Rapunzel is a classic fairytale that has captivated audiences for centuries, with its enchanting story of a beautiful girl with extraordinarily long hair who is imprisoned in a tower by an evil witch. While the story has been adapted and retold numerous times, its origins and the history behind its authors are just as fascinating as the tale itself. In this essay, we will delve into the roots of Rapunzel, its various versions, the authors behind the famous retellings, and the enduring impact of the story on our collective imagination.

Rapunzel's origins are deeply rooted in various cultural folk traditions, with early iterations of the story found in Italy, France, and even as far as the Middle East. The tale has evolved over time, taking on new elements and characteristics while retaining its central themes of love, imprisonment, and the triumph of good over evil. Some scholars even suggest that the story has connections to ancient Greek mythology and the myth of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by Hades and trapped in the underworld.


Some of the Authors that Developed Rapunzel

Giambattista Basile's "Petrosinella":In 1634, Giambattista Basile, an Italian poet, courtier, and fairy tale collector, published a collection of tales called "Lo cunto de li cunti" or "The Tale of Tales." This collection included the story of "Petrosinella," which is strikingly similar to the later Rapunzel story. In "Petrosinella," a pregnant woman craves parsley from the garden of an ogress. Her husband steals the parsley, and when caught, promises to give the ogress their unborn child. When Petrosinella grows up, she is imprisoned in a tower by the ogress. However, Petrosinella is ultimately able to escape with the help of a prince and cleverly outwits the ogress.

In 1698, French author Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force was a French noblewoman and writer who drew upon Basile's "Petrosinella" when she wrote her own version of the story "Persinette" In this tale, a fairy imprisons the protagonist in a tower to protect her from a curse. Like the later Rapunzel, Persinette has magical hair that grows very long, which she uses to let a prince climb into the tower. The story ends with a daring escape, as the couple outsmarts the fairy." Her rendition introduces new elements, including the magical powers of Persinette's tears, which later influenced the Brothers Grimm's version. De La Force's tale also emphasizes female agency, as Persinette is more proactive in her own rescue compared to earlier iterations of the story.

Friedrich Schulz influenced Brothers Grimm's "Rapunzel" adaptation of the story, published in 1790. Schulz's version, titled "Rapunzel," was a German adaptation of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force's "Persinette." The Grimm brothers were known to have collected and adapted various folktales, incorporating elements from multiple sources, and their version of Rapunzel was no exception.

Schulz's adaptation of the story was an important link between the earlier French and Italian versions and the later Grimm Brothers' version that became the most well-known iteration of the tale. While Schulz's retelling of Rapunzel is not as widely recognized as the Grimm brothers' version, it played a significant role in the development and popularization of the story in German-speaking regions and beyond.

Repunzal Rescue

The version of Rapunzel that is most familiar to modern audiences was published by the Brothers Grimm in their famous collection of German folktales, "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" (Children's and Household Tales), first released in 1812. The Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics and linguists who sought to preserve and promote traditional German stories and culture. Their retelling of Rapunzel features a pregnant woman who craves the rapunzel plant from the garden of a witch named Dame Gothel. The woman's husband steals the plant, and in exchange for his wife's life, he must give the witch their unborn child. When Rapunzel reaches adolescence, she is locked away in a high tower, and her hair becomes the only means of access to the tower.

The Grimm brothers' version of the story adds some darker elements, such as the prince being blinded by thorns when he falls from the tower, and the healing tears that restore his sight. However, their retelling retains the core themes of the earlier versions, such as love, courage, and the triumph of good over evil.

The Brothers Grimm's "Rapunzel" is the version of the tale that is so famous, largely because of their significant efforts to compile and preserve German folk stories. They were instrumental in shaping the modern perception of fairy tales as an important part of cultural heritage. Their version of Rapunzel is darker than previous versions, with the prince suffering a terrible fall and subsequent blindness, and Rapunzel giving birth to twins while in exile. This darker tone reflects the Grimm brothers' belief in the didactic power of fairy tales, which often included moral lessons and cautionary elements.

Here's What We Think!

The history of Rapunzel, as seen through its various authors and cultural origins, highlights the enduring power of fairy tales to captivate our imaginations and reflect the values and concerns of different societies. The story of Rapunzel has had a lasting impact on literature, art, and popular culture. It has been adapted into various formats, including stage plays, musicals, and animated films. One of the most famous adaptations is Disney's 2010 animated film "Tangled," which reimagines the story with a more modern and empowered heroine, as well as a comedic twist. The character of Rapunzel has become an iconic figure in the world of fairy tales, symbolizing the themes of captivity, longing, and the transformative power of love.

Here's What All The Fuss Is About
The Fairy Tale Rapunzel

There were once a man and a woman who had long, in vain, wished for a child. At length it appeared that God was about to grant their desire.

These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world.

One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion, and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it. She quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable.

Her husband was alarmed, and asked: 'What ails you, dear wife?'

'Ah,' she replied, 'if I can't eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.'

The man, who loved her, thought: 'Sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion yourself, let it cost what it will.'

At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her - so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before.

If he was to have any rest, her husband knew he must once more descend into the garden. Therefore, in the gloom of evening, he let himself down again; but when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him.

'How can you dare,' said she with angry look, 'descend into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for it!'

 'Ah,' answered he, 'let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.'

The enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him: 'If the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world; it shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.'

The man in his terror consented to everything.

When the baby was given to the woman in bed, the enchantress appeared at once, took the child and gave her the name of Rapunzel, and took it away with her.

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