The fairy tale “Rapunzel” comes from one of the stories of the Saints. During the 3rd century AD, a wealthy merchant in Asia Minor loved his daughter so much that he forbade her to have any suitors. He locked her in a tower whenever he traveled. She converted to Christianity and prayed so loudly when she was in the tower that her prayers were heard throughout the town. The merchant, informed of her actions, took her before the Roman proconsul who insisted she be beheaded or the father would have to forfeit his fortune if she refused to give up her newfound faith. The father decapitated her but was then killed by a lightning strike. She became the martyr, Saint Barbara.
The version of the story the Grimm’s were told was thought to be a folktale, but as it turns out, was actually written by Giambattista Basile in 1637. It was rewritten by a French aristocrat, Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force in 1697. The 1697 version was translated into German by J.C.F. Shulz, but the Grimm brothers were unaware of this fact.
In the Grimm version, which is almost identical to the Shulz translation, Rapunzel lets her hair down for a prince to climb into her tower and ends up pregnant. The witch chops off Rapunzel’s hair and magically transports her far away, where she lives as a beggar with no money, no home, and a baby. The witch lures the prince up into the tower and then pushes him from the window. Some thorn bushes break his fall, but also blind him. However, as with most fairy tales, there’s still a happy ending for the two lovers.
If you want to read a more modern version of this classic fairy tale, check out the following books (all links are to Goodreads):
- Into the Wild by Sara Beth Durst
- Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
- Golden by Cameron Dokey
- The Stone Cage by Nicholas Stuart Gray
- The Crystal Heart by Sophie Masson
- Towering by Alex Flinn
- The Tower Room by Adèle Geras
- The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
- Zel by Donna Jo Napoli