"Rapunzel" (/rəˈpʌnzəl/; German: [ʁaˈpʊnt͡səl]) is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children's and Household Tales.[citation needed] The Grimm Brothers' story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Rapunzel by (J. Achim Christoph) Friedrich Schulz published in his collection Kleine Romane (German: Little Romances (1790).[1] The Schulz version is based on Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698[2] which in turn was influenced by an even earlier Italian tale, Petrosinella by Giambattista Basile, published in 1634.[3] Its plot has been used and parodied in various media and its best known line ("Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair") is an idiom of popular culture. In volume I of the 1812 annotations (Anhang), it is listed as coming from Friedrich Schulz's Kleine Romane, Book 5, pp. 269–288, published in Leipzig 1790.

Stamps of Germany (DDR) 1978, MiNr 2383.jpg
Illustration of Rapunzel and the witch on a 1978 East German stamp
AuthorUnknown but collected by the Brothers Grimm
GenreFairy tale
Publication date
Media typePrint

In the Aarne–Thompson classification system for folktales it is type 310, "The Maiden in The Tower".[4]

Andrew Lang included it in The Red Fairy Book.[5] Other versions of the tale also appear in A Book of Witches by Ruth Manning-Sanders and in Paul O. Zelinsky's 1997 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, Rapunzel and the Disney movie Tangled.

Rapunzel's story has striking similarities to the Persian tale of Rudāba, included in the epic poem Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. Rudāba offers to let down her hair from her tower so that her lover Zāl can climb up to her.[6] Some elements of the fairy tale might also have originally been based upon the tale of Saint Barbara, who was said to have been locked in a tower by her father.[7]

Some researchers also proposed a connection to pre-Christian European (or proto-Indo-European) sun or dawn goddess myths, in which the light deity is trapped and is rescued.[8][9][10] Extremely similar myths include that of the Baltic solar goddess Saulė, who is held captive in a tower by a king.[10]


Illustration by Johnny Gruelle

A lonely couple, who want a child, live next to a walled garden belonging to a sorceress.[11] The wife, experiencing the cravings associated with the arrival of her long-awaited pregnancy, notices some rapunzel (a salad green in most translated-to-English versions)[12] growing in the nearby garden and longs for it. She refuses to eat anything else and begins to waste away, and the husband begins to fear for her life-- one night he decides to break into the garden to get some for her. When he returns, she makes a salad out of it and greedily eats it. It tastes so good that she longs for more. So her husband goes to get some more for her. As he scales the wall to return home, the sorceress catches him and accuses him of theft. He begs for mercy, and she agrees to be lenient, and allows him to take all the rapunzel he wants, on condition that the baby be given to her when it's born.[13] Desperate, he agrees. When his wife has a baby girl, the sorceress takes her to raise as her own and names her "Rapunzel" after the plant her mother craved. She grows up to be the most beautiful child in the world, with long golden hair.[14] When she turns twelve, the sorceress locks her up inside a tower[15] in the middle of the woods, with neither stairs nor a door, and only one room and one window. In order to visit Rapunzel, the sorceress stands beneath the tower and calls out:

Let down your hair
That I may climb thy golden stair![16]

One day, a prince rides through the forest and hears Rapunzel singing from the tower. Entranced by her ethereal voice, he searches for her and discovers the tower, but is naturally unable to enter it. He returns often, listening to her beautiful singing, and one day sees the sorceress visit, and thus learns how to gain access to Rapunzel. When the sorceress leaves, he bids Rapunzel let her hair down. When she does so, he climbs up and they fall in love. He eventually asks her to marry him, which she agrees to.

Together they plan a means of escape, wherein he will come each night (thus avoiding the sorceress who visits her by day), and bring Rapunzel a piece of silk, which she will gradually weave into a ladder. Before the plan can come to fruition, however, she foolishly gives him away. In the first edition (1812) of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (German: Children's and Household Tales, most commonly known in English as Grimm's Fairy Tales), she innocently says that her dress is growing tighter around her waist (hinting pregnancy);[17] in later editions, she asks "Dame Gothel"[18] (in a moment of forgetfulness) why it is easier for her to draw up the prince than her.[19] In anger, she cuts off a majority of Rapunzel's hair and casts her out into the wilderness to fend for herself.

When the prince calls that night, the sorceress lets the severed hair down to haul him up. To his horror, he finds himself meeting her instead of Rapunzel, who is nowhere to be found. After she tells him in a rage that he will never see Rapunzel again, he leaps or falls from the tower, landing in a thorn bush. Although the thorn bush breaks his fall and saves his life, it scratches his eyes and blinds him.

For years, he wanders through the wastelands of the country and eventually comes to the wilderness where Rapunzel now lives with the twins to whom she has given birth, a boy and a girl. One day, as she sings, he hears her voice again, and they are reunited. When they fall into each other's arms, her tears immediately restore his sight. He leads her and their twins to his kingdom,[20] where they live happily ever after.

In some versions of the story, Rapunzel's hair magically grows back after the prince touches it.

Another version of the story ends with the revelation that her foster mother had untied Rapunzel's hair after the prince leapt from the tower, and it slipped from her hands and landed far below, leaving her trapped in the tower.[21]

Themes and characterizationEdit

Rapunzel in Dresden, Saxony, Germany

The seemingly uneven bargain with which "Rapunzel" opens is a common convention in fairy tales which is replicated in "Jack and the Beanstalk", Jack trades a cow for beans, and in "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty comes to the Beast in return for a rose.[22] Folkloric beliefs often regarded it as quite dangerous to deny a pregnant woman any food she craved. Family members would often go to great lengths to secure such cravings.[23] Such desires for lettuce and like vegetables may indicate a need on her part for vitamins.[24]

An influence on Grimm's Rapunzel was Petrosinella or Parsley, written by Giambattista Basile in his collection of fairy tales in 1634, Lo cunto de li cunti (The Story of Stories), or Pentamerone. This tells a similar tale of a pregnant woman desiring some parsley from the garden of an ogress[25], getting caught, and having to promise the ogress her baby. The encounters between the prince and the maiden in the tower are described in quite bawdy language. A similar story was published in France by Mademoiselle de la Force, called "Persinette". As Rapunzel did in the first edition of the Brothers Grimm, Persinette becomes pregnant during the course of the prince's visits.[19]


Literary mediaEdit

Anne Sexton wrote a poem called "Rapunzel" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.[26]

Cress the third book in the Lunar Chronicles is a young adult science fiction media of Rapunzel written by Marissa Meyer. Crescent, aka "Cress" is a prisoner on a satellite who is rescued and falls in love with her hero "Capt. Thorne" amidst the story about "Cinder" a cyborg version of Cinderella. Lunar Chronicles is a tetralogy with a futuristic take on classic fairy tales which also include characters such as "Cinder" (Cinderella), "Scarlet" (Red Riding Hood) and "Winter" (Snow White).

Kate Forsyth has written a book that contains both commentary on the story and a retelling, set in the Antipodes.[27] She described it as "a story that reverberates very strongly with any individual -- male or female, child or adult -- who has found themselves trapped by their circumstances, whether this is caused by the will of another, or their own inability to change and grow" (p. 7).

In Nikita Gill's 2018 poetry collection "Fierce Fairytales: & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul" she has several poems that reference Rapunzel or Rapunzel's story including "Rapunzel's Note Left for Mother Gothel" and "Rapunzel, Rapunzel."[28]

In 2019, Simon Hood published a contemporary retelling of Rapunzel[29]. Both the language and the illustrations modernised the story, while the plot itself remained close to traditional versions.

Film mediaEdit

  • A live action version was filmed for television as part of Shelley Duvall's series Faerie Tale Theatre, airing on Showtime. It aired on 5 February 1983. In it, the main character, Rapunzel (Shelley Duvall), is taken from her mother (Shelley Duvall) and father (Jeff Bridges) by an evil witch (Gena Rowlands), and is brought up in an isolated tower that can only be accessed by climbing her unnaturally long hair. Jeff Bridges played the prince and also Rapunzel's father, Shelley Duvall played Rapunzel and also Rapunzel's mother, Gena Rowlands played the witch, and Roddy McDowall narrated.
  • The story is retold in a second season (1987) episode of Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, aka Grimm Masterpiece Theatre.[30]
  • A 1988 German film adaption, Rapunzel oder Der Zauber der Tränen [de] (meaning "Rapunzel or the Magic of Tears"), combines the story with the lesser known Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen. After escaping the tower, Rapunzel finds work as a kitchen maid in the prince's court, where she must contend with an evil princess who aims to marry him.
  • A 1990 straight-to-video animated film adaption by Hanna-Barbera and Hallmark Cards, simply titled Rapunzel,[31] featured Olivia Newton-John narrating the story. The major difference between it and the Grimm fairy tale is that instead of making the prince blind, the evil witch transforms him into a bird, possibly a reference to The Blue Bird, a French variant of the story.
  • Into the Woods is a musical combining elements from several classic fairy tales, in which Rapunzel is one of the main characters; it was also filmed for television[32] in 1991 by American Playhouse. The story depicts Rapunzel as the adoptive daughter of the Witch that the Baker (Rapunzel’s younger brother, unbeknownst to him) is getting some items from who is later rescued by a prince. In the second half of the play, Rapunzel is killed by the Giant's Wife. The Witch then grieves for her and sings, "Witch’s Lament."
    • A film adaptation by The Walt Disney Company was released late in 2014[33] where Rapunzel is portrayed by Mackenzie Mauzy. The difference from the play is that Rapunzel is not killed by the Giant's Wife. Instead, she rides off into the woods with her prince in order to distance herself from the Witch that raised her.
  • In Barbie as Rapunzel (2002), Rapunzel was raised by the evil witch Gothel (voiced by Anjelica Huston) and she acted as a servant for her. She uses a magic paintbrush to get out of captivity, but Gothel locks her away in a tower.
  • In Shrek the Third (2007), Rapunzel (voiced by Maya Rudolph) was friends with Princess Fiona. She is shown to be the true love of the evil Prince Charming and helps to fool Princess Fiona and her group when they try to escape from Prince Charming's wrath.
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios' Tangled (2010), which is a loose retelling and a computer animated musical feature film. Princess Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is more assertive in character, and was born a princess. Her long blonde hair has magical healing and restoration powers. A woman named Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy) kidnaps Rapunzel for her magical hair which would help maintain her youth. Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert (voiced by Zachary Levi) is an elusive thief who replaces the prince.[34] Rapunzel also features in Disney's Tangled short sequel, Tangled Ever After.

Television mediaEdit

Shirley Temple's Storybook featured an media of Rapunzel in an episode which aired on 27 October 1958. Carol Lynley played Rapunzel and Agnes Moorehead the evil witch.

Sesame Street has a "News Flash" skit with Kermit the Frog where he interviews the Prince trying to charm Rapunzel with the famous line. However, she is having a hard time hearing him and when she finally does understand him, she literally lets all her hair fall down (completely off her head), leaving the prince confused as to what to do now.

In the U.S. TV animated anthology series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1.8, Rapunzel), the classic story is retold with a full African-American cast and set in New Orleans. The episode starred Tisha Campbell-Martin as Rapunzel, Whoopi Goldberg as Zenobia the Hoodoo Diva, Meshach Taylor as Woodcutter, Hazelle Goodman as Woodcutter's Wife, Donald Fullilove as Friend #1, and Tico Wells as Friend #2.

In the American Fairytale Miniseries, The Tenth Kingdom, the main character, Virginia Lewis is cursed by a Gypsy witch. As a result, she grows hair reminiscent of Rapunzel's and is locked away by the Huntsman in a tower. Her only means of escape is by letting her hair down through the window of the tower so that the Wolf can climb up and rescue her. Not before he asks the iconic phrase, in his own way, "Love of my life, let down your lustrous locks!". The character, Rapunzel is also mentioned as being one of the great women who changed history. And was Queen of the sixth Kingdom before eventually succumbing to old age.

In the Mattel cartoon Ever After High, Rapunzel has two daughters: Holly O'Hair and Poppy O'Hair.

Rapunzel appears in the Once Upon a Time episode "The Tower", portrayed by Alexandra Metz. In this show, Rapunzel is a young woman who becomes trapped in a large tower for many years, after she searched for a plant called "nightroot" which would remove her fear of becoming Queen following her brother's death. Because of this, she owns extremely long hair. However, it is revealed that consuming the substance instead creates a doppelgänger fear spirit who represents all of the person's worst fears. After Prince Charming begins to fear that he will not make a good father to his and Snow White's baby, Robin Hood tells him where to find night-root. He then climbs the tower and eventually helps Rapunzel face her fears by facing what truly scares her: herself. Presented with her own doppelganger, she is encouraged by David and cuts off her hair, killing the figure and allowing her freedom. She explains to David that her brother died trying to save her, and her doubts that her parents will forgive her. Again encouraged by David, he returns her to their palace where she reunites with her accepting parents.

Tangled: The Series is a 2D animated TV show based on Disney Animation's computer animated musical feature film Tangled. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi reprise their roles of Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert. A new main character named Cassandra appears, who is Rapunzel's feisty lady-in-waiting. The series has a feature-length movie titled Tangled: Before Ever After.

In one episode of Happy Tree Friends entitled Dunce Upon a Time, Petunia has very long hair which Giggles uses to slide down on as a brief Rapunzel reference.

A second iteration of Rapunzel appears as one of the main antagonists in the seventh season of Once Upon a Time, portrayed by Gabrielle Anwar and Meegan Warner in flashbacks. In this season, Rapunzel is Lady Tremaine, the wicked stepmother to Cinderella. In the past, Rapunzel had two daughters named Anastasia and Drizella, and made a deal with Mother Gothel to be locked in a tower in exchange for the safety of her family. Six years later, Rapunzel frees herself and when she returns to her family, she discovers she has gained a stepdaughter named Ella. At some point, Anastasia dies and Rapunzel blames her husband for the incident while Ella blames herself. Gothel plans to put Anastasia in the tower, but Rapunzel managed to turn the tables and lock Gothel in instead. Rapunzel plots to revive Anastasia by using the heart of Drizella, whom she favors least of the two daughters. Drizella discovers this and decides to get revenge on her mother by casting the Dark Curse. She allies with Mother Gothel and sends the New Enchanted Forest residents to Hyperion Heights in Seattle. Rapunzel is awake from the curse, but lives as Victoria Belfrey and is given new memories making her believe she cast the curse to save Anastasia, while Drizella lives as Ivy Belfrey, her assistant and daughter. Cinderella and her daughter are also brought over by the curse. Rapunzel/Victoria manages to lock Gothel away in Belfrey Towers.

The Japanese anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics features the tale in its second season. It gives more spotlight to Rapunzel's parents, who are the local blacksmith and his wife, and it makes Gothel more openly villainous.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Oliver Loo (2015) Rapunzel 1790 A New Translation of the Tale by Friedrich Schulz, Amazon, ISBN 978-1507639566. ASIN: B00T27QFRO
  2. ^ Jack Zipes (1991) Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture, Viking, p. 794, ISBN 0670830534.
  3. ^ "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair". Terri Windling.
  4. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales"
  5. ^ Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book, "Rapunzel"
  6. ^ Rapunzal? iranian.com, 9 November 2009.
  7. ^ A Day to Honor Saint Barbara. Folkstory.com (30 November 1997). Retrieved on 6 April 2013.
  8. ^ Wolf D. Storl, A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes, North Atlantic Books, 14/06/2016
  9. ^ Dexter, Miriam Robbins (1984), "Proto-Indo-European Sun Maidens and Gods of the Moon", Mankind Quarterly, 25 (1 & 2): 137–144
  10. ^ a b Beresnevičius, Gintaras (2004). Lietuvių religija ir mitologija: sisteminė studija (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Tyto alba. p. 19. ISBN 9986-16-389-7.
  11. ^ In the version of the story given by J. Achim Christoph Friedrich Schulz in his Kleine Romane (1790), which was the Grimms' direct source, the owner of the garden is a fairy ("Fee"), and also appears as such in the Grimms' first edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812); by the final edition of 1857 the Grimms had deliberately Germanized the story by changing her to the more Teutonic "sorceress" ("Zauberin"), just as they had changed the original "prince" ("Prinz") to the Germanic "son of a king" ("Königssohn"). At no point, however, do they refer to her as a "witch" (German: Hexe), despite the common modern impression.
  12. ^ Rapunzel. german.berkeley.edu, adapted from: Rinkes, Kathleen J. Translating Rapunzel; A very Long Process. 17 April 2001.
  13. ^ In some variants of the story, the request takes a more riddling form, e. g., the foster mother demands "that which is under your belt." In other variants, the mother, worn out by the squalling of the child, wishes for someone to take it away, whereupon the figure of the foster-mother appears to claim it. Cf. the Grimms' annotations to Rapunzel (Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1856), Vol. III, p. 22.)
  14. ^ In Schulz, this is caused by the fairy herself, who sprinkles the child with a "precious liquid/perfume/ointment" (German: kostbaren Wasser). Her hair according to Schulz is thirty ells long (112 1/2 feet or 34.29 meters), but not at all uncomfortable for her to wear (Kleine Romane, p. 277); in the Grimms it hangs twenty ells (75 feet/22.86 meters) from the window-hook to the ground. (Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1857) Vol. I., p. 66.).
  15. ^ In Schulz's 1790 version of the story, the purpose of the fairy in doing so is to protect Rapunzel from an "unlucky star" which threatens her (Kleine Romane, p. 275); the Grimms (deliberately seeking to return to a more archaic form of the story and perhaps influenced by Basile's Italian variant) make the fairy/sorceress a much more threatening figure.
  16. ^ Schulz, "Rapunzel, laß deine Haare 'runter, daß ich 'rauf kann." (German: Rapunzel, let down thy hairs, so I can [climb] up.) (Kleine Romane, p. 278); Grimms, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, laß dein Haar herunter! (German: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let downwards thy hair!) (Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1857) Vol. I., p. 66.) Jacob Grimm believed that the strong alliteration of the rhyme indicated that it was a survival of the ancient form of Germanic poetry known as "Stabreim."
  17. ^ This detail is also found in Schulz, Kleine Romane, p. 281.
  18. ^ German: Frau Gothel. Rapunzel refers to the previously unnamed sorceress by this title only at this point in the Grimms' story. The use of Frau in early modern German was more restricted, and referred only to a woman of noble birth, rather than to any woman as in modern German. "Gothel" (or Göthel, Göthle, Göthe, etc.) was originally not a personal name, but an occupational one meaning "midwife, wet nurse, foster mother, Godparent" (German: Amme, Ammefrau; Taufpate). Cf. Ernst Ludwig Rochholz's Deutsche Arbeits-Entwürfe, Vol. II, p. 150. The Grimms' use of this archaic term was another example of their attempt to return the story to a primitive Teutonic form.
  19. ^ a b Maria Tatar (1987) The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, Princeton University Press, p. 18, ISBN 0-691-06722-8
  20. ^ In Schulz, the fairy, relenting from her anger, transports the whole family to his father's palace in her flying carriage. Kleine Romane, pp. 287-288.
  21. ^ Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1884) Household Tales (English translation by Margaretmm Hunt), "Rapunzel"
  22. ^ Maria Tatar (2004) The Annotated Brothers Grimm, W W Norton & Company Incorporated, p. 58 ISBN 0-393-05848-4.
  23. ^ Jack Zipes (2001) The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p. 474, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  24. ^ Heiner, Heidi Anne. "Annotated Rapunzel". surlalunefairytales.com.
  25. ^ Neapolitan norca from Italian: (u)n(a) orca, "a she-orc, an ogress, a hag, a crone, a witch."
  26. ^ "Transformations by Anne Sexton"
  27. ^ 2016. The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower. Mawson: FableCroft Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9925534-9-4 (hard cover).
  28. ^ 2018. "Fierce Fairytales: & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill. Hachette Books. ISBN 9780316420730.
  29. ^ Hood, Simon (2019). "The Story Of Rapunzel | Sooper Books©". Sooper Books.
  30. ^ Cloud Strife (15 January 2008). "Grimm Masterpiece Theatre (TV Series 1987– )". IMDb.
  31. ^ "Timeless Tales from Hallmark Rapunzel (TV Episode 1990)". IMDb. 13 March 1990.
  32. ^ weymo (15 March 1991). ""American Playhouse" Into the Woods (TV Episode 1991)". IMDb.
  33. ^ isaacglover_05 (25 December 2014). "Into the Woods (2014)". IMDb.
  34. ^ Tangled (2010). IMDb.com

External linksEdit