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Rapunzel | Classic Fairy Tales

by Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book

“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:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
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:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

Then Rapunzel let down her plaits, and the Witch climbed up by them.

‘So that’s the staircase, is it?’ said the Prince. ‘Then I too will climb it and try my luck.’

So on the following day, at dusk, he went to the foot of the tower and cried:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

and as soon as she had let it down the Prince climbed up. At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man came in, for she had never seen one before; but the Prince spoke to her so kindly, and told her at once that his heart had been so touched by her singing, that he felt he should know no peace of mind till he had seen her. Very soon Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he asked her to marry him she consented at once. ‘For,’ she thought, ‘he is young and handsome, and I’ll certainly be happier with him than with the old Witch.’ So she put her hand in his and said:

‘Yes, I will gladly go with you, only how am I to get down out of the tower? Every time you come to see me you must bring a skein of silk with you, and I will make a ladder of them, and when it is finished I will climb down by it, and you will take me away on your horse.’

They arranged that, till the ladder was ready, he was to come to her every evening, because the old woman was with her during the day. The old Witch, of course, knew nothing of what was going on, till one day Rapunzel, not thinking of what she was about, turned to the Witch and said:

‘How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up than the young Prince? He is always with me in a moment.’

‘Oh! you wicked child,’ cried the Witch. ‘What is this I hear? I thought I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in spite of it you have managed to deceive me.’

In her wrath she seized Rapunzel’s beautiful hair, wound it round and round her left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in her right, snip snap, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. And, worse than this, she was so hard-hearted that she took Rapunzel to a lonely desert place, and there left her to live in loneliness and misery.

But on the evening of the day in which she had driven poor Rapunzel away, the Witch fastened the plaits on to a hook in the window, and when the Prince came and called out:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your golden hair,’

she let them down, and the Prince climbed up as usual, but instead of his beloved Rapunzel he found the old Witch, who fixed her evil, glittering eyes on him, and cried mockingly:

‘Ah, ah! you thought to find your lady love, but the pretty bird has flown and its song is dumb; the cat caught it, and will scratch out your eyes too. Rapunzel is lost to you for ever—you will never see her more.’

The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he jumped right down from the tower, and, though he escaped with his life, the thorns among which he fell pierced his eyes out. Then he wandered, blind and miserable, through the wood, eating nothing but roots and berries, and weeping and lamenting the loss of his lovely bride. So he wandered about for some years, as wretched and unhappy as he could well be, and at last he came to the desert place where Rapunzel was living. Of a sudden he heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to him. He walked eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when he was quite close, Rapunzel recognised him and fell on his neck and wept. But two of her tears touched his eyes, and in a moment they became quite clear again, and he saw as well as he had ever done. Then he led her to his kingdom, where they were received and welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily ever after. “

Source: The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, published in 1890, public domain

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The Goose and the Golden Eggs

The moral: Those who have plenty want more and so lose all they have.

There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.

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The Wolf and the Donkey

The moral: Stick with your trade.

A Donkey was feeding in a pasture near a wood when he saw a Wolf lurking in the shadows along the hedge. He easily guessed what the Wolf had in mind, and thought of a plan to save himself. So he pretended he was lame, and began to hobble painfully.

When the Wolf came up, he asked the Donkey what had made him lame, and the Donkey replied that he had stepped on a sharp thorn.

“Please pull it out, ” he pleaded, groaning as if in pain. “If you do not, it might stick in your throat when you eat me.”

The Wolf saw the wisdom of the advice, for he wanted to enjoy his meal without any danger of choking. So the Donkey lifted up his foot and the Wolf began to search very closely and carefully for the thorn.

Just then the Donkey kicked out with all his might, tumbling the Wolf a dozen paces away. And while the Wolf was getting very slowly and painfully to his feet, the Donkey galloped away in safety.

“Serves me right, ” growled the Wolf as he crept into the bushes. “I’m a butcher by trade, not a doctor.”

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The Wolf and the Lean Dog

The moral: Do not depend on the promises of those whose interest it is to deceive you. Take what you can get when you can get it.

A Wolf prowling near a village one evening met a Dog. It happened to be a very lean and bony Dog, and Master Wolf should have turned up his nose at such meager fare had he not been more hungry than usual. So he began to edge toward the Dog, while the Dog backed away.

“Let me remind your lordship,” said the Dog, his words interrpted now and then as he dodged a snap of the Wolf’s teeth, “how unpleasant it would be to eat me now. Look at my ribs. I am nothing but skin and bone. But let me tell you something in private. In a few days my master will give a wedding feast for his only daughter. You can guess how fine and fat I will grow on the scraps from the table. Then is the time to eat me.”

The Wolf could not help thinking how nice it would be to have a fine fat Dog to eat instead of the scrawny object before him. So he went away pulling in his belt and promising to return.

Some days later the Wolf came back for the promised feast. He found the Dog in his master’s yard, and asked him to come out and be eaten.

“Sir,” said the Dog, with a grin, ” I shall be delighted to have you eat me. I’ll be out as soon as the porter opens the door.”

But the “porter” was a huge Dog whom the Wolf knew by painful experience to be very unkind toward wolves. So he decided not to wait and made off as fast as his legs could carry him.

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Aesop’s Fables | The Owl and the Grasshopper

The Moral: Flattery is not a proof of true admiration. Do not let flattery throw you off your guard against an enemy.

The owl always takes her sleep during the day. Then after sun is down, when the rosy light fades from the sky and the shadows rise slowly through the wood, out she comes ruffling and blinking from the old hollow tree. Now her weird “hoo-hoo-hoo-oo-oo” echoes through the quiet wood, and she begins her hunt for the bugs and beetles, frogs and mice she likes so well to eat.

Now there was a certain old owl who had become very cross and hard to please as she grew older, especially if anything disturbed her daily slumbers. One warm summer afternoon as she dozed away in her den in the old oak tree, a Grasshopper nearby bugan a joyous but very raspy song. Out popped the old owl’s head from the opening in the tree that served her both for door and for window.

“Get away from here, sir,” she said to the Grasshopper. “Have you no manners? You should at least respect my age and leave me to sleep in quiet!”

But the Grasshopper answered that he had as much right to his place in the sun as the owl had to her place in the old oak. Then he struck up a louder and still more rasping tune.

The wise old owl knew quite well that it would do no good to argue with the Grasshopper, nor with anybody else for that matter. Besides, her eyes were not sharp enough by day to permit her to punish the Grasshopper as he deserved. So she laid aside all hard words and spoke very kindly to him.

“Well sir, ” she said, “if I must stay awake, I am going to settle right down to enjoy your singing. Now that I think of it, I have a wonderful wine here, sent me from Olympus, of which I am told Apollo drinks before he sings to the high gods. Please come up and taste this delicious drink with me. I know it will make you sing like Apollo himself.”

The foolish Grasshopper was taken in by the owl’s flattering words. Up he jumped to the owl’s den but as soon as he was near enough so the old owl could see him clearly, she pounced upon him and ate him up.

Smart owl isn’t she? What is your take away from the story? Our vanity can easily blind us even when we are in great danger!

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Aesop’s Fables | The Frogs Who Wished for a King

The Moral: Be sure you can better your condition before you seek to change.

When a group of frogs living with unlimited freedom and are too lazy to think about how to rule themselves, what would happen to them? Let’s see this very inspiring story about a frogland! Read on:

The frogs were tired of governig themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to *Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.

“How now!” cried Jupiter “Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes.”

What do we learn about this story? The moral is: Be sure you can better your condition before you seek to change.

*Jupiter, is the god of sky and thunder, as well as the king of gods in ancient Roman mythology.

Frogs asked Jupiter for a King
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Aesop’s Fables | The Travelers and the Purse

The moral: We cannot expect anyone to share misfortunes unless we are willing to share outr good fortune also.

Two men were traveling in company along the road when one of them picked up a well-filled purse.

“How lucky I am!” he said. ” I have found a purse. Judging by its weight it must be full of gold.”

“Do not say ‘I have found a purse’,” said his companion. “Say rather ‘we have found a purse’ and ‘how lucky we are.’ Travelers ought to share alike the fortunes or misfortunes of the road.”

“No, no,” replied the other angrily. “I found it and I am going to keep it.”

Just then they heard a shout of “Stop, thief!” and looking around, saw a mob of people armed with clubs coming down the road.

The man who had found the purse fell into a panic.

“We are lost if they find the purse on us,” he cried.

“No, no, repied the other, “You would not say ‘we’ before, so now stick with your ‘I’, Say ‘I am lost'”

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Aesop’s Fables|The Sheep and the Pig

The moral: It is easy to be brave when there is no danger.

One day a shepherd discovered a fat pig in the meadow where his sheep were pastured. He very quickly captured the porker, which squealed at the top of its voice the moment the shepherd laid his hands on it. You would have thought to hear the loud squealing, that the pig was being cruelly hurt. But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, the shepherd tucked his prize under his arm and started off to the butcher’s in the market place.

The sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the pig’s behavior, and followed the shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate.

“What makes you squeal like that” asked one of the sheep. “the shepherd often catches and carries off one of us. But we should feel very much ashamed to make such a terrible fuss about it like you do.”

“That is all very well,” replied the pig, with a squeal and a frantic kick. “When he catches you he is only after your wool. But he wants my bacon! gree-ee-ee!”

It is easy to be brave when there is no danger.
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Aesop’s Fables | The Lion and the Mouse

The moral: A kindness is never wasted.

One day, there was a lion taking a nap under a big tree in the forest with his large head resting on his paws. In the quiet afternoon the sun was warm and the grass was green with dandelions scattered around. The birds were chirping in the spring breeze. The lion’s sleep was very sweet.

When a curious mouse came along, she did not realize she was near a giant lion. Her near sighted eyes could not help her searching for food while sniffing around. The mouse was frightened when she heard the lion’s heavy snoring, so in haste she ran away. Aroused from his nap, the lion laid his huge paw on the mouse, threatening to kill her.

“What are you doing here little mouse?”

“I am sorry. Please let me go. I did not mean to disturb your sleep. You see, I could not see well anymore. I am getting old. Please forgive me. If you let me go this time, one day I will return your kindness.”

The lion burst out laughing, thinking, “A mouse as little as she is can ever do something for me? I think not!” The lion let the mouse go anyways and returned to his nap.

Some months later, while looking for his prey in the forest, the lion got caught by a hunter’s trap. The lion was so upset. He could only roar in anger. The little mouse heard the lion’s roaring and thought he must have been in trouble. So she quickly ran to find the lion.

As soon as the lion saw the mouse, he stopped roaring. The mouse immediately climbed to the top of the rope that bound the lion and said to the lion, “Don’t you worry. I’ll help you.”

The lion wondered how the little mouse could help him, saying, “How? You are just a little mouse. Why not go get some help for me? I’ll wait.”

The mouse, without saying a word, started to chew on the rope. Slowly and steadily, her chewing parted the rope and very soon the lion got out of the trap.

The mouse was very proud of her work and she said to the lion, ” See, I have kept my promise to repay you. You laughed when I told you I would help you one day!”

The lion thanked the mouse, saying, “Thank you little mouse. Why don’t we become friends?”

They smiled to each other and they became best friends.

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Aesop’s Fables |The Fox and the Grapes

The Fox and the Grapes is a famous Aesop’s fable that I have remembered since I was a child. In Chinese we also have a saying, “Calling the grapes sour because you can not have them, “ referring to a situation when one critisizes something only because he can not get it.

The moral: There are many who pretend to despise and belittle that which is beyound their reach.

Once upon a time, there was a wolf who was wandering in the woods, looking for food in a sunny afternoon. He had not eaten for days. He was lucky to have spied a beautifully looking bunch of ripe grapes haning from the vine. The grapes’ bright purple color shined under the sunlight. The wolf thought, “I need to get those grapes but how can I reach them? It is way too high!” He gazed at the grapes with loingings.

He figured he must jump to reach the grapes.

The first time he just tried to jump as high as he could. But in vain. Then he walked away a distance trying again with a running leap, only to fall short once more. He tried again, and again until the sun almost set. He had grwon frustrated and upset.

Out of exhaustion, he sat down on a big rock neay by the tree that hung the grapes, thinking, “Oh well, I guess those grapes are just too sour anyways, not worth my effort.”

The wolf walked away scornfully, looking for his next target to satisfy his grumbling tummy.