Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grimm Garden: Rapunzel

Liam Heneghan

In a familiar Brothers Grimm story a husband steals rampion, a species of bellflower, the leaves of which were once eaten like spinach, from the walled garden of a fairy. He fetches it for his pregnant wife who refused to eat anything else.  But his wife is not sated by the first stolen harvest and so the husband, fearing for his wife, returns to the garden for more. The fairy angrily confronts the thief and on hearing that the wife cannot be denied the rampion, permits him to take all he wants in return for their unborn child.

The forfeited child is called Rapunzel, which is another name for rampion, for this is a girl nurtured in the womb by that plant.  Plant-like young Rapunzel “grew into the most beautiful child beneath the sun.”

The remainder of the action of the story, including the girl’s confinement in tower by the fairy, the astonishing means of entering the tower by climbing Rapunzel’s long hair, the prince who comes learns this secret, his visits and his blinded by thorns, the final reuniting of the lovers, and the restoration of his sight, all take place beyond the limits of the garden where the story’s seeds had been sown.

Yet a garden theme remains woven throughout the story. Rapunzel herself becomes a flower within a walled garden, confined as she is within the walls of her tower.  She is rooted in one spot like the plant after which she was named. And at the risk of inflicting small injuries to the story by stretching its meaning so thin, does not Rapunzel’s hair descend root-like from her tower to the earth below, and does not our prince climb the stalk-like tower to pollinate the loveliest flower that ever grew beneath the sun, and is not his love tested by injuries inflicted by thorns before they are restored by the gentle rain of her tears?

1 comment:

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