Basic Plot Summary: A man steals some rampion from a witch’s garden and the witch forces him to give her the baby his wife is carrying. The baby, Rapunzel, grows to be beautiful, with very long golden hair and when she turns twelve, the witch locks her in a tower, which only she can access by climbing Rapunzel’s hair. A prince hears Rapunzel singing and overhears the witch calling her to let down her hair. He does the same after the witch leaves and he and Rapunzel fall in love and plan to marry. But Rapunzel accidentally mentions him to the witch, who cuts off her hair and sends her out to the wilderness. When the prince returns, the witch tells him he will never see her again and pushes him from the tower, where he is blinded by thorns. He and Rapunzel find each other again and her tears cure his blindness. They return to his kingdom and live happily with their twins.
Published as part of the Brothers Grimm’s first collection, the story of Rapunzel can be traced back through German, French and Italian folklore and even seems linked to a 10th Century Persian poem. The word ‘Rapunzel’ is a translation of ‘rampion,’ which is the vegetable that her mother craves from the witch’s garden. The issue of Rapunzel giving birth to twins while wandering in the wilderness is handled differently or removed from the story in several versions, since it implies the prince’s visits involved more than just spouting love poems. The story’s been adapted for several television and movie versions, including Disney’s popular Tangled, which retained the original name of the witch, Mother Gothel, although it strayed from the path of the original story.
Rapunzel – This version, from author/illustrator Sarah Gibb, follows the original story fairly closely, although it leaves out the twins and ends with Rapunzel and the prince getting married and Rapunzel being reunited with her parents, which is a nice touch. It’s a very girly version of the story, with an abundance of pink and hundreds of flowers in the artwork. Some of the artwork is done in silhouette and those are some of my favorite pictures. (Albert Whitman & Company, 2010)
Rapunzel – Author Barbara Rogasky adapts the Brothers Grimm version of the story and the book’s inside flap states that she had illustrator Trina Schart Hyman in mind when she did so. She focuses a great deal of time on the opening story of Rapunzel’s real parents and includes a heartbreaking illustration of Rapunzel’s mother weeping over her empty cradle. The artwork is beautiful, with folk art borders and soft muted colors. Ms. Rogasky includes Rapunzel’s twins but adds that she and the prince had married in secret, thereby making them legitimate. (Holiday House, 1982)
Rapunzel (A Groovy Fairy Tale) – This was the second time-twisted fairy tale adaptation from the brother and sister team of Lynn and David Roberts and this one is set (as you may guess from the title) in the 1970’s. In a note in the back of the book, Mr. Roberts states that it was an easy thing to connect Rapunzel’s long hair to the hippie era. Here, she lives in a high rise apartment and listens to David Bowie and ABBA and Blondie and has to deal with her Aunt Esme, who is the meanest lunch lady in the city. The artwork is packed with references to the 1970’s and, for those who are familiar with the Roberts’ first collaboration, there are even some references to their first book, since they envision Rapunzel here to be related to Cinderella there. It’s a lot of fun. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003)
Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel – The story is given some Caribbean flavor in this version from author Patricia Storace. Sugar Cane is the name of the girl and also the food that her mother craves while pregnant. It’s Madame Fate who takes the child and hides her in a tower on an island, but she also brings many people to the island to educate the girl. Raul Colon’s illustrations are filled with the color and imagery of the Caribbean islands and offer a very different look for this traditional princess. The book’s text is very detailed and the story will take longer to read, but if you are looking for a spin on the original, this is a very good one. (Hyperion Books for Children, 2007)
Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs – Storyteller Willy Claflin brings in his sidekick, Maynard Moose, to share this ‘Mother Moose Tale’ which is a mash-up of Rapunzel and Snow White, told in a loose folk tale style. Because it’s being relayed by Maynard Moose, the grammar and word usage strays from the expected, resulting in a fun and very funny story, with sentences like, “So the eight or nine seven dwarfs see Punzel in the duck pond, and they do not want her to drowndify herself – no!” Helpful definitions for the Moose vocabulary words are included and a CD is available for readers to hear the story told in its original style. James Stimson’s digital artwork shines here, making these characters even more fun. I loved this book a ton. (August House, 2011)
And what did we learn? What I take away from Rapunzel is that locking someone away to keep them as only yours is the surest way to lose them forever.