The story of Rapunzel that most American children know comes from the Disney film, Tangled. It involves a young princess taken from her family at birth and raised in a tower to one day be saved by a handsome master thief, be reunited with her royal family. Then, of course, they live happily ever after. This skips that she marries a thief, an outlaw that has stolen from the Crown and should be put to death, but that would be too dark for the children who want to hear the story.
Originally, Rapunzel was born to an unnamed couple who had finally been able to have a child. Rapunzel’s mother wanted the witch’s fancy lettuce. This craving was so powerful she had her husband steal it for her. The witch caught him and required their child in payment.
This part of the story is supposed to be a lesson on greed, I believe. Perhaps if the couple had just asked nicely for the Lettuce none of this would have happened. Or, if the wife could have been happy with just one fancy salad. Because of their greed they lost something dear to them: their only child.
Now we get to part of the story a little better known. The Fairy locked Rapunzel away in a tower and always called, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” to the window. Rapunzel would then drop her hair out the window and lift the fairy up to her. A prince heard this and used it to get to the pretty girl in the window. Well, he did get to her, and she got pregnant. Mother Gothel found out and punished Rapunzel and told her prince that he would never see his love again.
This is a life lesson: Use protection or you will get banished to a strange land and live on the streets. Though I doubt the Grimm Brothers meant it that way. I suspect it was more a warning to infidelity in general. In Germany in the 1700’s it would be a terrible sin to sleep with a man who is not your husband. The penalty would likely have been death. So if you look at it from that angle, Mother Gothel, the fairy, was merciful.
I’m not going to give away the end, if you want to know how happy (or not) these two end up, you have to red it yourself.
Citations: Grimm, Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm, Jack D. Zipes, and Johnny Gruelle. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Toronto: Bantam, 1988. Print. Disney, Tangled, 2010