Imaginary outfit: straw into gold

It is easy to dislike the miller's daughter.

The pawn of a boastful, lying father and a greedy king, she can only cry when she faces her impossible fate: the spinning wheel and the straw. She's rescued by the miraculous appearance of a strange little man who truly can spin straw into gold. She pays him first with a necklace and then with a ring, and finally the terrible promise of her firstborn. I might feel pity for her there, on that third night stripped of anything tangible to barter, but her promise is cavalier. She trusts she'll be able to get out of it when she has to, and indeed she does. Later, married to the king, she has a baby, and when the little man comes to claim it, she cries again and he pities her, telling her that he will give her three days to discover his name and release herself from the promise. She sends out spies to find the little man's name while she waits in her palace. One of them stumbles across it and reports it to the queen. When she triumphantly tells the little man that his name is Rumpelstiltskin, he becomes so enraged he tears himself in two. The miller's daughter gets everything she wants in the end - the credit for the gold, marriage to the king, her baby - and pays only with tears.

It's a strange plot, even as fairy tales go. In a weird way it reminds me of blogging, only bloggers get to be Rumpelstiltskin and the miller's daughter simultaneously. Strange people taking the commonest matter and applying their own personal alchemy to it, turning it into something remarkable. Making it all look very easy, unpaid for.

The best blogs create windows into worlds - they let you feel close to the beautiful and strange, and they look effortless. They make you feel that the secret of making a particular beauty - of turning the straw into gold - is there, graspable. Of course, it isn't. The straw in hand remains straw.  You are on your own when it comes to making gold.