Complex Characters: The Guilty Pleasure of Rumpelstiltskin


In honor of one of my shows returning (Once Upon a Time), I have decided to do a complex character study of one of the best villains: Rumpelstiltskin. I honestly would love to see a YA book about a villain and the best example I can point to for an example of a villain people can connect to is Rumpelstiltskin.

If you don’t watch the show, you should. The video below contains major plot spoilers for the third season, but it is a GREAT example of Rumple actions and driving reasons.

So let’s start.

Rumpel becomes the Dark One because he wanted to save his son from the army. He becomes addicted to the power and uses it to protect his son, but also to punish people who have wronged him.

This addiction is central to how Rumpel loses his son. But the power also allows him to see how he can get his son back. Rumple uses his dark powers to play with people’s lives so he can arrange the sequences of events (i.e. making the Evil Queen actually evil, killing people, conning them into doing things for him) that eventually causes the curse which was the endgame to getting to his son

So though he does evil things, he does them for reasonable reasons.

But what I love about Rumpel is that he OWNS it. As he says in the video, “I’m villain.”

For all that he loves his son, and his girlfriend, he admits he is the villain. There is no apology and there is no removing his agency.

Something that irritates me with female villains lately (**Cough** Maleficent), if that they act out but their stories make it clear they are not evil. Rumple owns his villainhood.

I would love to see a young adult book about a villain who owns it. They do evil, they acknowledge it, but at the same time, the reader can identify with some of the choices.

Rumpelstiltskin is a complex character I can get behind. Hence my guilty pleasure in loving him.


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