The story of Rapunzel, by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, has the same basic structure as all other fairy tales born from the oral tradition; what is commonly referred to as the opening, main part and ending, is the foundation of the tale.
It is around this clearly defined three-part structure of the plot, that invisible layers of meaning exist – often very different for each reader. Between the clever design of the plot – which allows several stories to surface within a seeming individual tale – and multiple layers underneath the literal action, exists a limitless journey of personal exploration. A fairy tale such as Rapunzel has many possible functions in a child’s life and development – explaining the desire for the tale to be read time and time again by the eager young mind.
The opening of the story establishes a number of things: the characters (with the exception of the prince), their dispositions, and the first task. The short introduction is also in itself a short story, with its own three-part structure. Rapunzel’s mother, also known as the wife, by persuading her husband to steal a head of lettuce from the witch, sends him on his journey. The husband’s acceptance of his task finalizes the opening of the introduction. The following two trips to the forbidden garden, and his encounter and, later, his deal with the witch, complete the main part of still only the beginning of the story of Rapunzel. When the witch appears during the heroine’s birth and takes her away, the story of Rapunzel’s mother and father is complete, and in turn, so is the introduction to the tale.
The conversion from the introduction to the main pa...
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... on a subconscious level due to complex interactions between the plot, characterization and symbols. Length and detail are not relevant in what a fairy tale like Rapunzel achieves; its accomplishments are made possible by the strict structure of the plot which holds within itself much potential and multiple features, as well as the communications that exist between author and reader likely without either one knowing it. Our favorite fairy tale has a reason for holding a special place in our heart whether we know it or not, as does the story we love to hate and continue to read and re-read. Like the human psyche, the fairy tale can be studied not only rewardingly but without an end.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1976.
Hallett, Martin and Barbara Karasek, ed. Folk & Fairy Tales. Toronto: Broadview, 2002.
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