Letting Her Hair Down

Caribbean RapunzelIn her recent New York Review of Books survey of contemporary Rapunzel interpretations, novelist Alison Lurie points out both how enduring and how flexible fairy tales are. Rapunzel is in vogue these days. Lurie gives all the relevant details of Rapunzel’s recent manifestations and offers lots of pithy observations, but the article doesn’t include links to the books themselves. So here they are; read Lurie’s article and check these out!

In the young adult novel Golden: A Retelling of “Rapunzel”, one of Simon and Schuster’s fairy tale retelling series, this one by Cameron Dokey, the poor girl’s tower-length locks are an infuriating nuisance. The Tower Room by Adele Geras (Harcourt Paperbacks) is set in a 1960’s English boarding school probably modeled on the school Geras (and Princess Diana) attended. One of Donna Jo Napoli’s series of retold tales, Zel (Puffin) is set in 16th century Switzerland. Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel (Hyperion) is a picture book by Patricia Storace, “lavishly illustrated” by Raúl Colón. (Here’s a PaperTigers gallery of illustrations by Colón!) Letters from Rapunzel (HarperCollins) is a teen novel about a girl who sees the myth’s relevance in her own life and re-names herself Rapunzel; here’s a 7-Imp interview with author Sara Lewis Holmes. Barbara Ragasky’s Rapunzel (Holiday House), with much lauded illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, may be out of print but is available online. Lynn Roberts’ Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale (Abrams), says Lurie, appears to be set in 1970’s New York.

The long hair, the witch, the tower, the inadequate jealous mother, the adopted child and adoptive parents, the rescuing prince–the themes of Rapunzel have been re-told for our times with great verve and vivacity, and Alison Lurie’s thorough and entertaining perspective is not to be missed.

6 Responses to “Letting Her Hair Down”

  1. Janet Brown Says:

    This is brilliant–both entertaining and a great resource. Thanks, Charlotte!

  2. Charlotte Says:

    It is wonderful when an long-established writer for adults puts those years of experience and energy into looking at books for children! (I’d like to see what John Updike would do, just to surmise another example…)

  3. Marjorie Says:

    Rapunzel has always been for one of the most intriguing of fairy tales – but I had no idea there were quite so many “takes” on it – thank you for this. One of the aspects of the story that I’ve often wondered about is the mother’s craving for rampion – apart from the fact I don’t really know what it looks or tastes like, is it particularly symbolic?

  4. Charlotte Says:

    Read Alison Lurie’s article, Marjorie!

  5. Marjorie Says:

    Thank you, Charlotte – yes, I’ve now read the full article. It is absolutely fascinating, both for explaining the traditional version and for following its progress into modern retellings…

  6. Corinne Says:

    How interesting!