I must admit I’m not too familiar with this fairy tale as I only know the saying, “Rapunzel,Rapunzel let down your hair.” In addition, I saw bits of pieces of the movie, Tangled. Therefore, I had to do a little research beforehand to get some background on this fairy tale. This is taken from the website, Wikipedia, “Rapunzel, is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children’s and Household Tales.The Grimm Brothers’ story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698.”
The text, Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky centers around a girl named Rapunzel’s life and how she she overcame several obstacles to fulfill her dreams. The book introduces readers to a married couple whom are expecting. Outside of their homes is a garden, that is owned by a sorceress. The wife became fixated on a herb called Rapunzel and asked for her husband to retrieve it. The husband loved his wife and would do anything to see her happy so he provided her with as much Rapunzel as he needed to save her and their child’s life. However, the husband disobeyed the sorceress and as a result, she told the husband that his punishment was to give up their child. The couple obliged and the sorceress named the child, “Rapunzel” in honor of the herbs that were taken from the garden. At the age of 12, the sorceress locked Rapunzel up in a tower where she was isolated from the world and whenever the sorceress needed to contact her stepchild, she asked her, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair,” and climbed up the tower. For many years, Rapunzel lived in the tower and one day, a prince was nearby and heard Rapunzel’s sweet voice. He fell in love with her voice and discovered that she was locked inside a tower for years. Eventually, the prince witnessed the sorceress use her famous line and he climbed up the tower and met her. The two quickly fell in love and the prince proposed to marry her behind her stepmother’s back. The sorceress discovered this news and she was infuriated with the news, that she cut her stepdaughter’s famous long locks so no one would be able to climb the tower. Rapunzel gave birth having twins and was sent to the country where her prince did not know where she was. When the prince returned to the tower, the sorceress met him and pushed him to the ground. He lost his eyesight, but he never gave up on his family. Eventually, the two reunited and when she wept, the prince gained back his eyesight and was able to see his beautiful family.
This text is part of the fairy tale genre as it contains the classic components in this genre including a hero, heroine, an evil stepmother, and a happy ending. As mentioned, I didn’t know the story of Rapunzel but it reminded me of the other fairy tales, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as Cinderella because there is an evil sorceress who tries to make everyone’s life miserable. If one thinks about it, majority of these fairy tales have an evil woman as a protagonist and I ask myself why. The authors of these fairy tales keep depicting that stepmothers, witches, and sorceresses are evil. However, we don’t know why they are evil, perhaps they too were a heroine at once and lost their loved one. I was always curious to discover why the evil characters are evil and we never hear their side of the story, just the princess and the princes’. The illustrations in this book are vivid and the captions match the pictures making it easy for children to understand what is happening in the story. Indeed, there is some dialogue but majority of the story is told from the narrator’s point of view. The author writes, “The tower was a great column rising in the middle of the woods. Although it looked narrow on the outside, on the inside it was large, with many elegant rooms. Yet no door led into this tower, and it’s only window was at the very top.” This quote allows readers to see that Rampunzel was isolated from the outside world as she is trapped in a tower. However, the author fails to mention why she needs to be locked in a tower. The protagonist already had a difficult life as the sorceress took her away from her family, and yet, readers are not sure if the parents passed because we do not know what happened to them.
I feel this book is suitable for children starting in Third grade as it is not a difficult text to understand. The images in the text match the story. A good strategy to use during this story could be a sketch to stretch activity having children draw their thoughts and sharing their feelings about this story. Indeed, children enjoy reading or listening to stories about a prince and princess. However, in this story the prince suffers a great injury, he loses his eyesight when he tries to rescue his princess and when they meet, he regains his eyesight. For me, the roles are reversed here which is interesting to note since the male protagonist is depicted as this strong, masculine man. However, when he loses his family and the woman he loves, he suddenly becomes weak and lonely. His remedy is his princess who rescues him. Therefore, I found this story to be different compared to the other fairy tales because the hero did rescue his princess at first, but in the end the princess rescued her prince from his misery. Perhaps, children would be able to see this story from a different perspective as it does relate to everyday life. The message is that women are just as strong as men and are independent and also can help support men when they are in trouble. I did enjoy this book but I felt there were a few gaps in this version, perhaps another version may explain the story better.
Some questions that I have for the author are:
1) What happened to Rapunzel’s parents after the sorceress took their daughter away? Did they die from having their hearts broken?
2) Why did the sorceress choose to lock away Rapunzel in the high tower when she was 12? What was the purpose of that?
3) Why is the sorceress so mean? What’s her background story? Was she once an innocent girl who was mistreated?
4) Why does the prince fall in love with Rapunzel based on her sweet voice? This doesn’t happen in everyday life.