborn child fall under?) But who can blame her? If the straw is spun into gold THIS time she’ll get to marry her prince and be a princess and then queen like she’s always wanted. So what’s one baby?
Katie gets hitched and knocked up. I know, it’s a fairy tale and there was official wedlock involved, but the prince “fell in love” with Katie based on her looks and the fact that she managed not to get her head chopped off, so I’m counting it. (You’re pretty and you’re not dead? Excellent! You’ll do!)
Rumpelstiltskin returns to claim his payment of one prince’s son, at which point Katie goes back on her word claiming, “I didn’t know what I was saying!” and refuses to give up her baby. (Way to get off your ass and do some parenting, lady) Mr. ‘Stiltskin takes pity on her once more stating if she can guess his name he’ll call it off. Through no cleverness of her own (a bird tells the name to a mute servant girl, who suddenly finds her voice—turns out she just had to try really hard—and informs Katie), Katie discovers his name. Rumpelstiltskin becomes furious, stomps his foot until the floor opens and he falls into the fires below.
Flimsy comparisons perhaps, but I’m surprised my sister and I didn’t turn out worse watching this sinful movie full of sinning sinners. Katie and her lying father never answer for their lies and are implied to live happily ever after. However, if we are to take this movie to heart, remember:
- Working is for chumps (and children, apparently)
- Be pretty and find a rich man to marry
- Lie about your talents to make yourself seem more interesting
- Delegate challenging tasks to those better suited for the work
- Marry for looks and the ability to make fortunes at home
- Children are expendable, until they’re not
- Promises were made to be broken
- The fires of hell are just a crack in the floor away