Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review of Rapunzel from Household Stories (Crane translation) by the Brothers Grimm

Rapunzel contains many elements influenced by The Book of Genesis.  The rampion in the witch’s garden is analogous to the apple in The Garden.  The theft of the apple is an allegory for committing the sin of lust.  As punishment, Adam and Eve are cast out of the safety of Eden into a harsh, desert environment.  In Rapunzel, the sin of lust comes in two parts:  the lusting of the wife for the rampion, and later the lust of Rapunzel for the prince that results in her being banished from the safety and protection of the witch’s tower also into a harsh desert.

The witch anticipates that Rapunzel will share the sin of her parents, so she locks her in a tower as soon as Rapunzel reaches the age of twelve--the beginning of puberty.  At this point, Rapunzel’s “hair” grows--presumably not only the hair on her head.  Rapunzel lets “down” her hair--likely a pun on the “downiness” of her pubic covering. 

When the prince discovers the way to “climb” (on top of) Rapunzel, she clearly feigns surprise when the he enters the tower, as it is absurd to suppose that she could not tell the difference between the witch’s voice and the prince’s.  Rapunzel’s lust for the prince becomes undeniable when she concocts the ridiculous scheme to have the prince return to ravish her again and again, each time bringing just a piece of a rope ladder instead of just returning once with a rope ladder of the proper length.  Her lustful, pre-marital couplings are proven beyond a doubt when she gives birth in her desert exile. 

As with Adam, the prince too is cast out of his comfortable love nest and condemned to suffer.  However, eventually both Adam and the prince survive, live with their respective mates, and raise children in relative happiness.

Editor's Note:  This essay was submitted in fulfillment of the first writing assignment for the MOOC Fantasy and Science Fiction:  The Human Mind, Our Modern World presented by the University of Michigan.

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