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Rapunzel

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Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair - Anne Anderson

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair." Illustration for Rapunzel by Anne Anderson (c.1922).

"Rapunzel" is a fairy tale collected in the first volume of Children's and Household Tales (German: Kinder- und Hausmärchen) by the Brothers Grimm which was first published in 1812.

In the story, a beautiful young girl named Rapunzel is locked up in a high tower by a witch. The tower has only one small window at the top and no doors. Whenever the witch wants to enter the tower, she calls out to Rapunzel from below. Rapunzel then lets her long hair down the window so the witch can use it as a ladder to climb up. Rapunzel sees no one else for a few years until, one day, a prince witnesses the witch climbing the tower.

There are many folktales about a maiden in a tower. Some believe the tales are based on the story of Saint Barbara who, according to legend, was locked in a tower by her overprotective father. The Grimm Brothers based "Rapunzel" on the story of the same title in the collection Kleine Romanen (1790) by Friedrich Schulz. Schulz's version is a retelling of the story "Persinette" (1698) by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force. "Persinette" was inspired by the Italian fairy tale "Petrosinella" by Giambattista Basile, published in his 1634 book Lo cunto de li cunti (also known as Il Pentamerone).

"Rapunzel" has been adapted to other media many times. The story and its most famous line "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair" are widely referenced in popular culture.

Plot

A pregnant woman looks out of the window of her house. She sees a patch of beautiful rapunzel[1] growing in her neighbor's garden and develops a craving for it. She will not dare go to her neighbor, however, because the neighbor is a fearsome witch. The woman's craving grows from day to day, and she becomes quite ill and miserable. The woman's husband, concerned for her health, climbs over the garden wall and steals some rapunzel.[2] The rapunzel is so delicious that the wife develops an even bigger craving. The husband goes back to take some more the next day, but he is caught by the witch. He begs for mercy and expresses his concern for his wife. The witch tells him he can take as much rapunzel as he wants if he promises to hand over the child when it is born. The frightened man agrees to the bargain.

As soon as the wife gives birth, the witch takes the baby and names her Rapunzel. Rapunzel grows up to be a beautiful child. When she is twelve years old, the witch locks her up in a high tower in the forest which has no doors or stairs, just a small window at the top.[3] The witch goes to the tower every day and calls out "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair." Rapunzel fastens her long, beautiful golden tresses to the window latch and drops them down to the ground so the witch can climb up.

Wildpark Ostrittrum Märchenwald Rapunzel

A display depicting Rapuzel at the Märchenwald des Wild- und Freizeitparks Ostrittrum amusement park in Germany.

A few years later, a passing prince hears Rapunzel singing in her tower. Not finding a door to the tower, he leaves. But he is so haunted by the beautiful song that he returns every day to listen. One day, he sees the witch come to the tower and discovers how she climbs the tower. The prince returns the following evening and calls out "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair." He then climbs up the golden braid. Rapunzel is frightened at first, but the prince speaks so kindly to her that she soon begins to like him. She agrees to marry him and asks him to bring a skein of silk every evening so she can braid a ladder to allow her to climb down and escape her imprisonment.

One day, Rapunzel unwittingly betrays her secret by asking the witch why she is so much heavier than the prince to pull up.[4] The witch, furious at the betrayal, cuts off Rapunzel's hair and banishes her to a wilderness. She then ties the long braids to the window latch and waits for the prince. The prince climbs the tower that evening and finds the witch waiting for him. The witch tells him that his wife is lost to him forever. In despair, the prince jumps off the tower.[5] He falls into the bramble patch, and his eyes are scratched out by the thorns.

The blind prince wanders in the forest for many years before coming upon the wilderness where Rapunzel was banished. He hears a familiar voice singing and walks towards the voice. Rapunzel, who has been barely surviving with her twin children, recognizes the prince. She embraces him and weeps. Her tears drop into the prince's eyes, and the prince suddenly regains his sight. He takes Rapunzel back to his kingdom and they live happily ever after.

Adaptations

The 1978 British film Rapunzel Let down Your Hair reinterprets "Rapunzel" to examine women's roles in modern society.

Episode 1 of the second season of the television series Faerie Tale Theatre is based on "Rapunzel". The episode was first shown on Showtime on February 5, 1983. It is narrated by Roddy McDowall and stars Jeff Bridges and Shelley Duvall.

The story was adapted as a second-season episode of the Japanese anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō). The episode first aired on TV Asahi on October 30, 1988.

"Rapunzel" was the first of eight fairy tales to be adapted for Timeless Tales from Hallmark, a direct-to-video series (1990-1991) produced by Hanna-Barbera and Hallmark Cards.[6]

Season 1 of the HBO Family animated television series Happily Ever After featured an episode inspired by "Rapunzel". Whoopi Goldberg voiced Zenobia the Hoodoo Diva, the character based on the witch. The episode first aired on April 30, 1995.

The 83-minute Canadian-American computer generated animation film Barbie as Rapunzel was released direct-to-video on October 1, 2002. It features the voices of Kelly Sheridan as Barbie/Rapunzel, Mark Hildreth as Prince Stefan and Anjelica Huston as Gothel the evil witch.

The 2010 animated Disney feature film Tangled was inspired by "Rapunzel".

Rapunzel, along with Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, is one of several fairy tale characters that appear in Into the Woods, a stage musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. Into the Woods was first performed at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, California on December 4, 1986. Its first Broadway performance was at the Martin Beck Theater on November 5, 1987. A film based on the musical, produced by Walt Disney Pictures, was released in 2014. In the movie, Rapunzel is played by MacKenzie Mauzy, the prince who courts her is played by Billy Magnussen and the witch who imprisons her is played by Meryl Streep,

Footnotes

  1. Rapunzel, also called rampion, is a leafy plant similar to spinach or lettuce.
  2. In "Petrosinella", a pregnant woman steals parsley herself from an ogress' garden.
  3. In "Persinette", the heroine is imprisoned as punishment for entering a forbidden room.
  4. In the original 1812 version of the story, Rapunzel asks the witch why her clothes are becoming too tight. The obvious reference to her pregnancy was removed in later editions by Wilhelm Grimm to make the story more appropriate for children.
  5. In "Petrosinella", the couple flees together and defeats the chasing ogress using magic.
  6. Other tales adapted by Timeless Tales from Hallmark are based on "The Emperor's New Clothes", "Thumbelina", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Elves and the Shoemaker", "Rumpelstiltzkin", "Puss in Boots", and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier".

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