A long time ago, a husband and wife lived happily in a cottage at the edge of a wood. But one day the wife fell ill. She could eat nothing and grew thinner and thinner. The only thing that could cure her, she believed, was a strange herb that grew in the beautiful garden next to their cottage. She begged her husband to find a way into the garden and steal some of this herb, which was called rapunzel.
Now this garden belonged to a wicked witch, who used it to grow herbs for her spells.
One day, she caught the husband creeping into her garden. When he told her what he had come for, the witch gave him some rapunzel, but she made him promise to give her their first-born child in return. The husband agreed, thinking that the witch would soon forget the promise. He took the rapunzel back to his wife, who felt better as soon as she had eaten it.
A year later, a baby girl was born and the witch did come and take her away. She told the couple they would be able to see their daughter in the garden behind their house. Over the years they were able to watch her grow up into a beautiful child, with long fair hair. The witch called her Rapunzel after the plant her father had come to take.
When she was twelve years old, the witch decided to lock Rapunzel up in a high tower in case she tried to run away. The tower had no door or staircase, but Rapunzel was quite happy up there as she could sit at the window watching the life of the forest and talking to the birds. Yet sometimes she would sigh, for she longed to be back in the beautiful garden where she could run and skip in the sunshine. Then she would sing to cheer herself up.
Each day, the witch came to see her, bringing fresh food. She would stand at the bottom of the tower and call out,
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair.”
Rapunzel, whose long golden hair was plaited, would twist it round one of the bars and drop it out of the window, and the witch would climb up it. When she left, Rapunzel would let down her golden hair again, and the witch would slide nimbly down to the ground. One day, the king’s son was riding through the forest when he heard Rapunzel singing. Mystified, he rode to the tower, but could see no door, so could not understand how anyone could be there. He decided to stay and watch the tower and listen to the singing. After a while the witch came along and the prince watched her carefully. ° his amazement, as she called out,
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair,” a long golden plait of hair fell almost to the ground.