Rapunzel

Nov 9, 2011 by


Rapunzel, from the 1914 Cupples & Leon edition...

Rapunzel, from the 1914 Cupples & Leon edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustrated by Johnny Gruelle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ONCE upon a time there lived a man and his wife who were very unhappy
because they had no children. These good people had a little window at
the back of their house, which looked into the most lovely garden, full
of all manner of beautiful flowers and vegetables; but the garden was
surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to enter it, for it belonged
to a witch of great power, who was feared by the whole world. One day
the woman stood at the window overlooking the garden, and saw there a
bed full of the finest rampion: the leaves looked so fresh and green
that she longed to eat them. The desire grew day by day, and just
because she knew she couldn’t possibly get any, she pined away and
became quite pale and wretched. Then her husband grew alarmed and said:

‘What ails you, dear wife?’

‘Oh,’ she answered, ‘if I don’t get some rampion to eat out of the
garden behind the house, I know I shall die.’

The man, who loved her dearly, thought to himself, ‘Come! rather than
let your wife die you shall fetch her some rampion, no matter the
cost.’ So at dusk he climbed over the wall into the witch’s garden, and,
hastily gathering a handful of rampion leaves, he returned with them
to his wife. She made them into a salad, which tasted so good that her
longing for the forbidden food was greater than ever. If she were to
know any peace of mind, there was nothing for it but that her husband
should climb over the garden wall again, and fetch her some more. So
at dusk over he got, but when he reached the other side he drew back in
terror, for there, standing before him, was the old witch.

‘How dare you,’ she said, with a wrathful glance, ‘climb into my garden
and steal my rampion like a common thief? You shall suffer for your
foolhardiness.’

‘Oh!’ he implored, ‘pardon my presumption; necessity alone drove me to
the deed. My wife saw your rampion from her window, and conceived such
a desire for it that she would certainly have died if her wish had not
been gratified.’ Then the Witch’s anger was a little appeased, and she
said:

‘If it’s as you say, you may take as much rampion away with you as you
like, but on one condition only–that you give me the child your wife
will shortly bring into the world. All shall go well with it, and I will
look after it like a mother.’

The man in his terror agreed to everything she asked, and as soon as
the child was born the Witch appeared, and having given it the name of
Rapunzel, which is the same as rampion, she carried it off with her.

Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve
years old the Witch shut her up in a tower, in the middle of a great
wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor doors, only high up at the
very top a small window. When the old Witch wanted to get in she stood
underneath and called out:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

for Rapunzel had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine as spun gold.
Whenever she heard the Witch’s voice she unloosed her plaits, and let
her hair fall down out of the window about twenty yards below, and the
old Witch climbed up by it.

After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one day that
a Prince was riding through the wood and passed by the tower. As he
drew near it he heard someone singing so sweetly that he stood still
spell-bound, and listened. It was Rapunzel in her loneliness trying to
while away the time by letting her sweet voice ring out into the wood.
The Prince longed to see the owner of the voice, but he sought in vain
for a door in the tower. He rode home, but he was so haunted by the song
he had heard that he returned every day to the wood and listened. One
day, when he was standing thus behind a tree, he saw the old Witch
approach and heard her call out:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair.’

Then Rapunzel let down her plaits, and the Witch climbed up by them.

‘So that’s the staircase, is it?’ said the Prince. ‘Then I too will
climb it and try my luck.’

So on the following day, at dusk, he went to the foot of the tower and
cried:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

and as soon as she had let it down the Prince climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man came in, for she
had never seen one before; but the Prince spoke to her so kindly, and
told her at once that his heart had been so touched by her singing, that
he felt he should know no peace of mind till he had seen her. Very
soon Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he asked her to marry him she
consented at once. ‘For,’ she thought, ‘he is young and handsome, and
I’ll certainly be happier with him than with the old Witch.’ So she put
her hand in his and said:

‘Yes, I will gladly go with you, only how am I to get down out of the
tower? Every time you come to see me you must bring a skein of silk with
you, and I will make a ladder of them, and when it is finished I will
climb down by it, and you will take me away on your horse.’

They arranged that till the ladder was ready, he was to come to her
every evening, because the old woman was with her during the day. The
old Witch, of course, knew nothing of what was going on, till one day
Rapunzel, not thinking of what she was about, turned to the Witch and
said:

‘How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up than the
young Prince? He is always with me in a moment.’

‘Oh! you wicked child,’ cried the Witch. ‘What is this I hear? I thought
I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in spite of it you
have managed to deceive me.’

In her wrath she seized Rapunzel’s beautiful hair, wound it round and
round her left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in her right,
snip snap, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. And,
worse than this, she was so hard-hearted that she took Rapunzel to
a lonely desert place, and there left her to live in loneliness and
misery.

But on the evening of the day in which she had driven poor Rapunzel
away, the Witch fastened the plaits on to a hook in the window, and when
the Prince came and called out:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

she let them down, and the Prince climbed up as usual, but instead
of his beloved Rapunzel he found the old Witch, who fixed her evil,
glittering eyes on him, and cried mockingly:

‘Ah, ah! you thought to find your lady love, but the pretty bird has
flown and its song is dumb; the cat caught it, and will scratch out
your eyes too. Rapunzel is lost to you for ever–you will never see her
more.’

The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he jumped
right down from the tower, and, though he escaped with his life, the
thorns among which he fell pierced his eyes out. Then he wandered, blind
and miserable, through the wood, eating nothing but roots and berries,
and weeping and lamenting the loss of his lovely bride. So he wandered
about for some years, as wretched and unhappy as he could well be, and
at last he came to the desert place where Rapunzel was living. Of a
sudden he heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to him. He
walked eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when he was quite
close, Rapunzel recognized him and fell on his neck and wept. But two
of her tears touched his eyes, and in a moment they became quite clear
again, and he saw as well as he had ever done. Then he led her to his
kingdom, where they were received and welcomed with great joy, and they
lived happily ever after.(23)

(23) Grimm

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