Illustration of Rapunzel and the Witch on a DDR stamp, 1978
|Author||Unknown but collected by The Grimm Brothers|
"Rapunzel" (//; German pronunciation: [ʁaˈpʊnt͡səl]) is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children's and Household Tales. The Grimm Brothers' story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Rapunzel by Friedrich Schulz published in 1790. The Schulz version is based on Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698 which in turn was influenced by an even earlier tale, Petrosinella by Giambattista Basile, published in 1634. Its plot has been used and parodied in various media and its best known line ("Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair") is an idiom of popular culture. In volume I of the 1812 annotations (Anhang), it is listed as coming from Friedrich Schulz Kleine Romane, Book 5, pp. 269–288, published in Leipzig 1790.
Andrew Lang included it in The Red Fairy Book. Other versions of the tale also appear in A Book of Witches by Ruth Manning-Sanders and in Paul O. Zelinsky's 1997 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, Rapunzel and the Disney movie Tangled.
Rapunzel's story has striking similarities to the 10th-century Persian tale of Rudāba, included in the epic poem Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. Rudāba offers to let down her hair from her tower so that her lover Zāl can climb up to her. Some elements of the fairy tale might also have originally been based upon the tale of Saint Barbara, who was said to have been locked in a tower by her father.
A lonely couple, who want a child, live next to a walled garden belonging to an evil witch named Dame Gothel. The wife, experiencing the cravings associated with the arrival of her long-awaited pregnancy, notices a rapunzel plant (or, in most translated-to-English versions of the story, rampion), growing in the garden and longs for it, desperate to the point of death. One night, her husband breaks into the garden to get some salad for her. She makes a salad out of it and greedily eats it. It tastes so good that she longs for more. So her husband goes to get some for her a second time. As he scales the wall to return home, Dame Gothel catches him and accuses him of theft. He begs for mercy, and she agrees to be lenient, and allows him to take all he wants, on condition that the baby be given to her at birth. Desperate, he agrees. When the baby girl is born, Dame Gothel takes her to raise as her own and names her Rapunzel after the plant her mother craved. She grows up to be the most beautiful child in the world with long golden hair. When she reaches her twelfth year, Dame Gothel shuts her away in a tower in the middle of the woods, with neither stairs nor a door, and only one room and one window. When she visits her, she stands beneath the tower and calls out:
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb thy golden stair.
One day, a prince rides through the forest and hears Rapunzel singing from the tower. Entranced by her ethereal voice, he searches for her and discovers the tower, but is naturally unable to enter it. He returns often, listening to her beautiful singing, and one day sees Dame Gothel visit, and thus learns how to gain access to Rapunzel. When Dame Gothel leaves, he bids Rapunzel let her hair down. When she does so, he climbs up, makes her acquaintance, and eventually asks her to marry him. She agrees.
Together they plan a means of escape, wherein he will come each night (thus avoiding Dame Gothel who visits her by day), and bring Rapunzel a piece of silk, which she will gradually weave into a ladder. Before the plan can come to fruition, however, she foolishly gives the prince away. In the first edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, she innocently says that her dress is getting tight around her waist (indicating pregnancy); in the second edition, she asks Dame Gothel (in a moment of forgetfulness) why it is easier for her to draw up the prince than her. In anger, she cuts off Rapunzel's hair and casts her out into the wilderness to fend for herself.
When the prince calls that night, Dame Gothel lets the severed hair down to haul him up. To his horror, he finds himself staring at Dame Gothel instead of Rapunzel, who is nowhere to be found. When Dame Gothel tells the prince in a jealous rage that he will never see Rapunzel again, she pushes him onto thorns, blinding him.
For months, he wanders through the wastelands of the country and eventually comes to the wilderness where Rapunzel now lives with the twins she has given birth to, a boy and a girl. One day, as she sings, he hears her voice again, and they are reunited. When they fall into each other's arms, her tears immediately restore his sight. He leads her and their children to his kingdom, where they live happily ever after.
In some versions of the story, Rapunzel's hair magically grows back after the prince touches it.
Another version of the story ends with the revelation that Dame Gothel had untied Rapunzel's hair after the prince leapt from the tower, and it slipped from her hands and landed far below, leaving her trapped in the tower.
The seemingly uneven bargain with which "Rapunzel" opens is a common trope in fairy tales which is replicated in "Jack and the Beanstalk", Jack trades a cow for beans, and in "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty comes to the Beast in return for a rose. Folkloric beliefs often regarded it as quite dangerous to deny a pregnant woman any food she craved. Family members would often go to great lengths to secure such cravings. Such desires for lettuce and like vegetables may indicate a need on her part for vitamins.
An influence on Grimm's Rapunzel was Petrosinella or Parsley, written by Giambattista Basile in his collection of fairy tales in 1634, Lo cunto de li cunti (The Story of Stories), or Pentamerone. This tells a similar tale of a pregnant woman desiring some parsley from the garden of an ogress, getting caught, and having to promise the ogress her baby. The encounters between the prince and the maiden in the tower are described in quite bawdy language. A similar story was published in France by Mademoiselle de la Force, called "Persinette". As Rapunzel did in the first edition of the Brothers Grimm, Persinette becomes pregnant during the course of the prince's visits.
- Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation as a poem called "Rapunzel" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.
"Cress" the 3rd book in the Lunar Chronicles is a young adult science fiction adaptation of Rapunzel written by Marissa Meyer. Crescent, aka "Cress" is a prisoner on a satellite who is rescued and falls in love with her hero "Capt. Thorn" amidst the story about "Cinder" a cyborg version of Cinderella. Lunar Chronicles is a tetralogy with a futuristic take on classic fairytales which also include characters such as "Cinder" (Cinderella), "Scarlet" (Red Riding Hood) " and "Winter" (Snow White).
Kate Forsyth has written a book that contains both commentary on the story and a retelling, set in the Antipodes. She described it as "a story that reverberates very strongly with any individual -- male or female, child or adult -- who has found themselves trapped by their circumstances, whether this is caused by the will of another, or their own inability to change and grow" (p. 7).
- A live action version was filmed for television as part of Shelley Duvall's series Faerie Tale Theatre, airing on Showtime. It aired on 5 February 1983. In it, the main character, Rapunzel (Shelley Duvall), is taken from her mother (Shelley Duvall) and father (Jeff Bridges) by an evil witch (Gena Rowlands), and is brought up in an isolated tower that can only be accessed by climbing her unnaturally long hair. Jeff Bridges played the prince, Shelley Duvall played Rapunzel, Gena Rowlands played the witch and Roddy McDowall narrated.
- The story is retold in a second season (1987) episode of Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, aka Grimm Masterpiece Theatre.
- A 1988 German film adaption, Rapunzel oder der der Tränen (meaning "Rapunzel or the Magic of Tears"), combines the story with the lesser known Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen. After escaping the tower, Rapunzel finds work as a kitchen maid in the prince's court, where she must contend with an evil princess who aims to marry him.
- A 1990 straight-to-video animated film adaption by Hanna-Barbera and Hallmark Cards, simply titled "Rapunzel", featured Olivia Newton-John narrating the story. The major difference between the film and the Grimm fairy tale is that instead of making the prince blind, the evil witch transforms him into a bird, possibly a reference to The Blue Bird, a French variant of the story.
- Into the Woods is a musical combining elements from several classic fairy tales, in which Rapunzel is one of the main characters; it was also filmed for television in 1991 by American Playhouse. A film adaptation was released late in 2014.
- In "Barbie as Rapunzel" (2002), Princess Rapunzel was raised by the evil witch, Gothel, and she acted as a servant for her. She uses a magic paintbrush to get out of captivity, but Gothel locks her away in a tower.
- In Shrek the Third (2007), Rapunzel (voiced by Maya Rudolph) is a character who is later revealed as the secondary antagonist and was friends with Princess Fiona. She is shown to be the true love of the evil Prince Charming and helps to fool Princess Fiona and her group when they try to escape from Prince Charming's wrath.
- Disney Animation's 50th feature Tangled (2010) which is a computer animated musical feature film and a loose retelling. Princess Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is more assertive in character, and was born a princess. Her long blonde hair has magical healing and restoration powers. A woman named Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy) kidnaps Rapunzel for her magical hair. Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) is a thief, who replaces the prince. Rapunzel also features in Disney's Tangled short sequel, Tangled Ever After.
- Rapunzel from Disney Animation's Tangled also makes a very brief cameo appearance in Disney's Frozen which is another computer animated musical feature film by Walt Disney Animation Studios where she attends the coronation of Elsa.
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In the U.S. TV series Once Upon a Time (3.14, "The Tower"), Rapunzel is locked in the tower by her own choice. She is afraid to face the responsibility of taking over her kingdom from her parents, who are still alive.
In the U.S. TV animated anthology series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1.8, Rapunzel), the classic story is retold with a full African-American cast and set in New Orleans. Whoopi Goldberg guest stars as the witch.
Sesame Street has a "News Flash" skit with Kermit the Frog where he interviews the Prince trying to charm Rapunzel with the famous line, however, Rapunzel is having a hard time hearing him and when she finally understands him, she literally lets all her hair fall down (completely off her head), leaving the prince confused as to what to do now.
In the American Fairytale Miniseries, The Tenth Kingdom, the titular character, Virginia Lewis is cursed by a Gypsy witch. As a result, she grows hair reminiscent of Rapunzel and is locked away by the Huntsman in a tower. Her only means of escape is by letting her hair down through the window of the tower so that the Wolf can climb up and rescue her. Not before he asks the iconic phrase, in his own way, "Love of my life, let down your lustrous locks!". The character, Rapunzel is also mentioned as being one of the great women who changed history. And was Queen of the sixth Kingdom before eventually succumbing to old age.
- Rapunzel syndrome
- Danae, daughter of King Acrisius and Queen Eurydice, who was shut up in a bronze tower or cave.
- Maid Maleen
- Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1884) Household Tales (English translation by Margaretmm Hunt), "Rapunzel"
- Oliver Loo (2015) Rapunzel 1790 A New Translation of the Tale by Friedrich Schulz, Amazon, ISBN 978-1507639566. ASIN: B00T27QFRO
- Jack Zipes (1991) Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture, Viking, p. 794, ISBN 0670830534.
- "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair". Terri Windling.
- D. L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales"
- Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book, "Rapunzel"
- Rapunzal? iranian.com, 9 November 2009.
- A Day to Honor Saint Barbara. Folkstory.com (30 November 1997). Retrieved on 6 April 2013.
- Rapunzel. german.berkeley.edu, adapted from: Rinkes, Kathleen J. Translating Rapunzel; A very Long Process. 17 April 2001.
- Maria Tatar (1987) The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, Princeton University Press, p. 18, ISBN 0-691-06722-8
- Maria Tatar (2004) The Annotated Brothers Grimm, W W Norton & Company Incorporated, p. 58 ISBN 0-393-05848-4.
- Jack Zipes (2001) The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p. 474, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
- Heiner, Heidi Anne. "Annotated Rapunzel". surlalunefairytales.com.
- "Transformations by Anne Sexton"
- 2016. The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower. Mawson: FableCroft Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9925534-9-4 (hard cover).
- Cloud Strife (15 January 2008). "Grimm Masterpiece Theatre (TV Series 1987– )". IMDb.
- "Timeless Tales from Hallmark Rapunzel (TV Episode 1990)". IMDb. 13 March 1990.
- weymo (15 March 1991). ""American Playhouse" Into the Woods (TV Episode 1991)". IMDb.
- isaacglover_05 (25 December 2014). "Into the Woods (2014)". IMDb.
- Tangled (2010). IMDb.com
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- D.L. Ashliman's Grimm Brothers website. The classification is based on Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography, (Helsinki, 1961).
- Translated comparison of 1812 and 1857 versions
- The Annotated Rapunzel with variants, illustrations and annotations
- The Original 1812 Grimm A web site for the Original 1812 Kinder und Hausmärchen featuring references and other useful information related to the 1812 book in English.