Theft for Theft
The story outlines a moral code of eye for an eye very quickly. Though many would question the equality of the rapunzel from the garden for the baby, the story makes the inference by naming the child Rapunzel. The sorceress, at least, believes that these are an exchange of equal worth, possibly because the garden is enchanted in some way. The sorceress further operates under this ideal with casting out both Rapunzel and the prince. It is only through the force plot of the story that the prince and Rapunzel reunite for their happily ever after.
The rapunzel in the garden possess some kind of magical quality in order to so enchant the woman. Even obtaining the food does nothing to satiate her need, as it “had grown threefold.” Before that, the desire was such that she felt she would die without it. Since the garden belongs to the sorceress, she would know of any special properties, and this is the most logical explanation for demanding the child as payment. Some piece of its magic transferred to the child, which would explain the extreme length of her hair. Furthermore, Rapunzel’s tears have the ability to restore the prince’s eyes.
Who’s the Father?
Rapunzel gives birth to twins, but since there is no definitive scene where she is with the prince, readers are left wondering about the parentage of the children. The obvious solution is that the prince is indeed the father; however, the story is leading the reader to a specific idea with its lack of definitive paternity. Without a father, Rapunzel is having her own version of a virgin birth taking on the role of Mary, and trying to cast her into a similar holy role.
It should be noted that the 1812 version of this story was more explicit about what Rapunzel and the prince did with lines such as “Thus they lived in joy and pleasure for a long time” and “Rapunzel said to her, ‘Frau Gothel, tell me why it is that my clothes are all too tight. They no longer fit me.’”
Witches Are Bad
Frau Gothel is the victim in much of this story. It is her garden that is stolen from, and Rapunzel clearly betrays the woman who raised her for the prince, but the story will only ever see her as a villain, making her out to be cruel and vindictive by demanding the child as payment, cutting Rapunzel’s hair, and casting the prince to his doom. Gothel is typecast along with all other witches as evil and to be avoided (though it is odd that Rapunzel’s parents actually living next to a known sorceress).
Obligatory Happily Ever After
This story was dark, wonderfully so until the end. I actually suspect (but sadly have no proof) that the story originally ended with the blinding of the prince and Rapunzel banished to the wilderness. However, in both the 1812 and 1857 version of the story, we have the couple finding one another and the restoration of the prince’s sight. This happily ever after comes out of nowhere, and is forced on the reader. Neither Rapunzel nor the Prince did anything to earn this ending. They are not actors who overcome an obstacle, who have proven themselves worthy of this redemption at the very end. It is mere happenstance that they find one another, and that Rapunzel’s magic tears (which smack of the power of true love) restore his vision. Their actions in the story do not bear out this outcome, however, as Rapunzel is betraying the person she called mother throughout her life for a tryst with a boy.