Rapunzel-Traditional Retelling

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Literature Text

Collected by the Brothers Grimm
Edited by Angela Sasser

There once was a farmer and his wife who wished more than anything to have a child.  But alas, a child never came to them.  Their tiny cottage had a small window which looked out over the most beautiful garden full of the loveliest flowers and vegetables. There was a high wall around it, for this garden belonged to a sorceress known for her power.

One day the wife stood at the window looking out into the witch's garden planted full of the most beautiful lettuces.  As she looked, she began to long for the rampion she spied.  Days passed and her longing increased, her limbs growing thin and her skin pale.  Alarmed, her husband asked, "Dear wife, what is the matter?"

"Ah...I shall die if I cannot have that rapunzel."  And her eyes grew distant and dreamed of the garden.  Fearful for his wife's life, the farmer resigned himself and stole into the night to brave the witch's wall.  He crept through her garden gathering all the rapunzel rampion his wife would need.  But as he turned, the fearful sight of the enchantress greeted him.  "How came you here?" She seethed.  "You have climbed over the wall into my garden like a thief and stolen my rampion!  You shall pay dearly for this."

"Ah!" Replied the poor man.  "Mercy please!  I have only taken it in dire need, for my wife lay dying.  She wished for your rapunzel so desperately.  It is the only thing she will eat.  She will die without it!"  The witch's anger cooled and she replied.  "If what you say is true, I will give you permission to take as many as you like, on one condition.  You must give up to me the child your wife will bring into the world.  I will be very kind to the child and as careful as a mother could be."

In his haste, the farmer agreed and rushed home to his wife, who immediately took the rapunzel and made a salad.  Time passed and she bore a beautiful baby girl.  In a short time, the witch appeared and claimed the child as her own.  She called her Rapunzel, after the rampion which grew in her garden.  Rapunzel grew to be the loveliest child under the sun with mother Gothel raising her as her own daughter.  However, when Rapunzel reached twelve years of age, Gothel locked her in a tower with no stairs, nor any entrance of any kind but for a small balcony window.  When the witch wished to visit Rapunzel, she would call to her:

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair
That I may climb without a stair"

With hair like spun gold, beautiful and long, Rapunzel would release her locks for the witch to climb.  Years passed in this manner when it happened one day the king's son rode through the forest on a hunt.  While passing near the tower, he heard such a lovely song and could not help but stopping to listen.  It was the sweet voice of Rapunzel, who lightened her solitude with the sound of her own voice.  The prince was so eager to obtain a glimpse of the singer he searched in vain to find a door to the tower.  So he rode home, but the memory of her song remained so that every day he road into the forest to listen.  Once, while he stood in hiding listening to the mysterious song, he spied the witch calling to Rapunzel.  Down came Rapunzel's golden hair, which Gothel surmounted.  The entrance had been revealed!

So the next day as it began to grow dark, he placed himself beneath the window and called up.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair
That I may climb without a stair"

Down came the hair and the young prince quickly climbed up and entered the room where the young maiden lived.  A dreadfully frightened Rapunzel drew back in fear, but soon the Prince calmed her with his soothing voice and kind look.  He told her that he heard her singing and that her song had excited such deep emotion in his heart that he could not rest till he had seen the singer.  On hearing this, Rapunzel ceased to fear him and they talked together for some time.  Their nightly visits continued until at length he asked her to marry him and run away.  For a time she hesitated.  She saw that he was young and handsome and seemingly kind.  At last, she decided to go with him and leave the dark tower that had been her home for most of her life.  She placed her hand in his and said, "I would willingly go with you and be your wife, but I do not know in the least how to get away from this place.  Unless,"  Recalling her weavings, she spoke after a pause.  "you will bring me every day some strong silk cord each night, then I will weave a ladder of it and when it is finished I will descend upon it.  And you shall take me away with you."

The prince readily agreed to this and promised to come and see her every evening till the ladder was finished, for the old witch always came in the daytime.  The witch knew nothing of the prince's visits until one day Rapunzel asked innocently, "Mother Gothel, I wonder how came it that my dress has grown so tight?"

"You wicked child!" Cried Gothel, "What do I hear you say? I thought I had hidden you from all the world, and now it is you who has betrayed me!"  For what Rapunzel did not know was that she was with child.  In her wrath, the witch caught hold of Rapunzel's hair and struck her several times with her left hand. She seized a pair of scissors and cut the hair, the beautiful locks, glistening like gold, fell to the ground.  Gothel's heart grew so cold that she dragged poor Rapunzel out into the forest to a wild and deserted place and left her there in sorrow and woe.

The very same day, the prince came for his beloved Rapunzel.  He called to her as he always had and down fell the golden locks.  He climbed them in hopes of seeing Rapunzel, but cruel and malicious eyes met him, for the witch had used the shorn hair to decieve the prince.  "Ah!" She cried with a sneer, "You have come to fetch your loving bride, I suppose, but the beautiful bird has flown from the nest and will never sing again!  The cat has fetched it away and she intends also to scratch your eyes out.  To thee, Rapunzel is lost; thou wilt never behold her again!"  With that, the witch released the golden ladder and he fell below where the brambles and briars that grew at the foot of the tower caught him.  He escaped with his life, but the thorns struck into his eyes and blinded him.  After this, he wandered about the woods for days in despair, eating only wild roots and berries.  He did nothing but lament and weep for the loss of his beloved bride.

So he wandered a whole year in misery, till at last he came upon the deserted place where Rapunzel had been banished and lived in her wretched exile with the twins she had given birth to. As he drew near, he was haunted by a familiar singing voice and followed it blindly until he came into the sight of Rapunzel, who recognized him immediately.  At last the two lovers had been reunited in their misery and as Rapunzel wept, two of her tears fell into the prince's eyes and healed them of their painful injury so he could finally gaze upon her again.  He traveled with Rapunzel and their children to his kingdom where she became his wife and the remainder of their days was spent in happiness and contentment.
I present to you my version of Rapunzel which represents a culmination of research of different sources, including the revised publication of the Brothers' Grimm version of this story, which was based on older local legends. This version also reflects my own personal take on the story and what I believe makes more sense logically in this fairy tale universe.

The main difference to most versions of the tale revolve around the reason for Rapunzel's banishment and also whether or not she has children later. I am inclined to follow the more mature version of this story which I believe gets in touch with the sexual and loss of innocence themes true to the original tellings of this story.

I hope to do a more modern retelling of this story at a future point.

SOURCE: The Complete Brothers Grimm, edited by Lily Owens. Crown Publishers, Inc.: 1981
© 2008 - 2023 AngelaSasser-story
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thatnaminegirl's avatar
I am really intrigued with this story. I never knew that it had sexual implications until I began researching the fairy tale recently when Disney's 'Tangled' came out.
It's a funny coincidence that in the original tale she has twins. I was thinking of doing future Tangled fanart where Rapunzel has twins- thinking I was being all original and creative- and then I read this. T_T Oh well. I'll probably do it anyway.

It does make sense though, for the original fairy tale, what they were doing all that time when he'd visit. In my children's story book from when I was five, it just says she sang to him. This makes MUCH more sense.
As much as I love the Disney version, this one is very good on its own more mature level.

The thing with Disney versions is that- in my humble opinion- that's all they are, versions of the story. And I do not think that people should hate their takes on the stories, but appreciate that they are suitable for children. And who knows? The Disney versions may lead people to research the original story. Case and point: Had it not been for 'Tangled', I would never have found your lovely re-telling of the original story. =)