Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rapunzel: name and story origins

Cover of the book Rapunzel

"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. Its plot has been used and parodied in various media and its best known line ("Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair") is an idiom of popular culture.

Name Origin

Campanula rapunculus, one candidate

It is difficult to be certain which plant species the Brothers Grimm meant by the word Rapunzel, but the following, listed in their own dictionary, are candidates.
  1. Valerianella locusta, common names: Corn salad, mache, lamb's lettuce, field salad. Rapunzel is called Feldsalat in Germany, Nuesslisalat in Switzerland and Vogerlsalat in Austria. In cultivated form it has a low growing rosette of succulent green rounded leaves when young, when they are picked whole, washed of grit and eaten with oil and vinegar. When it bolts to seed it shows clusters of small white flowers. Etty's seed catalogue states Corn Salad (Verte de Cambrai) was in use by 1810.
  2. Campanula rapunculus is known as Rapunzel-Glockenblume in German, and as Rampion in Etty's seed catalogue, and although classified under a different family, Campanulaceae, has a similar rosette when young, although with pointed leaves. Some English translations of Rapunzel used the word Rampion. Etty's catalogue states that it was noted in 1633, an esteemed root in salads, and to be sown in April or May. The herb catalogue Sand Mountain Herbs describes the root as extremely tasty, and the rosette leaves as edible, and that its blue bell-flowers appear in June or July.
  3. Phyteuma spicata, known as Ährige Teufelskralle in German.

Story Origin

Greek Orthodox icon of Saint Barbara.

The original story came from the story of Rudaba in an ancient Iranian book called Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi around 1000 AD. 

Some elements of the fairy tale might also have originally been based upon the legends about Saint Barbara, who was said to have been locked in a tower by her father. According to the hagiographies Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world.

Info and photo:  wiki/Rapunzelwiki/Saint Barbara

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