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1001 Rapunzel
Added on 28th August 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Germany

A wicked witch, extremely long hair and a wandering prince help to create this memorable traditional tale.


Craving a taste of rapunzel, a pregnant woman asks her husband to steal the plant from a witch’s garden. The witch catches him, but spares his life in return for his child. She names the baby Rapunzel and locks her in a doorless tower. Climbing up the girl’s long hair is the only way to reach her. Years later, a prince riding past the tower hears Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and longs to meet her.

Why we chose it

When we asked visitors to our Ever After exhibition to tell us their favourite traditional stories, Rapunzel was one of the most frequently mentioned. When we asked their favourite story moments, the letting down of Rapunzel’s hair was again a popular choice – only Cinderella at the ball and the Wolf’s conversation with grandma had more mentions.

Where it came from

Rapunzel is similar to the story of Saint Barbara, as well as a Persian tale, Rubāda, from Ferdowsi’s poem Shahnmeh (c.1000 CE). The first version of Rapunzel, called Petrosinella, appeared in Giamattista Basile’s Pentamerone (1634). This inspired Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force’s Persinette (1698), which was renamed Rapunzel and rewritten in German by Friedrich Schultz in 1790. Schultz’s version is thought to be the source for the Grimm brothers’ 1812 collection. The Grimm tale is now the best known version of the story.

Where it went next

Rapunzel has been retold by countless authors, including Andrew Lang in The Red Fairy Book (1980) and Paul O. Zelinsky in his Caldecott-winning picture book (1997). Rapunzel also inspired Shannona and Dane Hale’s graphic novel, Rapunzel’s Revenge (2008), and has featured in numerous TV shows and films, including Disney’s Tangled (2010).

Associated stories

The brothers Grimm collected over 200 stories. These include Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White.

Added on 28th August 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Germany