UC Berkeley Department of German
Poetry Corner
Heiko Michael Hartmann - Triumph eines Hosenverkäufers
Zafer Senocak - Berlin vor dem schwarzen Frühling
Heinrich Heine - Die Lore-Ley
Paul Celan - Chymisch
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' Rapunzel
Georg Trakl - Psalm
Jakob van Hoddis - Weltende

"Es ist möglich", sagt der Türhüter, "jetzt aber nicht."
  —Franz Kafka


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Rapunzel

Es war einmal ein Mann und eine Frau, die wünschten sich schon lange vergeblich ein Kind, endlich machte sich die Frau Hoffnung, der liebe Gott werde ihren Wunsch erfüllen. Die Leute hatte in ihrem Hinterhaus ein kleines Fenster, daraus konnte man in einen prächtigen Garten sehen, der voll der schönsten Blumen und Kräuter stand; er war aber von einer hohen Mauer umgeben, und niemand wagte hineinzugehen, weil er einer Zauberin gehörte, die große Macht hatte und von aller Welt gefürchtet ward. Eines Tags stand die Frau an diesem Fenster und sah in den Garten hinab. Da erblickte sie ein Beet, das mit den schönsten Rapunzeln bepflanzt war, und sie sahen so frisch und grün aus, daß sie lüstern ward und das größte Verlangen empfand, von den Rapunzeln zu essen. Das Verlangen nahm jeden Tag zu, und da sie wußte, daß sie keine davon bekommen konnte, so fiel sie ganz ab, sah blaß und elend aus. Da erschrak der Mann und fragte: "Was fehlt dir. liebe Frau ? "Ach, antwortete sie, "wenn ich keine Rapunzeln aus dem Garten hinter unserm Hause zu essen kriege so sterbe ich." Der Mann, der sie lieb hatte, dachte: Eh du deine Frau sterben läsest holst du ihr von den Rapunzeln, es mag kosten, was es will. In der Abenddämmerung stieg er also über die Mauer in den Garten der Zauberin, stach in aller Eile eine Handvoll Rapunzeln und brachte sie seiner Frau. Sie machte sich sogleich Salat daraus und aß sie in voller Begierde auf. Sie hatten ihr aber so gut geschmeckt, daß sie den andern Tag noch dreimal soviel Lust bekam. Sollte sie Ruhe haben, so mußte der Mann noch einmal in den Garten steigen. Er machte sich also in der Abenddämmerung wieder hinab. Als er aber die Mauer herabgeklettert war, erschrak er gewaltig, denn er sah die Zauberin vor sich stehen. "wie kannst du es wagen", sprach sie mit zornigem Blick, in meinen Garten zu steigen und wie ein Dieb mir meine Rapunzeln zu stehlen? Das soll dir schlecht bekommen !" "Ach", antwortete er, laßt Gnade für Recht ergehen, ich habe mich nur aus Not dazu entschlossen. Meine Frau hat Eure Rapunzeln aus dem Fenster erblickt und empfindet ein so großes Gelüsten, daß sie sterben würde, wenn sie nicht davon zu essen bekommt. Da ließ die Zauberin in ihrem Zorne nach und sprach zu ihm: "Verhält es sich so, wie du sagst so will ich dir gestatten, Rapunzeln mitzunehmen, soviel du willst; allein ich mache eine Bedingung: Du mußt mir das Kind geben, das deine Frau zur Welt bringen wird. Es soll ihm gut gehen, und ich will für es sorgen wie eine Mutter." Der Mann sagte in der Angst alles zu, und als die Frau in Wochen kam, so erschien sogleich die Zauberin, gab dem Kinde den Namen R a p u n z e l und nahm es mit sich fort.

Rapunzel ward das schönste Kind unter der Sonne. Als es zwölf Jahre alt war, schloß es die Zauberin in einen Turm, der in einem Walde lag und weder Treppe noch Türe hatte; nur ganz oben war ein kleines Fensterchen. Wenn die Zauberin hinein wollte, so stellte sie sich unten hin und rief:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Laß mir dein Haar herunter !"

Rapunzel hatte lange, prächtige Haare, fein wie gesponnen Gold. Wenn sie nun die Stimme der Zauberin vernahm, so band sie ihre Zöpfe los, wickelte sie oben um einen Fensterhaken, und dann fielen die Haare zwanzig Ellen tief herunter, und die Zauberin stieg daran hinauf.

Nach ein paar Jahren trug es sich zu, daß der Sohn des Königs durch den Wald ritt und an dem Turm vorüberkam. Da hörte er einen Gesang, der war so lieblich, daß er stillhielt und horchte. Das war Rapunzel, die in ihrer Einsamkeit sich die Zeit damit vertrieb, ihre süße Stimme erschallen zu lassen. Der Königssohn wollte zu ihr hinaufsteigen und suchte nach einer Türe des Turms: aber es war keine zu finden. Er ritt heim. Doch der Gesang hatte ihm so sehr das Herz gerührt, daß er jeden Tag hinaus in den Wald ging und zuhörte. Als er einmal so hinter einem Baum stand, sah er, daß eine Zauberin herankam, und hörte, wie sie hinaufrief:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Laß mir dein Haar herunter !"

Da ließ Rapunzel die Haarflechten herab, und die Zauberin stieg zu ihr hinauf. "Ist das die Leiter, auf welcher man hinaufkommt, so will ich auch einmal mein Glück versuchen." Und den folgenden Tag, als es anfing dunkel zu werden, ging er zu dem Turme und rief:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Laß mir dein Haar herunter !"

Alsbald fielen die Haare herab, und der Königssohn stieg hinauf.

Anfangs erschrak Rapunzel gewaltig, als ein Mann zu ihr hereinkam, wie ihre Augen noch nie einen erblickt hatten. Doch der Königssohn fing an, ganz freundlich mit ihr zu reden, und erzählte ihr, daß von ihrem Gesang sein Herz so sehr sei bewegt worden, daß es ihm keine Ruhe gelassen und er sie selbst habe sehen müssen. Da verlor Rapunzel ihre Angst, und als er sie fragte, ob sie ihn zum Manne nehmen wollte, und sie sah, daß er jung und schön war, so dachte sie: Der wird mich lieber haben als die alte Frau Gotel, und sagte "Ja", und legte ihre Hand in seine Hand. Sie sprach: "Ich will gerne mit dir gehen, aber ich weiß nicht, wie ich herabkommen kann. Wenn du kommst, so bring jedesmal einen Strang Seide mit, daraus will ich eine Leiter flechten, und wenn die fertig ist, so steige ich herunter, und du nimmst mich auf dein Pferd." Sie verabredeten, daß er bis dahin alle Abende zu ihr kommen sollte: Denn bei Tag kam die Alte. Die Zauberin merkte auch nichts davon, bis einmal Rapunzel anfing und zu ihr sagte: "Sag Sie mir doch, Frau Gotel, wie kommt es nur, Sie wird mir viel schwerer heraufzuziehen als den jungen Königssohn, der ist in einem Augenblick bei mir ?" "Ach du gottloses Kind !" rief die Zauberin, "was muß ich von dir hören; ich dachte, ich hatte dich von aller Welt geschieden, und du hast mich doch betrogen !" In ihrem Zorn packte sie die schönen Haare der Rapunzel, schlug sie ein paarmal um ihre linke Hand, griff eine Schere mit der rechten, und, ritsch, ratsch, waren sie abgeschnitten, und die schönen Flechten lagen auf der Erde. Und sie war so unbarmherzig, daß sie die arme Rapunzel in eine Wüstenei brachte, wo sie in großem Jammer und Elend leben mußte.

Denselben Tag aber, wo sie Rapunzel verstoßen hatte, machte abends die Zauberin die abgeschnittenen Flechten oben am Fensterhaken fest, und als der Königssohn kam und rief:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Laß mir dein Haar herunter !"
so ließ sie die Haare hinab. Der Königssohn stieg hinauf, aber er fand oben nicht seine liebste Rapunzel, sondern die Zauberin, die ihn mit bösen und giftigen Blicken ansah. "Aha", rief sie höhnisch, "du willst die Frau Liebste holen, aber der schöne Vogel sitzt nicht mehr im Nest und singt nicht mehr, die Katze hat ihn geholt und wird dir auch noch die Augen auskratzen Für dich ist Rapunzel verloren, du wirst sie nie wieder erblicken !" Der Königssohn geriet außer sich vor Schmerzen, und in der Verzweiflung sprang er den Turm herab. Das Leben brachte er davon, aber die Dornen, in die er fiel, zerstachen ihm die Augen. Da irrte er blind im Wald umher, aß nichts als Wurzeln und Beeren und tat nichts als jammern und weinen über den Verlust seiner liebsten Frau. So wanderte er einige Jahre im Elend umher und geriet endlich in die Wüstenei wo Rapunzel mit den Zwillingen, die sie geboren hatte, einem Knaben und einem Mädchen, kümmerlich lebte. Er vernahm eine Stimme, und sie deuchte ihm so bekannt. Da ging er darauf zu und wie er herankam, erkannte ihn Rapunzel und fiel ihm um den Hals und weinte. Zwei von ihren Tränen aber benetzten seine Augen, da wurden sie wieder klar, und er konnte damit sehen wie sonst. Er führte sie in sein Reich, wo er mit Freude empfangen ward, und sie lebten noch lange glücklich und vergnügt.

 

Rapunzel
by
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm

Translated by Kathleen J. Rinkes

Once upon a time, a man and his wife longed fruitlessly for a child of their own. Endlessly, the woman hoped that God would fulfill her wish. These folks had a little window at the back of their house from which one could see a magnificent garden full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was surrounded by a high wall, however, and no one dared to enter, for it belonged to a powerful Enchantress who was feared all over the world.

One day, the wife stood by the window and looked into the garden. There she spied a patch of garden planted with the most beautiful lamb's lettuce called rapunzel. It looked so fresh and green that she longed to eat it. Her craving for the rapunzel increased with every day, though she knew she couldn't have any. She pined away, and she began to look pale and miserable.

Alarmed, her husband asked, "What is wrong, dear wife?"

"Oh," she sighed, "if I can't eat any rapunzel from that garden I shall die!"

The man, who loved her, thought, "Rather than let your wife die, bring her some rapunzel yourself, whatever the cost."

In the twilight, he clambered over the wall into the garden of the Enchantress, quickly grabbed a handful of rapunzel and took it to his wife. She ate it eagerly. It tasted so good that she craved it three times as much. If she were to have any peace, her husband would have to climb into the garden once more. He went in the gloom of the evening. But when he climbed over the wall, he was terribly afraid, for he saw the Enchantress standing there before him.

"How can you venture," she spoke with an angry look, "to climb into my garden and, like a thief, steal my rapunzel? You shall suffer for this."

"Ah," he pleaded," may your mercy take the place of justice, I stole the rapunzel only out of necessity. My wife saw your rapunzel from our window and longed for it so greatly that she would have died had she not eaten it."

The Enchantress allowed her anger to soften, and said to him, "If the case is as you say, I will allow you to take as much rapunzel as you'd like, on one condition: you must give me the first child your wife brings into the world. I shall treat her well, and care for her like a mother."

The man in his terror consented, and when his wife's time had come, the Enchantress at once appeared. She named the baby girl Rapunzel and took her away.

Rapunzel grew to be the most beautiful child under the sun. After celebrating her twelfth birthday, the Enchantress safely locked Rapunzel in a tower. The tower, which lay in the forest, had neither stairs nor doors. At the very top, however, it possessed one, tiny window. When the Enchantress wanted to visit, she placed herself beneath the tower window and cried:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Lass mir dein Haar herunter!"
(Which translates:)
Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair!"
(The Enchantress was from the Black Forest where they spoke a different language.)

Rapunzel had long, splendid hair, as fine as spun gold. When she heard the voice of her mother, the Enchantress, she unfastened her braided tresses and wound them around one of the hooks of the window. Her hair fell twenty ells down, and the Enchantress climbed up.

After a couple of years, it came to pass that the son of a king rode through the forest and passed by the tower. There he heard a song that was so lovely that he stopped to listen. This was Rapunzel who, in her solitude, passed the time by letting her sweet voice resound. The king's son, who was a prince, wanted to climb up to her, and looked for a door, but none was to be found. He rode home. The singing had so deeply touched his heart, however, that he returned daily to listen to Rapunzel. Once, when he was standing behind a tree, he saw that an Enchantress came, and heard how she cried:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Lass dein Haar herunter!"
(Growing up on the edge of the enchanted Black Forest, the Prince understood her words.)

Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the Enchantress climbed up to her. "Is that the ladder, by which one climbs? Then I, too, will try my luck." He went to the tower and cried:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair."
(The new voice piqued the bilingual Rapunzel's curiosity.)

The hair fell down promptly, and the Prince climbed up. Rapunzel was terribly frightened at first, when a man, such as her eyes had never beheld, came to her. But the Prince spoke to her as a friend, and told her how his heart had been so stirred by her singing that it let him have no rest, and he had to see her. Rapunzel was fearful no more, and when he asked her to marry him, and recognized that he was young and handsome, she thought, "He will love me more than the Enchantress, old Frau Gothel, does." She said, "Yes," and laid her hand in his.

She said," I will willingly go away with you, but I don't know how I can climb down. When you come, bring with you a skein of yarn, then I will weave a ladder with it, and when it is finished, I will climb down, and you can take me away on your horse."

They agreed that he should come to her every evening, for the old Frau came by day.

The Enchantress knew nothing of this arrangement, until once Rapunzel said to her, "Tell me why, Frau Gothel, when you climb up, you are so much heavier than the young Prince? He is here in the blink of an eye."

The Enchantress cried, "Oh you godless child! What did I hear you say? I thought I had protected you from all the world, and you have betrayed me!"

In her anger, she clutched Rapunzel's beautiful tresses, wrapped them around her left hand, gripped a pair of scissors in her right hand and "Snip!" Snap!" she cut off Rapunzel's hair. The lovely braids lay on the ground. She was so unforgiving that she took Rapunzel into the desert to wander in misery and grief.

On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, the Enchantress fastened the braids around the window hook; and, that evening, the Prince came and cried:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair!"

Then she let down the hair. The Prince climbed up, but instead of finding his love, Rapunzel, he found the Enchantress, who looked at him with wickedness and venom.
"Aha!" she cried, "you wish to fetch your loving wife, but the beautiful bird sits and sings in her nest never more. The cat has got it and will scratch your eyes as well! Rapunzel is lost to you. You will never see her again!"

The Prince was beside himself with pain; and in his despair, sprang from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns from the bush below, which broke his fall, pierced his eyes. He wandered blind through the forest. He ate only berries and roots, and did nothing but weep and lament the loss of his dearest wife, Rapunzel.

He wandered this way for many years. At length, he wandered into the desert where Rapunzel lived in wretchedness with their two children, a boy and a girl, that she had given birth to in exile. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he traveled towards it. When he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her joyful tears fell into his blinded eyes, and they grew clear again. He could see with them as before. He lead her to his kingdom where they were joyfully welcomed, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and content.




Translating Name Importance in Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' Rapunzel

by Kathleen J. Rinkes


Translators must take into account the importance of name retention in fairy tales. Rapunzel, from Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' second edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen, has taken many forms in twentieth century translations. The names found in the tale Rapunzel fall prey to mistranslation and omission. Given its current literary nature, namely the incorporation of this once grizzly tale into a more amiable and readable children's version, translators take liberties with Rapunzel. This may seem a trivial matter, but the changes made, particularly to the title character's name, may diminish the quality and content of the original tale.

We must take into account the fact that the Grimm's borrowed this tale from French and Italian equivalents. The liberties they took when translating this tale reflected their cultural values and ethics. The Grimm's altered their own versions in later editions to placate a scandalized public.

In the German rendition of this tale, Rapunzel receives her name from her mother's prenatal cravings for the Rapunzel that grows in her neighbor's forbidden garden. Children's books often tell us that Rapunzel's mother craves radishes or even rampion. Would it not be more appropriate then to name her Radish? Of course, this is impossibly silly. Even though many tales reflect the humor or irony of characters through their ridiculous names (i.e. Die Kluge Else and Rumpelstilzchen), Rapunzel is intended as a beautiful, naive and unworldly child whose name must reflect her mother's cravings. This fact is further demonstrated by the knowledge that the neighbor is an enchantress and as such possesses herbs and remedies to ease child labor and promote or inhibit sexuality. The neighbor is present at the birth of the child and takes Rapunzel immediately away to foster her in exchange for the parents indiscretions.

The German translation identifies the neighbor as Frau Gothel. Her name reflects a Christian versus pagan theme. The Grimm's were fond of incorporating the struggle between Christianity and paganism into their tales. The Christian identification with the symbol of the lamb as one of the flock of Christ creates another dimension which, I believe, is contrasted with the name of the enchantress. Gothel is plural for Goth in German. Frau Gothel's name bears the root Goth which, at one point, was synonymous with pagan. Before Wulfila's conversion of the historical Goths to Christianity, this Germanic tribe was viewed as paganistic and, therefore, evil. My view is that Frau Gothel's character wasn't originally perceived as evil. She was merely a reflection of the old religion.

Rapunzel's reception by Christian readers of the Victorian era was less than amiable. The Grimm's and future translators demonized the enchantress, giving us the evil witch of children's stories today. Twentieth century children's translations leave the enchantress nameless. She is a no-named witch with evil tendencies. This name omission reflects the complexity of the enchantress and her origin historically and mythologically. Understanding the roots adds spice to the translation.

Further confusion arises when translating the noun Rapunzel. The New College German Dictionary literally translates Rapunzel as lamb's lettuce. Translator's are either unaware of this fact or think it will confuse the reader. Rampion or radishes are the norm for modern translations. A peer recalls a book which states that the mother craved arugula. This may indicate that the sought after vegetable changes according to the background and nationality of the translator and his or her intended audience. Radishes are tangible in the American mind and vocabulary. While lamb's lettuce is definable in the German context, it's unidentifiable to the American reader.

Retaining the idea of lamb's lettuce from the name Rapunzel is pivotal to the story. An innocent girl is locked in a tower to protect her virginity. Frau Gothel understands the curiosity of the adolescent mind and body. Rapunzel is her lamb, and she wishes to keep her pure as long as possible. It is my belief that the original story intended Rapunzel to be Frau Gothel's successor as a midwife. It was common practice for midwives to foster orphans from unwanted pregnancies and train them in the craft. Clearly, the husband and wife can't afford a child, even though they desperately pray for one at the front end of the story. They can't even afford to grow Rapunzel in their own garden. After the witch takes Rapunzel away, we never hear of them again (this seems odd since the witch lives next door to them and doesn't lock Rapunzel up until she reaches adolescence).

To better understand and retain the meaning of Rapunzel in the original Grimms' form, I think it's important for the translator to describe the type of vegetable briefly. The mother looks out her window and "spies the most beautiful lamb's lettuce called rapunzel." In this context, the reader understands that Rapunzel is a type of lettuce. The name lamb's lettuce creates name importance for the character. She isn't hard, round, red and spicy like a radish, but a soft, green and innocent lamb. She is the most beautiful girl under the sun. Lettuce, an above-ground plant unlike the underground radish, must have sun to thrive and bloom. Lamb's lettuce blooms into tiny blue flowers. This is reminiscent of the blue flower of Novalis and the alchemist's symbol for the impossible. The wife craves a child; she craves Rapunzel. Rapunzel, her daughter, is the price she pays for the Rapunzel she craves.

Name symbology resonates throughout this tale in its original form. Few translations convey the importance of retaining the essence of the names. I've attempted this in my translation of Rapunzel, loosely based on the second edition version of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmärchen.

Adapted from: Rinkes, Kathleen J. Translating Rapunzel; A very Long Process. Apr. 17, 2001.