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The Brothers Grimm
Rapunzel
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RAPUNZEL

There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a
child. At length the woman hoped that God was about to grant her
desire. These people had a little window at the back of their house
from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most
beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high
wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an
enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world. One
day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the
garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful
rampion (rapunzel), and it looked so fresh and green that she longed
for it, she quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable.
Then her husband was alarmed, and asked: 'What ails you, dear wife?'
'Ah,' she replied, 'if I can't eat some of the rampion, which is in
the garden behind our house, I shall die.' The man, who loved her,
thought: 'Sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion
yourself, let it cost what it will.' At twilight, he clambered down
over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a
handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself
a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her--so very
good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as
before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend
into the garden. In the gloom of evening therefore, he let himself
down again; but when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly
afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him. 'How can you
dare,' said she with angry look, 'descend into my garden and steal my
rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for it!' 'Ah,' answered he,
'let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it
out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt
such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some
to eat.' Then the enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and
said to him: 'If the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away
with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you
must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world; it
shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.' The man
in his terror consented to everything, and when the woman was brought
to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of
Rapunzel, and took it away with her.

Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she
was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower, which lay
in a forest, and had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was
a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed
herself beneath it and cried:

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair to me.'

Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she
heard the voice of the enchantress she unfastened her braided tresses,
wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the
hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it.

After a year or two, it came to pass that the king's son rode through
the forest and passed by the tower. Then he heard a song, which was so
charming that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel, who in
her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The
king's son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the
tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so
deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest
and listened to it. Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he
saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried:

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair to me.'

Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress
climbed up to her. 'If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too
will try my fortune,' said he, and the next day when it began to grow
dark, he went to the tower and cried:

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair to me.'

Immediately the hair fell down and the king's son climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes
had never yet beheld, came to her; but the king's son began to talk to
her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so
stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to
see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she
would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and
handsome, she thought: 'He will love me more than old Dame Gothel
does'; and she said yes, and laid her hand in his. She said: 'I will
willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring
with you a skein of silk every time that you come, and I will weave a
ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and you will
take me on your horse.' They agreed that until that time he should
come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day. The
enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said to her:
'Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for
me to draw up than the young king's son--he is with me in a moment.'
'Ah! you wicked child,' cried the enchantress. 'What do I hear you
say! I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you
have deceived me!' In her anger she clutched Rapunzel's beautiful
tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of
scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the
lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took
poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and
misery.

On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, however, the enchantress
fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the
window, and when the king's son came and cried:

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair to me.'

she let the hair down. The king's son ascended, but instead of finding
his dearest Rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with
wicked and venomous looks. 'Aha!' she cried mockingly, 'you would
fetch your dearest, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in
the nest; the cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well.
Rapunzel is lost to you; you will never see her again.' The king's son
was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from
the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell
pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate
nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over
the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed about in misery for some
years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins
to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness.
He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went
towards it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his
neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear
again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom
where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time
afterwards, happy and contented.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From "Fairy Tales" by Jakob Grimm (1785 -1863) and Wilhelm
Grimm (1786-1859) -- translated from "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.
 

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