Rapunzel

 

Once a man and his wife longed and longed for a child of their own.  Then at last the wife discovered that she was expecting a baby.

 

One day the wife was standing at a high window, gazing down into a neighbouring garden full of beautiful flowers and vegetables, when her eye fell on a bed of special lettuces.  Immediately it was as if a spell had been put on her.  She could think of nothing else.

 

“I have to have some of that lettuce or I’ll die,” she told herself.  She stopped eating and began to waste away.

 

Eventually her husband grew so worried that, one evening, he climbed over the wall into the neighbouring garden and picked a handful of lettuce leaves.  This was a very brave thing to do, as the garden belonged to a powerful witch.

 

His wife ate the lettuce greedily, but the handful wasn’t enough.  Her husband had to go back next evening.  This time the witch was lying in wait for him.

 

“How dare you sneak in and steal from me!” she screeched.  “You will pay for this!”

 

The husband begged to be forgiven.  He explained how badly his wife needed the lettuce.

 

“In that case,” the witch said more softly, “take as much as she wants.  But when the baby is born, you must give it to me.”  The husband was so terrified that he agreed.

 

A few weeks later the baby arrived.  That same day, the witch came to take away the newborn child.  She called her Rapunzel because that was the name of the kind of lettuce the mother wanted so badly.

 

The witch cared for the little girl well.  When Rapunzel was twelve years old, she was the most beautiful child in the world.  Then the witch took her to a high tower in the middle of the forest.  This tower had no stair, just a tiny window at the top.

 

When the witch wanted to visit, she called, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your golden hair!” and Rapunzel would hold her long, braided hair over the windowsill for the witch to climb.

 

This went on for several years, until one day a king’s son came hunting in the forest.  From far away he heard the sound do a lovely voice singing.  He rode here and there among the trees until he came to the tower but he could see no way up to it.

 

Haunted by the voice, he came back again and again until one day he saw the witch and watched how she got into the tower.  Next day as it was growing dark, he called out softly, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your golden hair!”  A minute later he was with the girl.

 

At first Rapunzel was frightened, for she had never had any visitors except the witch, but the Prince gently explained how he’d heard her singing and fallen in love with her voice.  When she felt less afraid, he asked her to marry him, and blushing, Rapunzel agreed.

 

But how was Rapunzel to escape?  The clever girl had a brilliant idea.  The Prince must bring skeins of silk each time he visited.  Rapunzel could make them into her own ladder.

 

All went well and the witch noticed nothing until one day, without thinking, Rapunzel said, “Mother, why is it easier for the Prince to climb up my hair than you?”  Then the truth was out.

 

“You wicked girl!  How you have deceived me!  I meant to keep you free of the world’s evil,” the witch raved.  She caught hold of Rapunzel and cut off her hair, then sent her to live in a faraway desert place.

 

That same night, the witch lay in wait for the Prince.  When he called out, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your golden hair!”  she let down the girl’s chopped off hair and hauled him up.  The Prince was at her mercy.

 

“The cat has taken the bird,” the witch hissed.  “She’ll sing no more for you.”

 

In despair the Prince threw himself from the window.  He wasn’t killed, but the brambles below scratched his eyes.  For several years be wandered blindly though the forest, weeping for his lost Rapunzel and living on roots and berries.

 

Then one day he reached the desert place where Rapunzel was living.  Far off he heard a sweet voice singing.

 

“Rapunzel! Rapunzel!” he called.  Rapunzel cried with joy at seeing her Prince again, and two of her tears fell on his eyes.  A miracle happened, and the Prince could see again.

 

The happy couple travelled back to the Prince’s kingdom, where they were received with great joy and lived happily ever after.