At the end of Orson Scott Card’s short story The Polish Boy, Captain Rudolph says:

"All right, now I get it, you're giving him the wish of his heart, today. And then, long after he's forgotten, you're going to pop up and ask for his firstborn child."

Graff replies, "Only I don't have some stupid loophole that will let him get out of it if he can guess my name."

What does he mean by that? Is he referring to

the written tests used with his siblings and him, when John Paul was able to wittily manipulate his examiners?

Or is he referring to something deeper, something else?


He is referring to the story of Rumpelstiltskin (one of Brothers Grimm tales), which is an extremely well known cultural artifact exemplifying exactly the situation Graff was envisioning.

In the story an imp named Rumpelstiltskin makes a bargain with a girl. She must give up her firstborn child in exchange for him to spin a room of straw into gold. When the creature comes for payment later, he tells her that she will not have to give up her child if she can guess his name (and as she finds out his name, she ends up keeping the child).

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    Curious here, what's the signifance of the story? – Anubian Noob Jul 16 '15 at 19:36
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    @AnubianNoob - the significance in general is that it's a fundamental and well known cultural artifact in the west, and as such is an idea that can serve as a premade cultural reference point. The significance in-universe is that Graff says "I will get John Paul's offspring into Battle School, with nothing he can do to stop me like he did by exempting himself" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 16 '15 at 19:52
  • Card gives the answer! "The Polish Boy," the 1st story in "First Meetings," is about the young John Paul Wiggin, Ender's father. I'm reading the second story now, "Teacher's Pet," about J.P. as a young man in love with his teacher. They speculate the Hegemony has steered them together hoping they produce a brilliant Commander child. "So what?" "What does it matter if, by following my heart, I also fulfill someone else's plan?" "What if we don't like the plan?" "What if this is like RUMPELSTILTSKIN? What if we have to give up what we love best in order to have what we want most?" Eureka! – Matt1618 Jul 18 '15 at 2:01
  • Ender, the object of the story, recognizes it for himself in Ender in Exile. He writes his parents in Ch. 19: "Through all of this, I have been trying to sort out what it meant that you gave life to me. To have a child, knowing that you have signed a contract to give him up to the government upon demand - isn't there a bit of the story of Rumpelstiktskin in this?" He then goes on to explain the fairy tale. – Matt1618 Jul 28 '15 at 1:16

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