Rapunzel: 1812 vs 1857

Wilhelm Grimm was the principal editor of the Children’s and Household Tales following their inititial publication. The most significant changes were made already in the second edition (1819), although Wilhelm continued to revise the stories until their final edition (1857).

The first substantive alteration in the text of “Rapunzel” is transformation of the fairy into a more sinister sorceress. Further, Wilhelm made the tale more dramatic and gave it a more literary style by adding colorful adjectives and adverbs and supplementary supporting details. Indirect discourse was replaced by direct quotations.

More significant than Wilhelm’s additions are his deletions. The sexual nature of the prince’s and Rapunzel’s trysts was disguised. Alterations range from the subtle to the obvious.

At the subtle end of the scale, the sentence “He … was pulled up,” with its potentially offensive double meaning was changed to “The prince climbed up.” The simple and direct statement “Thus they lived in joy and pleasure for a long time” was replaced by a long, flowery passage that reveals but little about the couple’s intimate relationship.

At the obvious end of the scale, the naive Rapunzel’s revelation to her guardian that her clothes no longer fit (because she is pregnant) was deleted, as was the statement that “she gave birth to twins,” although the revised version does mention the twins at the story’s end.
– D.L. Ashliman

A comparison of the versions of 1812 and 1857
Rapunzel translated by Margaret Hunt

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