Rapunzel

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This article is about the traditional fairy tale. For the Disney character, see Rapunzel (Disney). For other uses, see Rapunzel (disambiguation).
Rapunzel
Illustration for the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel..jpg
Illustration for the Brothers Grimm fairy tale
Author The Grimm Brothers
Publication date
1812
Media type Print

"Rapunzel" (/rəˈpʌnzəl/; 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.[1] The Grimm Brothers' story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698.[2] 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 the Aarne–Thompson classification system for folktales it is type 310, "The Maiden in The Tower".[3]

Andrew Lang included it in The Red Fairy Book.[4] 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 AD 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.[5] 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.[6]

Plot[edit]

A lonely couple, who want a child, live next to a walled garden belonging to a witch. The wife, experiencing the cravings associated with the arrival of her long-awaited pregnancy, notices a rapunzel plant (or, in some versions[7] 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 gather some for her; on a second night, as he scales the wall to return home, an enchantress named Dame Gothel catches him and accuses him of theft. He begs for mercy, and she agrees to be lenient, on condition that the then-unborn child be given to her at birth. Desperate, he agrees. When the baby 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 the golden stair".
Illustration by Johnny Gruelle

Upon hearing these words, Rapunzel would wrap her long, fair hair around a hook beside the window, dropping it down to Dame Gothel, who would then climb up the hair to Rapunzel's tower room. (A variation on the story also has Dame Gothel imbued with the power of flight and/or levitation and Rapunzel unaware of her hair's length.)

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. 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 has gone, 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 the 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.[8] 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 her instead of Rapunzel, who is nowhere to be found. When she tells him in anger that he will never see Rapunzel again, he leaps from the tower in despair and is blinded by the thorns below. In another version, she pushes him and he falls on the thorns, thus becoming blind.

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 while fetching water, 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 touched it.

In another version of the story, it ends with the revelation that the enchantress had untied Rapunzel's braid after the prince leapt from the tower, and it slipped from her hands and landed far below, leaving her trapped in the tower.[1]

Commentary[edit]

Rapunzel – Dresden in Saxony, Germany.

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", Belle comes to the Beast in return for a rose.[9] 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.[10] Such desires for lettuce and like vegetables may indicate a need on her part for vitamins.[11] From a scientific ethnobotanic interpretation the enchantress Dame Gothel is rather obviously a witch or medicine woman, who had mastered the use and production of a plant or drug capable of saving Rapunzel's mother from complications of pregnancy. Ergotics, opioids or cannabis can be considered candidates in the original Persian or subsequent versions of the tale, by analogy to the problem of Delphos' Oracle.

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.[8]

Film adaptations[edit]

  • 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 (played by Shelley Duvall) is taken from her parents by a 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, and Roddy McDowall narrated.
  • A 1988 German film adaption, Rapunzel oder der Zauber der Tränen (meaning "Rapunzel or the Magic of Tears"), combines the story with the lesser known Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen. After escaping the witch's 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 her prince.
  • 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 Charming's wrath.
  • Disney Animation's 50th feature Tangled (released in 2010) presents a loose retelling of the Grimm fairy tale. In this version, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), while still innocent, is far more assertive in character and has magical hair that can be used to heal or restore youth in others. This power is gained from the plant, a golden flower, taken to cure her mother during pregnancy. To activate her hair's healing properties, Rapunzel must sing an incantation. As with many variations of the fairy tale, Rapunzel's tears are also shown to possess healing powers. Further departures include Rapunzel being born a princess, her captor, Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy), kidnapping the infant girl for her hair, and the introduction of Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi), a handsome yet self-interested thief, who replaces the prince as Rapunzel's rescuer. The film was originally titled Rapunzel.[12]
  • In "Barbie as Rapunzel" (2002), Rapunzel was raised by Gothel and she acted as a servant for her. She is locked in the tower by Gothel because Rapunzel found a way out of her home using a magical paintbrush.

Television adaptations[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1884) Household Tales (English translation by Margaretmm Hunt), "Rapunzel"
  2. ^ Jack Zipes (1991) Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture, Viking, p. 794, ISBN 0670830534.
  3. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales"
  4. ^ Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book, "Rapunzel"
  5. ^ Rapunzal? iranian.com, 9 November 2009.
  6. ^ A Day to Honor Saint Barbara. Folkstory.com (30 November 1997). Retrieved on 6 April 2013.
  7. ^ Rapunzel. german.berkeley.edu, adapted from: Rinkes, Kathleen J. Translating Rapunzel; A very Long Process. 17 April 2001.
  8. ^ a b Maria Tatar (1987) The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, Princeton University Press, p. 18, ISBN 0-691-06722-8
  9. ^ Maria Tatar (2004) The Annotated Brothers Grimm, W W Norton & Company Incorporated, p. 58 ISBN 0-393-05848-4.
  10. ^ Jack Zipes (2001) The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p. 474, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  11. ^ Heiner, Heidi Anne. "Annotated Rapunzel". surlalunefairytales.com. 
  12. ^ Tangled (2010). IMDb.com

External links[edit]