Straw Into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt

Straw into Gold begins with the well-known fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin: a poor miller’s daughter is given over to a greedy king with the false boast that she is able to spin straw into threads of gold. Promised death if she does not deliver, the girl is locked away in a room with a spinning wheel and a pile of straw. An ugly little man appears and offers to spin the straw into gold, provided that he is amply rewarded for doing so. But after giving over her jewelry, the girl has nothing else to give the man, so he makes her promise to give over her first born child in payment. She agrees and the little man does what he promised. The king is thrilled over the mounds of golden thread and marries the girl, and soon she gives birth to a son. Then one night, the little man returns to claim the child. Heartbroken, she pleads with the man to keep the baby. Instead, he gives her three days. If she can discover his name in that time, she will be able to keep her son. She speaks every name she can think of, and when he gives her one last chance…she faints. The little man takes the child, and here the story begins.

Years after the event, a boy named Tousle and his father (an ugly little man with a magical knack for spinning gold from straw) excitedly prepare to go to the city of Wolverham to watch the triumphal procession of the King and his court. However, this seemingly innocent visit starts a chain of events for Tousle that will test his endurance and courage, but may also begin to answer some questions he has about his mysterious past. When the King decides to execute a group of people falsely accused of treason, Tousel boldly defends them. For his actions, the King sends Tousel on a quest to answer a riddle: What fills a hand fuller than a skein of gold? If Tousel can bring back the answer in seven days, the condemned people will be set free. Chosen to accompany him on his journey is a blind beggar boy named Innes. Believing that the Queen-banished from the kingdom years before-has the answer, the two boys set out to locate her. Yet someone in the king’s court does not want them to succeed, and will stop at nothing to stop them. As Tousel slowly begins to unravel, not only the mystery surrounding his past, but of Innes’ as well, he also sees how his seemingly meaningless life weaves significantly into the lives of so many others: a frightened king, a mourning queen, a blind beggar, a remorseful miller, a greedy guard, and a little man named Rumpelstiltskin.