To take first the point of view of the miller’s daughter, her father is just the sort of consummate jackass who would brag to the king that his girl can spin straw into gold. So when she is unceremoniously escorted to a shed full of straw, locked in there with a spinning wheel, and told to do her thing or die, she weeps—but not pathetically, as the tale would have it; rather, she howls with rage. No matter how dire her fear, no miller’s daughter has ever been able to weep the dewy, snot-free tears of a damsel in distress; our wench bawls with messy, grimacing fury, all the more so because crying is not what she wants to do. It is one of the Seven Most Unfair Fates of the female condition that when you really want to thunder, threaten revenge, scare your asinine father and his new crony the king shitless, what happens? You goddamn cry.
Even so, when the shed door opens and the most peculiar little man comes in, she does not seize the opportunity to thump someone smaller than she, for quite sensibly she wonders what the hell is going on. The king locked the door himself. By what power did this dwarf, who is too short to reach the handle, open it? And what does he want? The miller’s daughter has heard some nasty rumors about what really went on with Snow White. Perversely, because there is now clear and present danger, her weeping ceases. Wiping her face and blowing her nose upon her apron, she tries to study the visitor, but through her traumatized eyes she can see only that he is sharp, all points, including his face. Pointy nose, steeple brows, wishbone chin, skinny birdy arms and fingers, chicken legs in velvet trousers tailored to fit. Peaked velvet cap, curling feather. Probably never went “heigh-ho off to work” in his life.
“What’s the matter?” he wants to know. His voice is thin and pointy too, like a needle.
She replies very politely, in case he might be somebody, “Thank you for asking. It’s my allergies. I’m horribly allergic to dusty places, straw, stables, that sort of thing.” This happens to be true, making her whole rotten day even rottener.
“What will you give me if I spin the straw into gold for the king?” Of course he knows all about it; otherwise, why would he be there?
The miller’s daughter offers, “Um, my necklace?” and is puzzled when he accepts that commonplace string of beads without further bargaining. As he spins all the straw, quite quickly, into gold, she feels relieved, naturally, that she need not die in the morning, but also apprehensive, for there’s no getting around it: she’s dealing with the supernatural, and has not yet paid a sufficient price. Even as she thanks the little man effusively for saving her butt, even as he takes his leave, she is hoping she will never see him again, yet has a miserable feeling that she will. These things happen in threes.
Bingo. She doesn’t even get to go home for her second-best necklace before the greedy king, with the inevitable death threat, sticks her into another, bigger shed full of straw. At nightfall, sure enough, just like a mucus machine she starts weeping—this time with tears appropriately wretched, due to her allergies plus the fact that, while she does not miss her father, she does miss breakfast, lunch, and supper—and right on cue, the little man shows up.
She gives him her ring—again, the cheapest of baubles—yet once more he accepts without demur. Once more, not unkindly, he sets to work. He is an odd sort of midget, thinks the miller’s daughter as she watches, maybe not a dwarf after all, too slender, more like one of the pixies, but lacking their beauty, perhaps an elf…with a face like a wedge of cheese? No, he seems to fit no known category of little people, but it hardly matters, so long as he spins straw into gold.
Which he does. She is saved. But oh, no, day three, huge shed this time, huge pile of straw once more, death if she fails. Only this third