Rapunzel, Rapunzel

Illustration by Gustaf Tenggren 

The fairy tale of Rapunzel always seemed weird to me as I was growing up, so it wasn’t one of my favorites. But I have just read two books that retell the story of Rapunzel: Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli, and Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale, and I have a new understanding of and appreciation for this old tale. I also read an excellent article by Terri Windling on the historical and cultural background of the Rapunzel story. It is well worth reading, also.

Napoli’s Zel is a dark and psychological retelling for young adults. It is told in first-person narrative for each of the three main characters: Zel, Mother, and Konrad, the one who brings her love and freedom. With this type of narration, you completely understand the story behind each character, and the reasons for each character’s actions. It is a story of obsessive love, abuse, and of the redemptive power of love. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Alexandra O’Karma, and it was a powerful rendition of a powerful story! This is not a story for young listeners/readers.

On a much lighter note, Rapunzel’s Revenge, a graphic novel by Shannon Hale and her husband, Dean, was a lot of fun. Definitely in the category of a “fractured fairy tale,” this graphic novel is set in the wild, wild west, and Rapunzel’s long, long braided hair is used as a lasso and very effective weapon throughout the book. The humor is silly, in the best possible sense of the word, and I chuckled all the way through it. Lots of fairy tale fun from an author I always enjoy!

Two more books read for Carl V’s “Once Upon a Time III challenge!

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9 thoughts on “Rapunzel, Rapunzel

  1. Nymeth

    I enjoyed Zel a lot, but it’s definitely very, very dark. Rapunzel’s Revenge I haven’t read yet, but I’ll be very surprised if I don’t love it!

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  2. Sarah

    I enjoy re-workings of fairy tales so will look out for both of these. I’ve loved the Hale books I’ve read so far.

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  3. Scriptor Senex

    Yes, what was it about the strange tale of Rapunzel that made it such a flop. I didn’t like it and I only tried it once each on my three children – none of them liked it. There is something dark and unpleasant underneath a lot of fairy tales and yet they manage to enchant at the same time. Rapunzel was simply repulsive – perhaps it was the name!

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  4. Gavin

    Repunzel has always been weird, maybe it’s the idea of all that hair and having someone climb up it. Great reviews. Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors and Repunzel’s Revenge is a lot of fun. I am adding Zel to my TBR list.

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  5. Susan

    I haven’t read any of these yet! I have so much to catch up on……thanks for the reviews, they are very good, and you are going to get some bad blogger points soon! lol

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  6. Robin

    Kailana, they were very interesting to read one right after the other. Really good, both of them.

    Nymeth, you’ll get a kick out of Rapunzel’s Revenge. I chuckled all the way through it. It was a good counterbalance to the darkness of Zel, which was so good.

    Bookfool, she and her husband (who loves comic books/graphic novels) collaborated on it. It’s fun!

    Sarah, me too!

    Scriptor, Rapunzel is definitely not a story to like or enchant, and Zel was a very dark version of it, although very well done. But you’re right, there is some fascination for the disturbing parts of fairy tales — maybe trying to understand some of the darkness in human nature?

    Gavin, the hair part is literally painful to read about, but it’s also the insanity or evil of the witch. Zel was fascinating because it explained the reasons behind the action of the mother/witch.

    Oh thanks, Susan! That’s cool — bad blogger points! Hansel and Gretel was another one I didn’t care for when I was growing up.

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  7. Pingback: The Nightingale « A Fondness For Reading

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