This tale, originally told in print by the brothers Grimm, is often performed as a play in children's theater, and in the early 1980s there was a TV version, with Herve Villechaize -- better known as Tattoo on "Fantasy Island" -- in the title role [source: Kleinschrodt].
Its enduring popularity is pretty remarkable, when you consider that it's the story of a creepy little man who tries to steal a child, for who knows what unsavory purpose. Rumpelstiltskin, who has magical powers, transforms a humble miller's daughter into a queen, in exchange for a promise that she would turn over her firstborn child to him. When he comes to collect, her only out is to correctly guess his name. But when she manages to do just that, things get even weirder.
"The devil has told you that! " the little man shouts, and he gets so angry that he stamps his foot and somehow plunges his entire right leg deep into the earth. When he tries to pull himself out, he tears his body in two [source: Grimm].