ONCE upon a time there lived a man and his wife who were very unhappy because they had no children. These good people had a little window at the back of their house, which looked into the most lovely garden, full of all manner of beautiful flowers and vegetables; but the garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to enter it, for it belonged to a witch of great power, who was feared by the whole world. One day the woman stood at the window overlooking the garden, and saw there a bed full of the finest rampion: the leaves looked so fresh and green that she longed to eat them. The desire grew day by day, and just because she knew she couldn’t possibly get any, she pined away and became quite pale and wretched. Then her husband grew alarmed and said:
‘What ails you, dear wife?’
‘Oh,’ she answered, ‘if I don’t get some rampion to eat out of the garden behind the house, I know I shall die.’
The man, who loved her dearly, thought to himself, ‘Come! rather than let your wife die you shall fetch her some rampion, no matter the cost.’ So at dusk he climbed over the wall into the witch’s garden, and, hastily gathering a handful of rampion leaves, he returned with them to his wife. She made them into a salad, which tasted so good that her longing for the forbidden food was greater than ever. If she were to know any peace of mind, there was nothing for it but that her husband should climb over the garden wall again, and fetch her some more. So at dusk over he got, but when he reached the other side he drew back in terror, for there, standing before him, was the old witch.
‘How dare you,’ she said, with a wrathful glance, ‘climb into my garden and steal my rampion like a common thief? You shall suffer for your foolhardiness.’
‘Oh!’ he implored, ‘pardon my presumption; necessity alone drove me to the deed. My wife saw your rampion from her window, and conceived such a desire for it that she would certainly have died if her wish had not been gratified.’ Then the Witch’s anger was a little appeased, and she said:
‘If it’s as you say, you may take as much rampion away with you as you like, but on one condition only–that you give me the child your wife will shortly bring into the world. All shall go well with it, and I will look after it like a mother.’
The man in his terror agreed to everything she asked, and as soon as the child was born the Witch appeared, and having given it the name of Rapunzel, which is the same as rampion, she carried it off with her.
Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old the Witch shut her up in a tower, in the middle of a great wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor doors, only high up at the very top a small window. When the old Witch wanted to get in she stood underneath and called out:
Let down your golden hair,’
for Rapunzel had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine as spun gold. Whenever she heard the Witch’s voice she unloosed her plaits, and let her hair fall down out of the window about twenty yards below, and the old Witch climbed up by it.
After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one day that a Prince was riding through the wood and passed by the tower. As he drew near it he heard someone singing so sweetly that he stood still spell-bound, and listened. It was Rapunzel in her loneliness trying to while away the time by letting her sweet voice ring out into the wood. The Prince longed to see the owner of the voice, but he sought in vain for a door in the tower. He rode home, but he was so haunted by the song he had heard that he returned every day to the wood and listened. One day, when he was standing thus behind a tree, he saw the old Witch approach and heard her call out: