“Rapunzel” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

The Rapunzel story for me could have been boiled down to the mean old witch keeps beautiful Rapunzel in a tower, climbing her hair to visit her. Along comes a prince, learns the secret, has Rapunzel let down her hair to him and the two live happily every after. But then I read the Grimm version at Project Gutenberg.

So how does the witch get Rapunzel?  Takes her from her parents, of course. This is a fairy tale. You see, Rapunzel’s father snuck into the witch’s garden to steal rampion, a leafy green vegetable like spinach for his wife. The witch, of course, catches him, and says he may take all the rampion he can on the condition that he give her his daughter when she is born, promising that “it shall be well treated, and [she] will care for it like a mother.” Father agrees, but he didn’t really have any choice.

Well, the witch, not surprisingly, is not the word’s best mom. When Rapunzel’s 12, the witch locks her in a tower, with no door or stairs. The witch is the only one who can visit Rapunzel, keeping Rapunzel locked away from everyone and everything else.

Along comes the prince who is enchanted by Rapunzel’s singing. He learns how the witch visits Rapunzel and  calls up to the beautiful young woman,

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,

Let down your hair to me.

The prince asks Rapunzel to be his wife and she agrees. Of course, the witch finds out, cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and banishes her to the desert to live in grief and misery. When the prince comes, the witch send down Rapunzel’s hair to him. After he climbs up, she informs him that Rapunzel is lost to him. He jumps from the tower, lands in thorns that pierce his eyes, and wanders the wilderness.

Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went toward it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.

So that is definitely a happy ending, after years of misery for both of them.

Dame Gothel, the witch, is quite obviously the villain here. She did horrible things, but I can sympathize a little. What parent doesn’t want to protect her child, keep her safe and innocent? And then look what happened when the first spoiled rich boy comes along. Rapunzel went and got pregnant.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on Rapunzel and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at The Ugly Duckling.


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