The young woman Rapunzel locked up in a tower. No way in, no way out, except climbing her hair. How? Why? And what’s next?
Rapunzel is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a young woman, named after a vegetable her parents stole. As punishement they had to give her up to a sorceress who locked her in a tower. A prince climbs up her long braided hair and they fall in love. The sorceress attacks them. Only years later they find happiness together again.
A woman desires rapunzel
Once upon a time there were a man and a woman who for a long time wished to get a child. At last the woman hoped that God was about to grant her desire.
Now these people had a little window at the back of their house. Through it you could see a amazing garden, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was surrounded by a high wall. No one dared to go into the garden because it belonged to an sorceress with great power. She was feared by everybody.
One day the woman was standing by this window and looked down into the garden. She saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rapunzel (a kind of lettuce). It looked so fresh and green that she longed for it and greatly desired to eat some.
Every day the desire to eat this rapunzel grew and grew. As she knew she could not get any of it, she became weaker and weaker, looking pale and miserable.
Her husband was worried and asked her, “What is happening, dear wife?”
“Ah,” she replied, “if I can’t get some of the rapunzel growing in the garden behind our house and eat it, I shall die.”
The husband gets the rapunzel
The man loved her and he thought, “Everything is better than the death of my beloved. Let me get her some of the rapunzel myself, whatever it will cost.”
So in the twilight of the evening he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the sorceress. He hastily got a handful of rapunzel and took it to his wife. She immediately made herself a salad of it and enjoyed eating it a lot.
She liked it so much, so very much, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. To have any rest, her husband had to descend into the garden once more.
In the gloom of evening he let himself down again. When he had clambered down he became terribly afraid, because the sorceress was standing right before him.
The sorceress confronts the husband
“How dare you,” she said with an angry look, “to descend into my garden and steal my rapunzel like a thief? You shall suffer for it!”
“Ah,” he answered, “please be merciful, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rapunzel from the window and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.”
The sorceress calmed her anger and said to him, “If that’s true, I will allow you to take as much rapunzel as you want, only on 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 agreed to everything. When the woman gave birth, the sorceress appeared at once. She gave the child the name Rapunzel and took it away with her.
Rapunzel is locked up in the tower
Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child beneath the sun.
When she was twelve years old the sorceress shut her into a tower. The tower was in a forest and had stairs and no door. The only way in or out was through a little window at the top of the tower.
When the sorceress wanted to go in, she stood beneath the window and shouted,
Let down your hair to me.”
Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold. Whenever she heard the voice of the sorceress she unfastened her braided tresses and wound them around one of the hooks of the window above. Her hair would fall down, twenty meters to the ground. The sorceress would climb up by it.
The King’s son visits Rapunzel
After some years a King’s son rode through the forest and went by the tower. Suddenly he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. It was Rapunzel, who in her solitude sang with her sweet voice to pass the time.
The King’s son wanted to climb up to her and looked for the door of the tower, but there was no door. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it. Once when he was listening, standing behind a tree, he saw a sorceress arriving and heard her shout out,
Let down your hair to me.”
Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair and the sorceress climbed up to her.
“If that is the ladder by which you go up, I will try my luck too,” he said. The next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and shouted,
Let down your hair to me.”
Immediately the hair fell down and the King’s son climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened. A man as she had never seen came to her!
But the King’s son began to talk to her like a friend. He told her that his heart had been so stirred that he had no rest, he had to see her.
Rapunzel lost her fear and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought, “He will love me more than the old Dame Gothel does.”
She said yes and laid her hand in his. “I will come with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring me a strand of silk every time when you come. I will weave a ladder with it. When it’s ready I will descend and you can take me with you on your horse.”
They agreed that until then hoe would come to her every evening, because the old woman came by day.
The sorceress finds out about the visits of the prince
The sorceress had no clue, until once Rapunzel said to her, “Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young King’s son—he is with me in a moment?”
“Ah! You wicked child,” cried the sorceress, “What are you saying? I thought I had separated you from all the world, but still you have deceived me.”
In her anger she clutched Rapunzel’s beautiful tresses. She wrapped them twice around her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off. The lovely braids fell to the ground. She was so pitiless that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.
That evening the sorceress fastened the braids of hair which she had cut off to the hook of the window. When the King’s son came and shouted,
Let down your hair to me,”
she let the hair down. The King’s son climbed up, but he did not find his dearest Rapunzel above. He found the sorceress, gazing at him with wicked and venomous looks.
The prince becomes blind
“Aha!” she cried mockingly, “You came for your dear love, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest. The cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is lost to you; you will never see her again.”
The King’s son was beside himself with pain. In his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes.
He wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries and did nothing but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife-to-be.
He roamed about in misery for years. At last he came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness.
He heard a voice which seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it. When he approached Rapunzel recognized him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes. They grew clear again and he could see with them as before.
He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received. They lived for a long time afterwards, happy and content.
Tips for Telling
- The first part of this fairy tale is basically explaining the name of Rapunzel. You could shorten the telling of the tale by simply omitting this part and starting with something like: “Once upon a time a young woman was locked in a high tower by a sorceress…”
- There are things happening in this tower, resulting in twins. When telling to a mixed audience of adults and children you can play with this by using some suggestive comments.
- When telling the first part of the story, it is useful for your listeners to know what rapunzel is. It is some kind of lettuce (see also the FAQ down below). Why not take some lettuce with you to show at the start of your story?
All Questions Answered
Rapunzel as we know it was written down by the Brothers Grimm. They discovered this tale in the writings of Friedrich Schultz, and rightly recognized it as a tale being told in the oral tradition.
The Brothers Grimm collected this story and wrote it down in 1812. In subsequent editions of their collection they rewrote the tale, changing and adding to it.
Rapunzel gives birth to twins in the desert. The prince is wandering around blind for years, but he recognizes her singing. Her tears restore his eyesight. They go to his kingdom and live happily ever after.
Yes, in 2010 Disney released a movie called ‘Tangled’ or ‘Rapunzel’. You can find more about it on IMDb.
Field salad (Valerianella locusta) is known as Rapunzel Lettuce. It is used like lettuce in a salad. The rapunzel in the fairy tale could also be Campanula Rapunculus, an edible green vegetable used in salads.
Yes, we know she did, because at the end of the story she gives birth to twins. In earlier versions of the story it is more clear that she is pregnant, because she asks the sorceress why her clothes don’t fit anymore.
She didn’t. Well, at least not in the fairy tale. It ends with her and the prince living happily ever after.