Grimm Tales vs. Television: Let Your Hair Down

Hello, dear readers! Here we are again, and today we are looking at episode 7 of NBC’s Grimm. This episode is entitled “Let Your Hair Down” which if you ask me tells you pretty much all you need to know about which tale this episode is going to be based on: Rapunzel.

The opening quote for this episode is fairly tame compared to some of the opening quotes so far used in season one, and while it’s a bit depressing the immediate imagery isn’t horror and gore.

So you know that Rapunzel is at least likely to live! This quote is actually completely different to the relevant quote in my copy of the tale, which reads thusly:

“Then she was so hard-hearted that she took the poor maiden into a great desert, and left her to die in great misery and grief.”

And that quote, clearly, is a lot less positive than the one used in the NBC version and that really is quite surprising. Who’d have thought?

After a quick bit of Googling, I am here to tell you that while the Grimm Brothers did publish a version of Rapunzel, it was based on an earlier version that was based on an earlier version that was based on an earlier version and so on and so forth, etc etc. Best as Wikipedia can figure, the original tale popped up somewhen in the mid-seventeenth century. BUT because the Grimm Brothers did, in fact, publish Rapunzel I was able to read that version in my handy dandy copy of The Complete Illustrated Stories of the Brothers Grimm (thanks mum). This is no longer in print, but there are many editions of the Grimm Brothers’ tales available: my personal favourite is this one, and I’m considering adding it to my collection anyway!

Now, in the original tale Rapunzel actually ends up in the witch’s grasp (raised as her daughter) because Rapunzel had dumb-ass parents. In all seriousness, they were idiots. You know how the witch got Rapunzel? Because the witch grew radishes in her garden, and Rapunzel’s mother caught sight of them one day and decided that unless she could eat some of them she would absolutely die. So her husband started stealing the radishes from the witch’s garden (like an idiot) because, well, he didn’t want the missus expiring for want of radishes, did he? Inevitably, his stupid add got caught, and the witch offered a deal: be horribly punished, or hand over the first kid when she was born.

And that is how an idiot traded his daughter for radishes.

Then we get to Rapunzel being raised in a tower, having lovely long hair, in general the story we are all more familiar with. One day, Rapunzel lets down her fair hair and instead of the witch climbing up to see her, ’tis a Prince! Entranced with her voice, for he had heard her singing, he asked of her to become his wife and all that jazz. One day, Rapunzel lets it slip to the witch that the Prince (now her husband, somehow) has been visiting her in the evenings and was a fair bit more sprightly coming up the hair/ladder. Clearly, this was a bad move, because the witch cuts off Rapunzel’s hair out of spite and anger, and spirits her away to a desert and leaves her to die.

“I will care for [her] like a mother,” my left foot.

That evening when the Prince visits, he is surprised by the witch and in his attempt to escape, dives out the window and falls into a bed of thorns that somehow put out his eyes but left the rest of him fairly well alone. He wanders for years, eventually showing up in a desert where he once again stumbles (literally this time, he can’t see) upon Rapunzel, and lo! the twins she bore him! Anyway, she cries a bit and her tears land on his ruined eyes and heal them, and they all went back to the Prince’s kingdom and lived quite happily ever after, I’m sure.

Leaving out the plot holes in this particular tale, it is not at all what I expected when I went looking for the Rapunzel story. I thought I knew it fairly well, but damn. Modern culture be having some explaining to do, what with the radishes and the putting-out of eyeballs with thorns. And the twins. Didn’t see them coming, I’ll freely admit.

In regards to how this tale influenced episode 7 of Grimm, I would honestly say that this is the least close to the ‘original’ tale so far. There are definitely identifiable influences, but the plot itself does actually vary greatly. The heroine (victim? you never can really tell with this show) does have extremely long hair which she does have a purpose for, but it ain’t for letting people up into her room. And she was taken away from her mother and father, but it didn’t have anything to do with salad ingredients. Blutbaden return as the central wesen of this episode, and I like this because it does give the heroine (victim?) a fairly badass nature that enables her to save both herself and others from unsavoury circumstances. I mean yeah, it also causes its fair share of problems but welcome to life.

More important, I think, is that instead of focusing on the ‘other’ as the character of uncertain or evil nature in this episode, the villain is a human. Just a man. I like that about this show; while a great many episode do actually use the wesen characters as criminals or associates of criminals or to represent the ‘bad guy’ or whatever, that isn’t always the case. Despite the show focusing on literal ‘monsters,’ it does also make the effort to point out that sometimes there is no outstanding or exceptional reason (like creature genetics and instincts) for a person to be awful. That’s just that person, being awful and making terrible decisions. Being human. I think it makes the show better.

If you’ve seen this episode, or read the original tale, or watch the show, or just generally have any questions, let me know in the comments or send me a message through the Contact Me page!

 

Main image credit and story illustration credit: The Complete Illustrated Stories of The Grimm Brothers (1989) London: Chancellor Press, Octopus Books Ltd

Quote image credits: NBC’s Grimm



Categories: book blog, Fairy Tales, Grimm Brothers, Grimm Season 1, Grimm: Tales vs. Television

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