Once upon a time
there lived a man and his wife who were very
unhappy because they had no children. These good people had a
little window at the back of their house, which looked into the
most lovely garden
, full of all manner of beautiful flowers and
vegetables; but the garden was surrounded by a high wall, and
no one dared to enter it, for it belonged to a witch
power, who was feared by the whole world.
One day the woman stood at the window overlooking the garden,
and saw there a bed full of the finest rampion: the leaves looked
so fresh and green that she longed to eat them. The desire grew
day by day, and just because she knew she couldn't possibly get
any, she pined away and became quite pale and wretched. Then
her husband grew alarmed and said:
"What ails you, dear wife?"
"Oh," she answered, "if I don't get some rampion to eat out of the
garden behind the house, I know I shall die."
The man, who loved her dearly, thought to himself, "Come! rather
than let your wife die you shall fetch her some rampion, no matter
the cost." So at dusk he climbed over the wall into the witch's
garden, and, hastily gathering a handful of rampion leaves, he
returned with them to his wife. She made them into a salad,
which tasted so good that her longing for the forbidden food was
greater than ever. If she were to know any peace of mind, there
was nothing for it but that her husband should climb over the
garden wall again, and fetch her some more. So at dusk over he
got, but when he reached the other side he drew back in terror, for
there, standing before him, was the old witch.
"How dare you," she said, with a wrathful glance, "climb into my
garden and steal my rampion like a common thief? You shall
suffer for your foolhardiness."
"Oh!" he implored, "pardon my presumption; necessity alone
drove me to the deed. My wife saw your rampion from her
window, and conceived such a desire for it that she would
certainly have died if her wish had not been gratified." Then the
Witch's anger was a little appeased, and she said:
"If it's as you say, you may take as much rampion away with you
as you like, but on one condition only -- that you give me the
child your wife will shortly bring into the world. All shall go well
with it, and I will look after it like a mother."
The man in his terror agreed to everything she asked, and as
soon as the child was born the Witch appeared, and having given
it the name of Rapunzel, which is the same as rampion, she
carried it off with her.
Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she
was twelve years old the Witch shut her up in a tower, in the
middle of a great wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor
doors, only high up at the very top a small window. When the
old Witch wanted to get in she stood underneath and called out:
Let down your golden hair,"
for Rapunzel had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine as spun
gold. Whenever she heard the Witch's voice she unloosed her
plaits, and let her hair fall down out of the window about twenty
yards below, and the old Witch climbed up by it.
After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one
day that a Prince was riding through the wood and passed by
the tower. As he drew near it he heard someone singing so
sweetly that he stood still spell-bound, and listened. It was
Rapunzel in her loneliness trying to while away the time by letting
her sweet voice ring out into the wood. The Prince longed to see
the owner of the voice, but he sought in vain for a door in the
tower. He rode home, but he was so haunted by the song he
had heard that he returned every day to the wood and listened.
One day, when he was standing thus behind a tree, he saw the
old Witch approach and heard her call out:
Let down your golden hair."
Then Rapunzel let down her plaits, and the Witch climbed up by
"So that's the staircase, is it?" said the Prince. "Then I too will
climb it and try my luck."
So on the following day, at dusk, he went to the foot of the tower
Let down your golden hair,"
and as soon as she had let it down the Prince climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man came in,
for she had never seen one before; but the Prince spoke to her so
kindly, and told her at once that his heart had been so touched
by her singing, that he felt he should know no peace of mind till
he had seen her. Very soon Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he
asked her to marry him she consented at once. "For," she
thought, "he is young and handsome, and I'll certainly be happier
with him than with the old Witch." So she put her hand in his
"Yes, I will gladly go with you, only how am I to get down out of
the tower? Every time you come to see me you must bring a skein
of silk with you, and I will make a ladder of them, and when it is
finished I will climb down by it, and you will take me away on
They arranged that till the ladder was ready, he was to come to
her every evening, because the old woman was with her during
the day. The old Witch, of course, knew nothing of what was
going on, till one day Rapunzel, not thinking of what she was
about, turned to the Witch and said:
"How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up
than the young Prince? He is always with me in a moment."
"Oh! you wicked child," cried the Witch. "What is this I hear? I
thought I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in
spite of it you have managed to deceive me."
In her wrath she seized Rapunzel's beautiful hair, wound it round
and round her left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in
her right, snip snap, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the
ground. And, worse than this, she was so hard-hearted that she
took Rapunzel to a lonely desert place, and there left her to live
in loneliness and misery.
But on the evening of the day in which she had driven poor
Rapunzel away, the Witch fastened the plaits on to a hook in the
window, and when the Prince came and called out:
Let down your golden hair,"
she let them down, and the Prince climbed up as usual, but
instead of his beloved Rapunzel he found the old Witch, who
fixed her evil, glittering eyes on him, and cried mockingly:
"Ah, ah! you thought to find your lady love, but the pretty bird
has flown and its song is dumb; the cat caught it, and will
scratch out your eyes too. Rapunzel is lost to you for ever -- you
will never see her more."
The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he
jumped right down from the tower, and, though he escaped with
his life, the thorns among which he fell pierced his eyes out.
Then he wandered, blind and miserable, through the wood, eating
nothing but roots and berries, and weeping and lamenting the
loss of his lovely bride. So he wandered about for some years,
as wretched and unhappy as he could well be, and at last he came
to the desert place where Rapunzel was living. Of a sudden he
heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to him. He walked
eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when he was quite
close, Rapunzel recognised him and fell on his neck and wept. But
two of her tears touched his eyes, and in a moment they became
quite clear again, and he saw as well as he had ever done. Then
he led her to his kingdom, where they were received and
welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily ever after.
By The Brothers Grimm
This version specifically from Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book.
One especially good modern rendition of Rapunzel is the one illustrated by
Paul O. Zelinsky won the Caldecott
Medal in 1998 for its spectacular use of Renaissance art themes and