For a very long time a man his wife had wanted a child, but in vain. At least the woman geban to hope that God was going to grant her dearest wish.
Now there was a tiny window at the back of their house, from which they could see a splendid garden, full of the rarest flowers and the strangest herbs. But this lovely garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dated to go in. It belonged to an old lady who was a powerful witch, and everyone feared her.
One day the women was standing at her window, looking down into the garden below, and she saw a new bed of the most beautiful green herbs. They looked so fresh and appetizing that she felt a great longing to taste them. As the days went by she longed more and more for the bright green herbs, and when she realized that she would never taste them, she grew pale and wretched and waste away.
Her husband was frightened and asked, “What is the matter, dear wife?”
“Alas,” she replied, “if I do not have some of those lovely green herbs from the garden behind our house, I am sure I shall die!”
The man was in despair, for he loved his wife dearly, and he made up his mind to fetch some herbs, no matter what the cost. When night began to fall he climbed the high wall into the witch’s garden, plucked a handful of herbs, and took them to his wife. She was delighted and immediately made them into a salad, which she ate with great appetite.
But she enjoyed them so much that the next day she wanted to herbs more than ever, and she gave her husband no peace until he climbed the wall a second time. No sooner had be dropped down on the other side than he found himself face to face with the witch.
“How dare you come into my garden and steal my plants,” she said, aher eyes flashing in anger. “I’ll see that you pay dearly for this!”
“Alas!” he replied in terror. “Please forgive me this time. My need was great, for my wife would have died without your herbs.”
“Very well,” said the witch. “If it is as you say, you may take all of herbs you want, but on one condition: I must have your baby, as soon as it is born. I shall be a good mother to it and take great care of it.”
In this fear the man agreed to everything. When the baby was born the witch appeared immediately, called the child Rapunzel after the name of the herbs the mother had eaten, and took it away with her.
Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun, When she was twelve, the witch shut her up at the top a high tower which lay deep in the forest and her neither door nor stairs, only a tiny window right at the top. Whenever the witch wanted to enter the tower, she would call up from below, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”
Rapunzel had beautiful long hair, as fine as spun gold. When she heard the witch call her, she would unbraid her hair, make it fast round the window latch, and then let it tumble down to the witch, who would climb up to her.
The years passed by, until one day the king’s son came riding through the wood near the tower. As he rode he heard the most beautiful singing. He stopped and listened, enchanted. It was Rapunzel, who was whiling away her lonely hours by singing in her sweet, soft voice. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her and searched for the door of the tower, but there was none to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so moved his heart that day after day he rode to the wood to listen.
One day, as he stood hidden behind a tree, he saw the witch arrive, and heard her call, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair!” Rapunzel let down her beautiful long tresses, and the witch climbed up.
“If that is the ladder one must use, then I will try my luck,” murmured the king’s son to himself. And the following day at dusk he went to the tower, and called, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” At once the long tresses came rippling down to him, and the king’s son began to climb.
At first Rapunzel was frightened when she saw a young man climbing into her room, but the king;s son gently explained how her beautiful singing had so entranced him that he could find no peace until he had seen her for himself.
Soon Rapunzel lost her fear, and when a young and handsome king’s son asked her to his wife she thought, “ He will love me better than the old woman.” So she laid her hand in his, and said, “Yes, I will marry you and go with you gladly, but now am I to climb down the tower? Each time you come here you must bring me a silken cord, and I will make a ladder with it. When it is finished I shall climb down, and you shall take me away on your horse.”
They agreed that he would come every evening until the ladder was ready, for the old woman came by day. The witch knew nothing of what was going on until one day Rapunzel asked her, “Why are you so much heavier to pull up than the young prince? He is with me in a twinkling.”
“You wicked child!” cried the witch. “What is this hear? I thought I had kept you well hidden from the whole world, and yet you have deceived me!”
In her anger she seized Rapunzel’s beautiful hair took her scissors and – snip, snap – cut it off. There on the floor lay the lovely golden tresses. The old witch was angry and merciless, and left her there to live in wretchedness and misery.
As dusk was falling that evening, the witch returned from the wilderness to the tower, where she had fastened Rapunzel’s long hair to the window latch. When the young prince stood below and called, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” – she lowered the hair to him. He climbed up, but when he reached the top he found not his dearest Rapunzel, but the witch, who glared at him with baleful eyes.
“So,” she cried scornfully, “you have come to find your lady-love! But the cat has taken your sweet little singing-bird from the nest, and is waiting to catch you too! You will never see Rapunzel again. For you she is as good as lost.”
The grief of the king’s son was so great that he could not bear it, and in despair he leaped from the window. He escaped with his life, but the thorn bushes in which he landed blinded him. He wandered to eat, lamenting and weeping over the loss of his dear bride.
He roamed the world for some years in great misery, and eventually came to the wilderness where Rapunzel lived. He heard the dear, familiar voice, and hastened towards it. As he approached, Rapunzel recognized him and fell on his neck, weeping. Two of her tears dropped on to his eyelids. At once his eyes became clear and he could see as perfectly as ever.
He took her back to his kingdom, where he was welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily and contentedly for many, many years.
To be continued...............