Fairy Tale Inspirations: Rapunzel’s Heritage Part 2

 Rapunzel (The Brothers Grimm)


When I was pondering this post, I got caught up in the notion that nowadays, once something is published we don’t muck around changing it. Copyright laws forbid us to republish a work under our own name. If a story like Beauty and the Beast was penned now as it was centuries before in France, we wouldn’t have version upon version of the story like we do. It’d be like taking Pride and Prejudice and rewriting it with zombies. Oh, wait. Somebody did that.

Rather than being inclined to keep prose sacred, it seems to be human nature to grab onto a story we love and change it over and over to reflect either how we feel as the author or how society feels. It’s the only way I can explain the proclivity to reboot comic book hero after comic book hero.

Last week, I talked about a version of the Maiden in the Tower stories called Persenitte by a French writer named Charlotte-Rose de La Force. La Force actually changed her tale from an Italian story called Petrosinella byGiambattista Basile. La Force’s story was in turn taken by a German man named Freidrich Schultz a hundred years after her. He was the first to call it Rapunzel.

After Schultz, it became a story in German oral tradition rather than something read out of a book, which is where the Grimm brothers come in. The Grimm brothers collected fairy tales as mainly a scholarly pursuit and expected them to be put in scholarly places. They changed the fairy to a sorcerous because fairies were too French. They also called the sorcerous Mother Gothel which is simply godmother. Part of the Maiden in the Tower tradition is Rapunzel always has twins. In some versions, the Prince is discovered by the fairy or sorceress because Rapunzel is growing round from pregnancy. When the Brothers Grimm realized that their stories were being sold to children and families, they began to take out mention of Rapunzel’s pregnancy more and more in each subsequent edition until the twins just magically appeared at the end of the story.

I’d actually like to see the pregnancy put back in for current generations. What a great way to introduce sex education: through fairy tales. Also, taking out the pregnancy strips the story of some of its yearning and feeds into this odd obsession that princesses must be virginal. When I discovered Robin McKinley, I stalked her online for awhile and read many of her essays. She wrote a dark fantasy called Deerskin based on the fairy tale Donkey Skin. In it, the heroine is raped by a family member. A common complaint about the book was the heroine wasn’t a virgin. Really? No empathy for her plight of incestual rape? She can’t be a heroine because she wasn’t a virgin.

I think it should be emphasized rather than obscured that Rapunzel was pregnant, banished to a different land, had not just one but two babies and managed to keep herself and the babies alive on her own. Wow! That is a heroine I can admire. Trying to keep Rapunzel virginal makes her seem like a weak and waiting girl/woman. She can’t do anything until her prince rescues her.

It’d be an interesting study to go through fairy tales and see how sexuality changes depending on the time they’re written in. I’ll have to file it in my “Projects Way in the Future Box.” Next week, I’ll talk about current versions of Rapunzel and my own take on the heroine in my up coming publication Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mother.

Spark Tally Friday

Happy Friday! My story “Dream Pastures” is live at Kazka Press. Please check it out. Sadly, this is their second to last issue before shutting down :( I’m so pleased I made it in one more time.

I also wrote 10,000 words this week! Finally. It’s been so long since I made my word count goal that I was worried I could no longer do it.

Robin McKinley always says she has no control over when the stories will come to her. She resigns herself to this cosmic storyboard. Obviously it works for her because she’s built her career on it, but it doesn’t work for me. Many of my Gwen stories fall in my head with the plot fully formed, but outside of those stories it can be a struggle. I’ll keep a story idea in the back of my mind for a long time. Last week, I ripped one of those ideas forward and decided now was the time to write it. I had 5000 words down in first person present. As I rewrote all those words, the characters formulated better in my mind. This week the words just rolled off my fingers. It was so nice to write that way again for a change. I feel the past two months have been a struggle.

How did you guys do?