or rapunzel [ruh-puhnz-uh l]
Who is Rapunzel?
Rapunzel is a German fairy tale about a young woman named Rapunzel with impossibly long hair and who lives alone in a tower, held captive by a witch.
It’s also the German name of a vegetable commonly used in salads.
Examples of Rapunzel
Where does Rapunzel come from?
Originating from an old oral tradition, the story of Rapunzel was published in Friedrich Schultz’s Kleine Romane in 1790, then more famously in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s 1812 collection, Children’s and Household Tales.
At the beginning of the fairy tale, Rapunzel’s mother has major pregnancy cravings for a vegetable, called rapunzel, that she happens to see in the neighbor’s garden. She starts to feel ill from wanting it so badly, so her husband breaks into the garden to steal it. The neighbor, a witch, catches him. The two make a deal that he can have some rapunzel in exchange for the baby once it’s born. When the baby arrives, the witch takes her away and names her after that vegetable the mother wanted so badly: Rapunzel.
Rapunzel (the girl) grows up in a remote tower, which has neither a staircase nor ladder so she can’t get away. The witch (who’s a kind of mother figure for her) visits the tower regularly and calls out, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” at which Rapunzel throws down her ridiculously long hair for the witch to climb up like a rope.
One day, a prince comes across the tower, hears the witch say the words, and sees her climb up. After the witch leaves, he tries it himself and meets Rapunzel. The two fall in love and he starts visiting her regularly. The witch eventually catches on, cuts off Rapunzel’s hair, and kicks her out of the tower to fend for herself. She uses the severed hair-rope to catch the prince the next time he visits, then throws him out of the tower (literally). Luckily, he survives, Rapunzel finds him, and they live happily ever after.
So, what exactly is this magical vegetable? An early form of the story that the Brothers Grimm drew from was Italian poet Giambattista Basile’s 1630s “Petrosinella.” The herb in that version is parsley. Some translations of the Grimms’ story have rapunzel as rampion, which is a European bellflower that’s commonly used in salad, but the German word rapunzel refers to lamb’s lettuce.
In any case, the question remains: How good does a salad need to be to trade your firstborn child for it?
In late 2010, Disney released a film adaptation of Rapunzel, called Tangled. While the film didn’t perfectly follow the original German tale (which was pretty dark TBH), it did star a character with abnormally long hair, named Rapunzel, spark renewed interest in Rapunzel, and added the character to the pantheon of Disney princesses.
Who uses Rapunzel?
Unless you’re a German-speaking gardener, Rapunzel is most commonly used to refer to either the fairy tale, its title character, or any number of stage, film, or book adaptations.
Because the character Rapunzel’s defining feature was her incredibly long hair, the name has also been used for hair products as well as other fairy-tale-themed beauty products. Women with very long hair may also be called real-life Rapunzels.
In English, it’s far less common to refer to lamb’s lettuce as rapunzel … or to a bropunzel (come on, that’s amazing!).
This is not meant to be a formal definition of Rapunzel like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Rapunzel that will help our users expand their word mastery.