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SOS: SEARCHING OUT STORIES AND INFORMATION - RAPUNZEL
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)
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1) Query: What was Rapunzel singing?
a) I'm stuck in the tower again,
Here where these bugs are my friend,
I want to shout,
I got to get out,
but I'm stuck in the tower again.
Sing with as much twang as you can make!
b) First thing that came to mind:
Hey, ho, nobody home
meat nor drink nor money have I none,
still I will be merry...
I learned once a "second verse" to it, but a different tune that I don't know how to convey electronically...
ah poor bird, take thy flight
high above the sorrows of this sad night.
c) Here is a ballad, ancient in time, many varients found throughout Europe. Follows is one of the Scottish varient, Child Ballad #213. Rapunzel most likely was singing one of this type.
"SIR JAMES, THE ROSE"
Of all the northern Scottish Chiefs
That live as warlike men,
The bravest was Sir James, the Rose,
A knight of muckle fame.
His growth was like the thrifty fir
That crowns the mountain's brow
And wavering o'er his shoulders broad
Bright locks of yellow flow.
Three years he fought on bloody fields
Against their English king.
Scarce two and twenty summers yet
This fearless youth had seen.
It was fair Mathildy that he loved
That girl with beauty rare,
And Margaret on the Scottish throne
With her could not compare.
Long he had wooed, long she'd refused
It seemed, with scorn and pride
But after all confessed her love;
Her faithful words, denied.
My father was born a cruel lord.
This passion does approve.
He bids me wed Sir John a Grame
And leave the one I love.
My father's will I must fulfill,
Which puts me to a stand
Some fair maid in her beauty bloom
May bless you with her hand.
"Are those the vows, Mathildy dear,"
Sir James, the Rose, did say,
"And would Mathildy wed the Grame
When she's sworn to be my bride?"
"I only spoke to try thy love.
I'll ne'er wed man but thee.
The grave shall be my bridal bed
Ere Grames my husband be."
"You take this kiss, fair youth," she said,
"In witness of my love,
May every plague down on me fall
The day I break my vows."
Ere they had met and there embraced,
Down by a shady grove,
It was on a bank beside a burn
A blooming shelltree stood.
Concealed beneath the undie wood
To hear what they might say,
A brother to Sir John the Grame
And there concealed he lay.
Ere thcy did part the sun was set.
At haste he then replied,
"Return, return, you beardless youth"
He loud insulting cris.
"O it's of my brother's slight love
Rests softly on your arm."
Three paces back the youth retired
To save himself from harm.
Then turned around the beardless youth
And quick his sword he drew
And through his enemy's crashing blows
His sharp-edged weapon drew.
Grame staggered back. He reeled and fell
A lifeless lump of clay.
"So falls my foes," said valiant Rose,
And straightly walked away.
Through the green woods he then did go
Till he reached Lord Bohan's Hall
And at Mathildy's window stood
And thus began to call:
"Art thou asleep, Mathildy dear?
Awake, my love, awake.
Your own true lover calls on you
A long farewell to take."
"For I have slain fair Donald Grame.
His blood is on my sword
And distant are my faithful men.
They can't assist their lord."
"To the Isle of Skye, I must awa'
Where my twa brothers abide.
I'll raise the gallyants of that Isle.
They'll combat on my side."
"Don't do so," the maid replied,
"With me 'til morning stay,
For dark and rainy is the night
And dangerous is the way."
"All night I'll watch you in my park.
My little page I'll send
He'll run and raise the Rose's clan
Their master to defend."
She laid him down beneath the bush
And rolled him in his plaid.
At a distance stood the weeping maid;
A-weeping for her love.
O'er hills and dales, the page he ran,
Till lonely in the Glen,
'Twas there he met Sir John the Grame
And twenty of his men.
"Where art thou going, my little page?
What tidings dost thou bring?"
"I'm running to raise the Rose's clan
Their master to defend."
"For he has slain fair Donald Grame.
His blood is on his sword,
And distant are his faithful men
They can't assist their lord."
"Tell me where he is, my little page,
And I will thee well reward."
"He sleeps now in Lord Bohan's Hall.
Mathildy, she's his guard."
He spurred his horse at a furious gait
And galloped o'er the lea
Until he reached Lord Bohan's Hall
At the dawning of the day.
Without the gate, Mathildy stood
To whom the Grame replied,
"Saw ye Sir James, the Rose, last night,
Or did he pass this way?"
"Last day at noon fair James, the Rose,
I seen him passing by.
He was mounted on a milk-white steed
And forward fast did fly.
"He's in Edinborotown now by this time
If man and horse proves good."
"Your page now lies who said he was
A-sleeping in the wood."
She wrung her hands and tore her hair
Saying, "Rose, thou art betrayed,
Thou art betrayed all by those means
I was sure you would be saved."
The hero heard a well-known voice;
This valiant knight awoke,
Oh, he awoke and drew his sword
As this brave band appeared.
"So you have slain my brother dear;
His blood as dew did shine
And by the rising of the sun
Your blood shall flow or mine."
"You speak the truth," the youth replies,
"That deeds can prove the man.
Stand by your men and hand to hand
You'll see our valiant stand."
"If boasting words a coward hide,
It is my sword you fear,
It's seen the day on FIodden's Field
When you sneaked in the rear."
"Oh, at him, men, and cut him down
Oh, cut him down in twain.
Five thousand pounds onto the man
Who leaves him on the plain."
Four of his men ---the bravest four---
Fell down before that sword,
But still they scorned that mean revenge
And sought the cowardly Lord.
Till cowardly behind him stole the Grame
And wound him in the side.
Out gushing came his purple gore
And all his garments dyed.
But ne'er of his sword did he quit the grip
Nor fell he to the ground
Till through his enemy's heart his steel
Had pierced a fatal wound.
Grame staggered back. He reeled and fell
A lifeless lump of clay
Whilst down beside him sank the Rose
That fainting, dying lay.
O when Mathildy seen him fall,
"O spare his life," she cried,
"Lord Bohan's daughter begs his life.
She shall not be denied."
The hero heard a well-known voice
And raised his death-closed eyes
And fixed them on the weeping maid,
And faintly this replies,
"In vain, Mathildy, you beg my life.
By death's, it's been denied ;
My race is run. Good-bye, my love,"
He closed his eyes and died.
She drew his sword from his left side
With frantic hands, she drew.
"I come, I come, brave Rose," she cried,
"I'm going to follow you."
She leaned the hilt upon the ground
And pressed her snow-white breast;
Laid down upon her lover's face
And endless went to rest.
So come all indulging parents,
By this warning take
And never encourage your children dear
Their sacred vows to break.
d) The first thought that came to my mind was that Rapunzel would be singing about her lack of companionship. I don't mean just the romantic kind but the kind of connection that all humans, even newborns, need to survive. She must have been very lonely in that tower with no one to share her thoughts and dreams.
e) I tell Rapunzel-- it's side B of my solo cassette, "Weatherbeard" -- "possibly the most touching rendition of Rapunzel ever told" (Martha's Vinyard Times) -- "a rare thing, a tape you cannot upon any invocation of willpower resist listening to" (Sing Out!) -- sorry, as soon as I say "my cassette, "Weatherbeard,"" certain phrases well up to the surface-- as I was saying, I tell Rapunzel, or used to, and the song is an important part of it, but maybe too important to actually put in, because who could sing that beautifully, and what song could be that beautiful? Just as horror stories are maybe better if you don't get a good look at the Horrible Thing, it's sometimes better to finesse the glorious. It may be that singing Rapunzel's song would be like trying to be as beautiful as Rapunzel looked to her lover. So I do it from the young man's point of view; all we need is a description of what it sounded like to him. (My young man is not a prince by the way.) Any experienced teller will see that emotional speaking, timing, & body language/ rudimentary mime (various cocked heads, peering thru the bushes, etc) are important in making this retelling work.
"One day, a young man-- I don't know what he was doing there, maybe hiking, or hunting or following his trap lines, I don't know-- whatever-- there was a young man, loose in the woods. And as he came walking along through the trees, he heard a sound. And he stopped. And he listened, and it was a beautiful sound, but very faint. And as he stood there, trying to hear it better, and figure out what it was, his eye happened to light on a branch, and there was a bird on a branch, and he suddenly realized that the bird was doing the same thing he was: it just standing there.... absolutely still.. listening. And as he looked around, he saw that all the birds in all the trees were doing the same thing: they were still, silent, listening to the sound. And he started moving towards the sound, and he could hear that it was some kind of music, and just then he saw a badger, just standing there-- right there, he almost stepped on it-- it didn't run away, just stood there, stock still, listening to the music. And he could hear that it was somebody singing. And just then he saw a deer-- a deer, right there-- he could have put his hand on it-- it didn't move, it just stood there. Listening. And it was a woman's voice, singing. And he followed the singing to the edge of the clearing, and looked up, and there at the tower window he saw Rapunzel; she was singing for loneliness. And she was the most beautiful person he had ever dreamed of. And the music was the most beautiful music he had ever dreamed of. And she finished her song and went back inside, and he ran out into the clearing and ran around the tower, looking for a way to get in, but there was no way to get in. And just then he heard branches crackling, and he ran back to into the woods and peered through the branches again, and into the clearing came the witch. And he saw her call up to the window."
By Tim Jennings, reprinted here with his generous permission.
Tim and Leanne's home page: http://www.folktale.net/
All recordings by Tim and Leanne may be found and purchased here.
f) (Chorus of We Gotta Get Out of this Place!)
I gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing I ever do!
I gotta get out of this place
Oh! There's a better life...for me and you!
(Green Green Grass of Home)
The old house looks the same
As I peer from the tower again
And there's that old oak tree that I long to play on
I'm Rapunzel of the tow'r so dreary
Hair of gold and lips like cherry
T'would be good to touch the green green grass of home
The I awake and look around me
At the four grey walls that surround me
And then I realize that I am only dreaming
For there's a guard posted by the doorway
And a sheer drop down three stories
Shall I ever touch the green green grass of home!
g) How about from the musical Hair "Shoulder length and longer, long as I can grow it my hair."
h) Sadarri Saskill has written a Rap Rapunzel that her daughter used in the Youth Storytelling Olympics and won. I querried her about the song. as below with her response.
Sadarri replied, "Well, I have no idea what the original song might have been. As for the Rapunzel story that I wrote, since it was sort of a parody and play on words, I just used the line of a popular song by the big "D" (Disney)... One day my prince will come... However, in my story, I used the homophonous alternative, One day my prints will come...(since my Rapunzel was an advertising/marketing prodigy waiting for her photo proofs to arrive."
i) I'm gonna wash that man right outa my hair, I'm gonna wash that man right outa my hair, I 'm gonna wash that man right outa my hair & send him on his way.
j) The 1812 pregnant Rapunzel. Which would presumably be a "modern" version of the 12th-century story of Cian impregnating the tower-bound Eithne to father the great Irish hero Lugh Lámfada. Eithne's Fomorian father, Balor of the Evil Eye, had imprisoned her because of a prophecy that his own grandson would kill him, which he eventually did.
Response to j):
Or it could be a "modern" version of the somewhat earlier story of Zeus impregnating the tower-bound Danae to father the great Greek hero Perseus. Danae's father, Acrisius, had imprisoned her because of a prophecy that his own grandson would kill him, which he eventually did. Only there the shower of gold is Zeus in disguise rather than Rapunzel's hair.
2) Query: I and my daughter attended a two-day workshop by Bob Barton a few years ago that revolved around "Rapunzel". One of the elements in that story is the stealing of Rampion (Campanularapunculoides)....If we turn Rampion into lettuce all the implications are lost. Is that important? Do we stop and explain it? Do we edit it out? Dangers abound.
Charles K. 12/28/05
a) If it counts for anything, I can recall for a fact that in the Bullwinkle version of the Fractured Fairy Tales, it is clearly stated that the mother "desired rampion," and that she "named her Rapunzel, which means rampion." We don't need no stinkin' internet research! We got Bullwinkle! I can replay the video, if anyone doubts me.
Gwyn C. 12/28/05
b) This is one reason I love this group. Such an education! I knew that Rapunzel was named that because of the rampion. l had heard that it was a kind of radish, and as I do not like radishes figured the mother was REALLY having cravings. But where else would I have found more about the subject.
Mags S. 12/28/05
c) <But, in it he retold the story of Rapunzel and showed the actual structure of the plant and the cells and how they reproduce by throwing down two long braid like fibers.>
Sounds like a fascinating book. Thanks for passing this info on. Reminds me of the first time I really saw corn growing in the field, up close. I was amazed at the roots and the way that corn looked as if it might just start "walking". Ah, there is something magical about a crop of corn and a moon light night.
Mary K.C. 12/28/05
d) To me, the whimsy of "Rapunzel" being named after "rapunzel" is an important element of the story, but calling the girl "Lettuce" would be more whimsy than the story can bear! That would be a good example of letting a correction (in this case, an update) get in the way of the story.
Mary Grace K. 12/29/0
e) <If we turn Rampion into lettuce all the implications are lost. Is that important? Do we stop and explain it? Do we edit it out? Dangers abound.>
Ah, but rampion is not just any lettuce. Its small, deep green leaves are full of flavor, mild yet nutty. My mouth waters at the thought of it. I can understand the hunger for those beautiful little leaves.
I was served some rampion at a restaurant and told it was arugula - hah! as if! Anyway, sometimes it appears at farmers' markets. And seed companies carry it these days - usually calling it mache or corn salad or lamb's lettuce (not to be confused with lambs quarters, a tasty and nutritious "weed"). I haven't found a winter supply here, but that's as it should be if we're trying to eat closer to home. It's not - or shouldn't be - any more expensive than other greens. It grows easily.
Cathryn W. 12/28/05
f) I've always thought the name Rapunzel was a derivation of the name of the plant that the mother hungered for in her pregnancy, and that the father raided the witch's garden to obtain to stop her craving. Here's one source I found online that upholds that belief. This is not a story that I have in my repertoire (yet) but I think the origin of the name is important enough to include some brief (very brief) explanation to a modern audience.
What is "Rapunzel"?
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
http://germa83.uni-trier.de/DWB/ are candidates.
1) Valerianella locusta, common names: Corn salad, mache, lamb's lettuce, field salad. Rapunzel is called Feldsalat in Germany, Nusslisalat 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 (http://nafoku.de/flora/htm/valelocu.htm).
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.
describes the root as extremely tasty, and the rosette leaves as edible, and that its blue bell-flowers http://nafoku.de/flora/htm/camprapu.htm
appear in June or July."
3) Phyteuma spicata (picture ) http://www.biosci.utexas.edu/IB/faculty/jansen/lab/personnel/eddie/pics/phyteuma_spicata.jpg
known as Ährige Teufelskralle in German.
There's also information on the site about how the cutting of one's hair reflects the loss of virginity...
Leanne J. 12/28/05
3) Here's what I saved from a 2001 discussion of Rapunzel.
Judy S. 12/29/05
a) Several years ago I had the good fortune to read an amazing book by Bill Thompson on IMaginatin and Nature. I will have to find the name of the book for you. But, in it he retold the story of Rapunzel and showed the actual structure of the plant and the cells and how they reproduce by throwing down two long braid like fibers. It opened the story way beyond the psychological.. to a way in which incredible information about the interdependence of nature, and the very lore and knowledge about plants was passed on through the vehicle of symbolic story. I hope you can find the book. I am certain as well that someone like Tim will know this book and chime in.
It is a remarkable chapter that would absolutely blow open many minds. It did mine when I read it.
I think Rapunzel would be a great plant story.
b) Perhaps I just figured out how to post messages. I have just been wallowing in all of your postings for many weeks. I thought I would share this Rapunzel lore with you. Many years ago, while listening to a talk by renowned illustrator and winner of the Caldecott award Trina Schart Hyman, she was discussing her pictures for Rapunzel. Someone asked why the father agreed to give his child to the witch. She replied that he only agreed to give the child if it was a girl and with typical male certainty that it would be a son he was sure the gift would never have to be given.
There are also links with the plant and the girl herself rampion = Rapunzel. If the plant also caused hallucinations the trip up the hair to the top of the tower could be a result of ingesting the plant.
See you in Providence.
Libby F. Massachusetts
c) As I recall from the workshop Janice del Negro held @ the USD story class I attended last October, the stealing of *food* was the real issue. The rampion just happened to be a type of food. Whereas that might be the main issue, according to one way of looking at it, I don't accept that rampion/rapunzel was just an arbitrary type of food. Nothing, but nothing, in fairy tales is arbitrary, and virtually nobody and nothing is given a specific name. When it is, you can be sure there is a significance to that. Plants have a whole wealth of lore associated with them, and are more commonly used for symbols than anything else except animals. I couldn't find any reference to the symbolism or lore of rapunzel, but I don't have any German dictionaries. If the tale had meant to refer to general food or vegetables, it would have done. Hardly any princesses in fairytales are given names, so she needn't have had one. But as with mythology, a name is always deeply significant, as it holds the key to the nature of the person or thing, indeed it is their nature, magically speaking. And when used in myth and fairytale it is always a key, a sign pointing to something veiled.
Tim S. 7/4/01
d) Nancy K, wrote: <Okay, I am going to throw this out there although my memory has a way of inventing facts as fast as a wig-maker can say "this is real hair." I "remember" reading that the rampion plant has long leaf and curly tendrils and that in order for the plant to (I don't know the term...replicate, fertilize, plantforticate, something has to travel up those leafy tendrils).>
Actually, rampion is a European bellflower with a tuberous root. The root and the curly leaves are used in salad. Go figure. Or, it could have been easier to spell than rutabaga?
e) Don't know what the significance of the plant is, but the plant you're describing may be getting out of hand. This subject came up on Storytell once before, though I haven't been able to find the discussion in my files. At that time, I thought we'd had it pretty clear that the plant known as Rapunzel in German is also called Feld Salad (field lettuce) - which translates in English English to corn salad or lamb's lettuce. The scientific name of the common variety is Valerianella locusta. It's not widely known or found in the U.S. but grows wild in Europe as well as in gardens.
It's a low growing plant - looks like a ground cover - with clusters of lobed leaves usually no more than two inches long and a short cluster of roots. I know it intimately, because my German-born husband plants it and I have spent many an hour washing the sand and dirt out of the roots and then plucking off the tiny leaves. It is a quite tasty green which grows in the late fall,and even winter in protected places, at a time when all other green things are dead or dying,which makes the work involved in preparing it worthwhile, and might help explain the pregnant mother's lust for it.
Now rampion, I don't know, but my dictionary says this: 1. a European campanula Campanula rapunculus, having an edible white tubrous root used in Europe for salad 2. Any campanulaceous plant of the genus Phyteuma, having heads or spikes of blue flowers. The confusion of the two names may be because the origin is cited as: prob. altern. of MF (Middle French?) from the Italian Raponzo from rapa = turnip - from Latin)
Since the story with the name Rapunzel is of German origin, I would suspect that Feld Salat or lamb's lettuce is a better bet, so be careful about hanging lots of interpretation on leafy tendrils.One of my husband's many gardening reference books states that the leaves of rampion may also be eaten. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate a picture of it in any of the books. It belongs to the Campanula family, many members of which are grown in perennial gardens and have blue or white bell-shaped flowers. Campanula means little bell.
Hope this isn't too confusing!
Judy S. researching rapunzel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 7/4/01
4) As luck would have it, the new 2006 Cook's Garden catalog arrived yesterday and they now have FOUR varieties of mache! Yum!
Visit http://www.cooksgarden.com to request a catalog.
Fran S. 12/30/05
5) I wasn't expecting to trigger an upsurge in Rampion consumption. Hmmm... OK ladies, but don't go asking your husbands to get you any.
Charles K. 12/30/05
6) While googling for something completely unrelated, I came across this website for an organic foods company, named "Rapunzel."
They include the whole fairy tale as well. It's funny where these things turn up, isn't it?
Gwyn C. 12/31/05
7) In my search for seeds for "A Magical Story Garden!" I found this picture of rampion aka rapunzel. Thought some of you might like to see it after our long thread. Looks kind of like a long, white radish. And apparently it's considered an herb.
Jackie B. 1/3/06
8) Browsing on NPR's Science Friday website I came across this video. Thought some of you would enjoy it - even if it does relate to a Disney animation!
Judy S. 4/14/11
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