The familiar story of Rapunzel, as told by the brothers Jacob Ludwig Carl and Wilhelm Carl Grimm, takes on new meaning with a psychoanalytic interpretation. It is a complex tale about desire, achievement, and loss. The trio of husband, wife, and witch function as the ego, id, and superego respectively to govern behavior regarding a beautiful object of desire, especially when a prince discovers this object.
The story begins in a rural house where a man and woman live without children, near a walled garden tended by a frightening witch. The first line of the story tells us that they yearn for a child. It is clear that there exists in this house an almost tangible feeling of desire to produce offspring. The Freudian concept of the libido or the life force explains this desire as a product of the unconscious id(Guerin 129). To show further the prevalence of the id in this house, which in itself is a symbol of the human mind, the wife covets a vegetable, rampion, which she sees in the neighboring garden from her tiny window to the outside. "I shall die unless I can have some of that rampion to eat."(Grimm 514) The wife comes to represent this selfish element of the mind, and this is her primary function in the story. When she speaks, both times she is only asking for something that she wants. She has no name, as she does not function as a full character.
Her husband must take on the role of mediator to weigh her selfish desires against laws and morals that condemn stealing. This role represents the ego, which regulates the selfish id and the strict moral superego to reach a decision (Guerin 130). He decides that his wife's urgent need for the rampion outweighs the moral ...
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...from the ground. These roots may very well be radishes, or rampion, which is his wife's namesake.
In the end, the witch's social control balances out the desire of the prince for a wife. The man and woman, ego and id, living in a small house, the mind, bargain with the witch, the superego, who is outside of the house and represents laws and rules. They produce a child who becomes a commodity, and the rest of the story tells of the struggle between superego and id to settle the ownership of this prize.
Grimm, Jacob Ludwig Carl and Wilhelm Carl. "Rapunzel." Stories. Ed. Eric S. Rabkin. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995. 514-517.
Guerin, Wilfred L., Earle Labor, Lee Morgan, Jeanne C. Reesman, and John R. Willingham. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 125-156.
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