There once lived a man and a woman who always wished for a child, but could not have one. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen. The garden was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an witch, who had great power and was feared by all the world. One day the woman was standing by the window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most tasty rapunzel. It looked so fresh and green that she longed for it and had the greatest desire to eat some. This desire increased every day. The woman knew that she could not get any of it and grew more pale and miserable each day.
Her husband was worried about her and asked “What is wrong my dear?”
“Ah,” she replied, “if I can’t eat some of the rapunzel from the garden behind our house I think I shall die.” The man, who loved her, thought, “Sooner than let my lovely wife die, I will bring her some of the rapunzel myself, no matter what the cost.” In the twilight of the evening, he climbed over the wall into the garden of the witch, hastily grabbed a handful of rapunzel and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad and ate it happily. She, however, liked it so much — so very much, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening, therefore, he set out again; but when he had climbed over the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the witch standing before him.
“How dare you,” she said with angry look, “sneak into my garden and steal my rapunzel like a thief? You shall suffer for this!” “Ah,” the frightened husband answered, “please have mercy, I had to have the rapunzel. My wife saw it from the window and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.” Then the witch allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him, “If this is true, I will allow you to take as much as you like, only I make one condition. You must give me the baby daughter your wife will bring into the world; she shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.” The man in his fear consented and when the baby was born the witch appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel and took the baby away with her. Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child beneath the sun. When she was twelve years old, the witch shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest. The tower had no stairs or doors, but only a little window at the very top. When the witch wanted to go in, she stood beneath the window and cried,
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair.” Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold,and when she heard the voice of the witch she wound her braids round one of the hooks of the window, and then the hair fell down the side of the tower and the witch climbed up by it.After a year or two, it came to pass that the Prince rode through the forest and went by the tower. He heard a song which was so lovely that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel who in her loneliness passed her time singing. The Prince wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it.
Once when he was standing behind a tree listening to Rapunzel’s song, he saw the witch come and heard how she cried,”Rapunzel, Rapunzel,Let down your hair.”Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the witch climbed up to her. “If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I will for once try my fortune,” thought the Prince and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair.”Immediately the hair fell down and the Prince climbed up. At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man such as her eyes had never seen, came to her; but the Prince began to talk to her quite like a friend and told her that his heart had been so stirred by her singing that it had let him have no rest. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband — and she saw that he was kind and handsome, she said yes, and laid her hand in his.
She said, “I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring a bit of silk with you every time you come and I will weave a ladder with it. When that is ready I will climb down and we shall escape together.” They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day.
The witch knew nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said in her distraction, “Oh my, you are so much heavier when you climb than the young Prince.” “Ah! you wicked child,” cried the witch “What do I hear thee say! I thought I had separated you from all the world but you have deceived me.”
In her anger she clutched Rapunzel’s beautiful hair, seized a pair of scissors — and snip, snap — cut it all off. Rapunzel’s lovely braids lay on the ground but the witch was not through. She was so angry that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.
The witch rushed back to the tower and fastened the braids of hair which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the Prince came and cried, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair,” she let the hair down. The Prince climbed to the window, but he did not find his dearest Rapunzel above, but the witch, who gazed at him with a wicked and venomous look.
“Aha!” she cried mockingly, “You’ve come for Rapunzel but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest; the cat has got it and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is banished and you will never see her again!”
The Prince was beside himself and in his despair he fell down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries and did nothing but weep over the loss of his dearest Rapunzel.
In this way, the Prince roamed in misery for some months and at length came to the desert where the witch had banished Rapunzel. He heard a voice singing and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it. When he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell into his arms and wept.
Two of her tears fell on his eyes and the Prince could see again. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.