Monday, May 17, 2010

Rapunzel, two versions

Rapunzel translated by Anthea Bell, illustrated by Dorothee Duntze

Rapunzel has to be the weirdest-fairy-tale-most-people-know-but-don't-realize-how-weird-it-is. The first version I'm looking at is very close to the story, translated by the wonderful Anthea Bell. I've fallen in love with the garden-themed drawings of Dorothee Duntze. Her characters wear petals, cabbage leaves, and squash and the witch has a lily pond in her dress! So, on to the story.

A man and his wife are thrilled to bits because they're finally going to have a baby. Unfortunately, the woman gets cravings for some rampion from a witch's garden. Instead of just asking the witch (they are neighbors after all) the man sneaks into her garden and steals some. Then some more. Naturally, he gets caught. Duh, witch with unknown powers here! (I must just interject here that Duntze's witch's garden is THE BEST EVER. I now want a formal walled garden. Sigh.) The witch yells at him a little, then tells him he can have as much rampion as he wants....but she gets the baby. The man says ok and goes home. What? This is the witch you were so scared of you sneaked into her garden instead of knocking on her door like normal people. This is the baby you've been wanted forever in a definitely fairy-tales-fertility-issue way. Do they complain to the king? Do they offer her other compensation? Do they try leaving the baby with a poor woodcutter or floating her down the river in a basket, all acceptable fairy tale solutions? Does the man even ARGUE? Nope. They just hand over the baby. Maybe the witch's mysterious powers included long-term hypnotism.

So, the witch raises Rapunzel presumably in her garden until she's 12. This is where the walled garden makes sense, because Rapunzel is obviously shut up somewhere before she gets locked in a tower since.....after she's been living in the tower for a "few years" which would put her at around 15, a prince riding through the woods (without escort, or apparent destination, since nobody comes looking for him later) goes nuts about her voice and sneaks into the tower.

They "talk" for a long time. Riiiiiight. One can't help wondering how this conversation went. I mean, she's never seen a guy before so exactly how did they get to the point where.....anyways, he promises to bring some silk each time he comes so Rapunzel can make a ladder. Because silk is so heavy. Annnd places that make silk certainly don't offer silk ladders or are in any proximity to the prince's kingdom where he presumably has guards and witches of his own and stuff. Obviously, he just wants to, you know talk.
The witch discovers all, whisks Rapunzel away, and the prince jumps out the window and scratches his eyes out. Bright move, princey. Definitely failed his "rescuing maidens" class in prince school. He starts wandering around the woods, and here is where we realize this probably isn't the first time he's seduced an innocent teenager, because the woods are somewhere fairly close to his kingdom - he was riding through them without an escort, remember? The whole prince part of the story takes well over 9 months but Nobody. Ever. Finds. Him. It doesn't even sound as if anybody ever looked for him. Anyways, he's suddenly wandering in the wilderness, finds Rapunzel and her twins (now we know what all that "talking" was about, in case you hadn't figured it out by now), she heals his eyes with her tears, and they go back to his kingdom, where his people welcome him with joy. Well, what would you do? If your obviously insane ruler returns after several years and has actually married his latest seduction, you don't really have any choice. You lock up your daughters (and your vegetables) and "greet him with joy." Sure. Watch out for strychnine in your rampion, prince.

The witch, apparently bored with the whole thing, supposedly goes back to her walled garden, presumably to wait for Rapunzel's mom to get pregnant again.

ISBN: 0735820139; Published August 2005 by North South; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my personal collection

Rapunzel the graphic novel by Stephanie Peters, illustrated by Jeffrey Timmins

The graphic novel version is part of the Graphic Spin series. All the volumes I've seen so far go for the twisted weird in the artwork and this one is no exception. The witch's magical powers are emphasized and she's obviously a nasty person since she looks like a rotten turnip. The prince, apparently an unidentified and very spindly root vegetable in lederhosen, makes one wish the very, very young-looking Rapunzel had a bit more choice. Kids looking for more graphic and gruesome fairy tales will probably enjoy this, but don't hand it to Disney Princess fans.

ISBN: 978-1434211941; Published January 2009 by Capstone; Borrowed from the library

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