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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rapunzel, Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 12


The Fairy Tale of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm

There once lived a man and his wife who yearned for a child of their own. But their longing remained fruitless. At long last, the wife began to entertain hopes that God would fulfill her wish. The couple had a small window in the back of their house from which they could see a splendid garden full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. But this garden was enclosed by a high wall and no one dared enter because it belonged to a sorceress. She had enormous power and was feared throughout the entire world. One day, the woman stood at the window and looked down into the garden. She saw a vegetable bed planted with the loveliest Rapunzel: it looked so fresh and green that she felt an enormous desire and great craving to eat some Rapunzel. Each day her appetite increased and because she knew that she could not get any, her countenance fell and she became pale and miserable. Her husband became frightened and asked “What is wrong dear wife?” “Oh,” she replied, “if I don’t get any Rapunzel from the garden behind our house, I will die.” The man, who loved her dearly, thought “before I let my wife die, I will fetch her some Rapunzel, cost what it may.” In the evening twilight he climbed over the wall into the garden of the sorceress, quickly cut a handful of Rapunzel and brought it to his wife. She immediately made a salad and ate greedily. But it tasted oh so good that the next day she had three times the yearning. To have any peace at all her husband would have to climb into the garden once again. At dusk he made his way. But when he climbed down the garden wall, he received a terrible shock, for he saw the sorceress standing before him. “How dare you,” she said her face filled with rage, “climb into my garden and like a thief steal my Rapunzel? You shall live to regret it.” “Ach,” he replied “Temper justice with mercy! I only acted out of dire need: my wife saw your Rapunzel from the window and was seized by such a powerful craving that she would perish if she did not get some of it to eat.” The sorceress’s wrath abated somewhat and she replied “If things are as you say, I will allow you to take some Rapunzel, as much as you desire, but under one condition: you must give me the child that your wife shall bear. The child will do well and I will care for it like a mother.” The husband in his terror promised everything and when his wife lay in childbed, the sorceress appeared immediately, named the child Rapunzel and quickly snatched it away.

Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the sorceress locked her in a tower in the forest. It had neither stair nor door, only at the top was a very small window. When the sorceress wished entrance, she stood at the bottom and called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Rapunzel had long, gorgeous hair, as fine as spun gold. When she heard the voice of the sorceress, she untied her plaits, bound them round a window hook and then her hair fell down twenty ell and the sorceress climbed up.

After a few years, the king’s son was riding through the forest and passed the tower. He heard a song so lovely that he stopped and listened. It was Rapunzel who in her solitude passed the time sounding her sweet voice. The prince wanted to climb up to her. He looked for a door to the tower but there was none. He rode home but the song had touched his heart so deeply that he went out to the woods every day and listened. When he was once standing behind a tree he saw the sorceress come and heard how she called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Rapunzel lowered her plaited hair and the sorceress climbed up to her. “If that is the ladder which you climb to get in, I will try my luck, too.” And the next day, when it began to get dark, he went to the tower and cried

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Immediately the hair was lowered and the prince climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was violently frightened that a man, such as she had never seen before, had come to her. But the prince began to speak cheerily and said that her song had moved his heart. He had no peace and had to see her for himself. Rapunzel lost her fear and when he asked whether she would take him as husband and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought “He will love me more than old Mistress Gotel does.” She said yes and placed her hand in his. She replied“I will happily go with you but I don’t know how I can get down. Each time you come, bring a strand of silk and I will weave a ladder. When it is finished, I will climb down and you will take me away on your horse.” They arranged that he would come to her every evening, because the old woman visited during the day. The sorceress noticed nothing until Rapunzel chanced to say “Tell me Mistress Gotel, how is it that you are much harder to pull up than the young king’s son, who will be with me in a moment.” “Ach, you godless child,” the sorceress cried. “What must I hear from your lips. I thought I had kept you separate from the world and still you lied to me!” In her rage she grabbed the beautiful hair of Rapunzel, beat her a few times with her left hand and grabbed scissors in her right. Snip - snap, her hair was cut off and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. She was so merciless that she cast poor Rapunzel out into the wilderness, where she was forced into a miserable and wretched life.

The same day that she banished Rapunzel, the sorceress tied the severed plaits to the window hooks and when the prince came and called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair”

she lowered the hair. The prince climbed up. But he did not find his dear one, Rapunzel, but rather the sorceress, who greeted him with evil and malice in her gaze. “Aha,” she cried scornfully, “You want to fetch your dear wife, but the pretty bird no longer sits in the nest. She sings no more. The cat caught her and will now catch you and scratch out your eyes. Rapunzel is lost to you, you will never see her again.” The prince was gripped by such pain that in his despair he jumped from the tower: his life was spared, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. He wandered through the woods blind, ate only roots and berries and did nothing but lament the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed several years in misery until finally reaching the wilderness where Rapunzel lived in wretchedness with the twins she had borne, a boy and a girl. He heard a voice thatt sounded so sweetly familiar: he went toward it and as he approached, Rapunzel recognized him and flung her arms round his neck and cried. As two tears fell into his eyes, they became clear again and he could see as before. He led them back to his kingdom, where he was received with joy and they lived a long time thereafter cheerful and gay.

For further reading:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/reading-rapunzel_08.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/reading-rapunzel_09.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_08.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/reading-rapunzel_08.html

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