I enjoy comparing versions of fairy tales and collecting alternate versions as I find them. I have at least six print versions of Rapunzel ranging back to a 1909 Folio Society reprint. "Grimm's Grimmest" has research into the oldest known version. There are delightful differences in each one.
However, I'm not fond of the most latest incarnations. The newest version of Rapunzel (2013) I happened on is particularly disappointing. It is altered to the point of removing most of Rapunzel's strength and even some of the magical power of the other two women. In this version, Rapunzel's parents are "poor" and need to eat the rampion in the witch's garden to survive (a political insertion). This removes either the weakness/magical ability of her own mother/father or the witch's magic; as in all other versions, the Rapunzel's mother spies the rampion growing in the witch's garden below her window and is seized with a desire to make a salad of it. It also removes the devotion/weakness of her husband (or the magical spell woven over him) who then brings his wife many delicacies to tempt her appetite. Nothing, however, will satisfy her but the witch's rampion so he steals it from the garden and, when caught by the witch, surrenders Rapunzel in trade. Now, this leads me to believe one of three possibilities: 1. the rampion had been magically cursed by the witch to trap the young mother-to-be, 2. Rapunzel's mother was weak/selfish, or 3. she had pregnancy cravings! In most newer versions, Rapunzel may give birth and care for her babies alone in the wild until she is found by her lover; but in many this has been removed entirely or she has children only after the King's son finds her and they reunite with her parents. (She does at least, it seems, always heal her husband's eyes.) It is a rather sad and ironic dismissal of Rapunzel's female strength in today's time in history.
So I much prefer the brave Rapunzel. The imprisoned girl who, twice deprived of motherly role models from both her own inadequate mother and her over-protective adoptive mother; grows into a strong woman, survives the wilderness, endures childbirth alone, becomes a proper mother to her own babies, and heals her lover of the pains he suffered on her behalf.
Rapunzel is a "coming of age" fairy tale of a maiden who triumphs beautifully in all three stages of womanhood. The two men act as catalysts/helpers and are usually at the mercy of being bewitched by the three women in the story - maiden, mother and crone.
Brave Rapunzel! Survivor, Mother, Healer.
Bibliography: Fairy Tales, (retold by Katharine Gibson) Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, USA, 1950; The Brothers Grimm - The Complete Fairy Tales, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Great Britain, 1997; Grimm's Fairy Tales (taken from German Popular Stories, 1823 & translated by Mrs. Edgar Lucas in 1909, Constable & Co. Ltd., reprinted 2003 by The Folio Society; Grimm's Grimmest, Intro by Maria Tatar, Chronicle Books, USA, 1997; Old Friends and Lasting Favorites, edited by Bryna & Louis Untermeyer, Golden Press, Inc., New York, USA, 1962; My Treasury of Princess Stories, Igloo Books Ltd. 2013, USA.
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