SurLaLune Header Logo

This is an archived string from the
SurLaLune Fairy Tales Discussion Board.

Back to November 2000 Archives Table of Contents

Return to Board Archives Main Page

Visit the Current Discussions on EZBoard

Visit the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Main Page

Author Comment
Registered User
(11/1/00 1:09:19 am)
We talked a little about Rapunzel a while back (I recall Carrie talking about the symbolism of long hair)...but I'd like to re-introduce the subject. For those of you who have Snow White, Blood Red, Greg wrote "The Root of the Matter" in that volume, a wonderfully dark Rapunzel retelling. Another favorite Rapunzel is Elizabeth Lynn's charming Italian version of the tale, "The Princess in the Tower," published in the same volume. Carrie has been working on a lovely contemporary version of the tale that Midori and I have both read (and perhaps she'd allow others to see...?)

Does anyone have other favorite Rapunzel variants, or comments on the folktale? Greg, am I remembering correctly that your interest in this particular tale was sparked by Anne Sexton's Rapunzel poem...?

Edited by: Terri at: 11/1/00 1:13:08 am

Registered User
(11/1/00 6:47:26 am)
Yes, it was the Anne Sexton poem in particular. I was also reading Angela Carter and thinking that I wanted to do something in that vein with the story, and then in researching found out that the original Grimm Brothers version of the story had been bowdlerized after the very first printing. Finding out what had been “cleaned up” made everything else fall into place. So my spin on the story really was shaped by Sexton, Carter and sex.


Registered User
(11/1/00 9:07:37 am)
Rapunzel- screen and stage
I can't remember which versions I've read, but two performance versions come to mind. The first was for Shelly Duvall's Fairytale Theater (?). In her version, it is actually mentioned where Rapunzel's name comes from (an herb that her mother loved to eat while she was pregnant, stolen from the witch's garden). In all the versions I read as a child, this was never mentioned, only that she was taken away from her parents, placed in a tower with only one window, and focuses mostly on her and the prince, his eyes being scratched out by the briars (hmmm, such a rampantly growing plant in all these tales), and their reunion with her healing him with her tears. I can't remember if this version mentions the children or not.

The other one (as I so often love to bring it up) is from Sondheim's INTO THE WOODS.

(slightly scattered spoiler follows)

In his version, the witch RAPS in the beginning, telling the Baker and his wife, why they have no children. That she cursed his father for stealing her greens for his wife- in addition to taking the baby, the family tree would end with the Baker. The witch was originally a beautiful woman, made "ugly" when the Baker's father stole her magic beans (later to be used by Jack). One of the ingredients for a potion to lift the spell is "Hair as yellow as corn." By the end of the first act, we learn that the witch is loving and protective, while also jealous, and doesn't want to share Rapunzel with anyone, casting her out. She has the twins, rescues the prince, and they marry. In the second act, we find the prince has been unfaithful (good for the infidelity tales!) and seeking Snow White. Rapunzel has been subject to fits and moods, and runs off and under the foot of a giant. The prince ends up with Snow White. I can see if I can find that lovely link to the libretto later for any who want it.

Registered User
(11/1/00 9:33:55 am)
In the version that's come down to us and was used by both Duvall and Sondheim I believe, Rapunzel betrays her liaisons with the prince by saying to her captor, "Mother Gothel, you're much heavier to pull up than the prince." Not the brightest of girls, our revised Rapunzel.

In the original, however, she complains, "Mother Gothel, my clothes no longer fit me." She's been having sex with the prince. She's pregnant. But the old woman has withheld all information about men, sex, and procreation from the girl; so originally Rapunzel's ignorance is the fault of her captor, who has operated under the lie that she has sequestered the girl for her own good.


Unregistered User
(11/1/00 11:44:26 am)
Don't forget Napoli's Zel
That about says it all. It has become my favorite version of the tale.

And does anyone have a favorite picture book version of the tale? Such as Trina Hyman or Paul Zelinsky's versions? In other words, they are my two favorites. It has been very frustrating to find illustrations for my art galley for this tale since usually only the tower and the hair are portrayed in one illustration by the "classic" illustrators if they did one at all. Kay Nielsen's image of the witch cutting the hair is refreshing as a result.

I will reread the short stories tonight for bed time reading. I just finished rereading Touch Magic--the new version. It was even better this time.

Unregistered User
(11/1/00 1:49:53 pm)
the middle-aged witch
Greg's "The Root of the Matter" is indeed a very wonderful piece. I am also a great admirer of Anne Sexton's "Rapunzel"- one of my favourite SExton poems. IT's also deeply autobiographical, as are many of the pieces in Transformations. I think it's interesting if you read the poems in conjunction with Diane Wood Middlebrook's biography- which is fascinating, not only for the quality of the scholarship but also for the unusually extensive access Sexton's family gave Middlebrook to her papers and their lack of concern for securing a favourable representation.
I associate Pelleas and Melisande very closely with Rapunzel- I almost consider it a variant of sorts...


Registered User
(11/1/00 2:49:12 pm)
"so originally Rapunzel's ignorance is the fault of her captor, who has operated under the lie that she has sequestered the girl for her own good."

This reminds me of what the witch sings to Rapunzel in the show, that she doesn't know what's out there, and is better off in the tower:

Stay With Me
Witch: What did I clearly say?
Children must listen.
Rapunzel: No, no, please!
Witch: What were you not to do?
Children must see--
Rapunzel: No!
Witch: And learn.
Why could you not obey?
Children should listen.
What have I been to you?
What would you have me be?
Handsome like a Prince?
Ah, but I am old.
I am ugly.
I embarrass you.
Rapunzel: No!
Witch: You are ashamed of me.
Rapunzel: No!
Witch: You are ashamed.
You don't understand.
Rapunzel: It was lonely atop that tower.
Witch: I was not company enough?
Rapunzel: I am no longer a child; I wish to see the world!

Witch: Don't you know what's out there in the world?
Someone has to shield you from the world.
Stay with me.
Princes wait there in the world, it's true.
Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too.
Stay at home.
I am home.
Who out there could love you more than I?
What out there that I cannot supply?
Stay with me.
Stay with me,
The world is dark and wild.
Stay a child, while you can be a child.
With me.

And still, she grieves when she dies, is not angry at her, only sad:

Children can only grow
From something you love,
To something you lose!

Unregistered User
(11/1/00 7:11:29 pm)
My own interests in this fairy tale deal with the hair images. In my own version, which has transformed into something not quite Rapunzel, I seem stuck on the sexuality of a woman's hair. I merged the witch and the prince -- after all I see them as different versions of her oppression. I re-read Greg's version this morning. How beautiful indeed!

If anyone is interested in seeing my story, just let me know and I'll e-mail it.

On another note, I was reading another tale that dealt with food obsessions. But I'm drawing a blank. Let me see if I can find it. Isn't it interesting that the woman who lost the child to the witch -- lost her because of a craving in pregnancy? And then to see the craving of both the witch and the prince of the girl of the same name. Interesting indeed.

Speaking of names -- Greg, I noticed that you named rapunzel -- harebell root. I've been unable to find what rapunzel really is. I was wondering if you discovered why the original author chose this plant. I couldn't find it or its magical or medicinal meanings in any of my horticulture books. Any ideas? I'm wondering if its root (no pun intended) word is rape. That could put an interesting spin on it. Also why do you think Rapunzel is blond? There has to be a reason. Perhaps her golden hair is reminiscent of the sun -- being in the tower that reaches to the sky.

Just thoughts... reactions?


Registered User
(11/1/00 7:19:00 pm)
Rapunzel's root
Thanks for your compliments. And I'd love to see your story (
I'm sorry that I can't remember all the etymology behind the "rapunzel" term. It's a few years since I dug through the background on the story, but the root as I recall has more than one name. I'll have to look this all up again and report back to you. I don't remember there being a connection to "rape." I think I would have hit readers over the head with it had there been.


Registered User
(11/1/00 7:47:25 pm)
Rapunzel's Root
I believe, and I did some quick web research to back this up, that Rapunzel is the German name for Rampion - rampion bellflower, Campanula rapunculus.

Unregistered User
(11/2/00 4:41:15 am)
rampion and roots
Greg: I just went back and re-read your Root of the Matter. A wonderful story, and truly in the Angela Carter tradition. I'm also quite fond of your version of The Tin Soldier in Black Swan, White Raven, which has long been a favorite tale of mine. (And one we haven't discussed on this board, have we?)

And I agree with Heidi, Donna Jo Napoli's novel-length version of Rapunzel is to die for.

Are you all familiar with the Rapunzel poem by Olga Broumas, published in Beginning With O?
Here are a few lines:

...How many women
have yearned
for our lush perennial, found

themselves pregnant, and had
to subdue their heat, drown out their appetite
with pickles and harsh weeds. How man
grew to confuse greed
with hunger, learned to grow thin on the bitter
root, the mandrake, on their sills...


Does anyone know if she's published any more fairy tale poetry since Beginning with O?
Kate or Terri: is Broumas another one of the many fairy tale writers you two know between you?

Unregistered User
(11/2/00 4:50:30 am)

I just saw a complete collection of Broumas' work out on the shelves at the bookstore. Started reading through it...fabulous. A lot of it had been out of print for a while so it was wonderful to see it altogether again in a big fat edition.

Registered User
(11/2/00 6:56:27 am)
Broumas and Napoli
Midori & Jenna,
Thanks for the information about the Broumas collection.
Now I'll have to hunt it up.

Regarding Donna Jo Napoli, I think her SIRENA is an absolutely brilliant book as well. She's a local pro for me--teaching at Swarthmore not far from where I live. I did a reading with her early last year, and she read a chapter from that book. I'd become a devoted fan before she finished.


Registered User
(11/3/00 12:54:04 am)
Broumas and Napoli
I didn't know there was a new edition of poetry by Broumas out -- good heavens, my list of books to track down is growing longer by the minute! I adore her work. But no, Jenna, I don't know her personally, alas.

Greg, if you bump into Donna Jo Napoli again, do let her know she has a group of hardcore fans here! I've loved absolutely everything I've ever read by her.

Registered User
(11/3/00 7:02:06 am)
She is doing a group signing tonight at a Children's bookshop near my home. If I see her there, I will not only give her your regards, I'll hand off this site address and let her lurk if nothing else.


Unregistered User
(11/3/00 1:56:53 pm)
Bulgarian tale
This isn't a rapunzel tale but I just came across "princess in a tower" story while I was searching for Bulgarian monsters.
It's a tale about how a queen heard the destinies fortell that her daughter would die from a snake bite (actually this is reminding me of sleeping beauty). The king had a tower built for her and shut up his daughter and ordered her brothers to watch over her day and night. When she got married, the bridegroom brought her some grapes, but among them was a small snake. it bit her and the destinies' prediction came true.
Just thought I'd throw this out.


Registered User
(11/3/00 2:35:24 pm)
Ladies in towers...waiting...

Hmmm, this reminds me of the discussion I started about locked-up ladies:


Does anyone think The Lady of Shallott story is related to Rapunzel?

Unregistered User
(11/6/00 8:35:10 pm)
lady of shalott/rapunzel...hmmmmmmmm
I had never given that a thought before, but I can defintely see the possiblilities there. The tower, the restrictions, the seclusion....The Lady of Shalott hardly has that comfortable ending of love conquering all, but the hex of leaving the tower or even gazing down out of the tower and the "curse" as consequence could link them together.
One of my own personal favorite versions of a Rapunzel twist is "The Golden Rope" by Tanith Lee, a provocative and dark telling, in a surrealistic fashion. But Tanith does have that desired affect, doesn't she?

SurLaLune Logo

amazon logo with link

This is an archived string from the
SurLaLune Fairy Tales Discussion Board.

©2000 SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages

Back to November 2000 Archives Table of Contents

Return to Board Archives Main Page

Visit the Current Discussions on EZBoard

Visit the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Main Page