What happens when you’ve been born in the thick of battle, with no say over the darkness plaguing your life, and have to claw your way out? Climb into a tower on a rope of golden hair to meet our heroine as she’s sold into darkness before birth, imprisoned through manipulation and fear, meets hope face to face, and finds the courage to break free from the enemy’s hold on her life.
Prayers, Peace and Praise: Guidance for Prayer Through Poetry
What's all this about radishes?
Did you know that the real Rapunzel was a Christian martyr?
Rise Above This: Episode 2
“Rapunzel”: Come to My Window
Welcome to Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. We’re continuing our adventures in Rise Above This, tales of women who seem to be swallowed up by life, unable to rescue themselves from circumstances beyond their control, until they are given the chance to learn from their mistakes and find the courage to rise above the past, seizing new life with both hands. Last time, we talked about the importance of learning discernment, especially if you’ve grown up sheltered with little experience in spiritual warfare. But what happens when you’ve been born in the thick of battle, with no say over the darkness plaguing your life, and have to claw your way out?
To find the answer, we climb into a tower on a rope of golden hair in the Brothers Grimm’s “Rapunzel.” We’re taken on the journey with our heroine, as she’s sold into darkness before birth, imprisoned through manipulation and fear, meets hope face to face, and finds the courage to break free from the enemy’s hold on her life.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (Rapunzel).
I always wanted to know what happens to the witch after all this. At least two versions have her meet a horrific death, either falling from the tower or dying of hardening of the heart. Although it is strange to read a Grimm story where the villain doesn’t get their comeuppance, I think the reason for leaving out that part of the tale might be just as powerful. We never hear from her again because Dame Gothel no longer has a hold on Rapunzel’s life. It is immaterial whether she lives or dies because the curse is broken. Rapunzel is free. Don’t wander away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in this story after a brief message.
We get bombarded with a lot of messages throughout the day. Some good, some frustrating, and some that creep in and wear away at our souls. Sometimes it’s hard to just sit with God in the stillness and truly hear what His heart is for us. Having a good devotional to encourage you to draw nearer to the One who loves you most and spend time in His Word can make all the difference in the world. Author and poet C. Melita Webb is passionate about celebrating God’s goodness and encouraging you to speak life and love over every person and circumstance. In her sixth poetry volume, “Prayers, Peace, and Praise: Guidance for Prayer Through Poetry,” she beautifully alternates scriptures with prayers and poems to help you focus your attention on God and listen for direction from His Holy Spirit. I had the honor of recording the audio version of “Prayers, Peace, and Praise” and it absolutely touched my heart. Many of the prayers, poems, and essays expressed the things weighing on me at the time and gave me the chance to bring those things to God. Even the scriptures Webb includes were exactly the words of encouragement I needed. If you need life spoken over you today, follow the link in the show notes to pick up your copy of “Prayers, Peace, and Praise: Guidance for Prayer Through Poetry,” available in print, kindle, and audiobook formats.
Alright, back to the analysis. We begin with Rapunzel’s parents. Like many fairy tale couples, they are anxious to have their first child. After the mother happily discovers that she is expecting, cravings set in. But not the kind we’d expect. Every day, she covetously stares out her window into the neighbor’s yard, eyeing the rampion, or rapunzels, growing in the garden below, her every waking thought centered on eating them. We are warned very quickly that this lush garden belongs to Dame Gothel, a dreaded enchantress. Although we never see the woman cast a spell or commune with demons, she is extremely manipulative. Manipulation in itself is a form of witchcraft.
In a matter of sentences, the mother flips from trusting God to give and sustain life inside her to lusting after sustenance from a satanic source. Ironically, by desiring the property of a manipulative woman, Rapunzel’s mother becomes one herself. In her selfishness, she jeopardizes her unborn child’s life as well as her own, making herself sick to death over what she cannot have, like Ahab pining over Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. She even makes her husband miserable with her intense desire, giving him no rest until he agrees to risk his life to bring her radishes. Fear of not getting what you want can turn you into a controlling exploiter. Even if someone genuinely wished to give you what you sought, there is a cheapness to the giving because you forced it happen, bullying the person into doing what you wanted regardless of their feelings or the reality of your circumstances. In this way, manipulation is also a type of lying. It implies that the one doing it has assumed authority and responsibility over something or someone that is, in reality, beyond their control. It is a flagrant disregard of God’s power and rebellion against His authority. Jehovah Jireh supplies the needs of His children according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). When we stop trusting Him completely and take matters into our own hands, that’s how we get in trouble. That’s how we end up creating Ishmaels to torment our promised Isaacs.
I never understood why the husband didn’t go to the market for radishes instead of hopping over the witch’s wall. Were her radishes the only ones in town? Was the couple too broke to afford to buy any? One filmed version of the story shows the enchantress casting a spell on the mother to make her crave the radishes, indicating that Gothel had planned to steal the baby from day one. I think that’s pretty plausible. Whatever the reason, Rapunzel’s father fearfully burgles the witch’s garden. Twice. But the second time, he bungles it. When he hits the ground, the enchantress is already waiting for him. Remember that two is the number of discernment and judgement. The fact that the father cannot complete the second theft reinforces his lack of good judgement. Not only is he pulling resources from someone in league with the enemy, he’s also committing a crime to do it. Not smart.
Enraged that he would dare to steal from her, Dame Gothel prepares to take revenge on the man. But he stops her with his pleas for mercy. He did it for love. His wife would have died without the witch’s special radishes. We’re told that “the enchantress [allows] her anger to be softened,” but only because she’s about to make a move to get what she wants. In return for allowing the man to take as much rampion as he will to his wife, the witch demands custody of his unborn baby. Terrified, the man agrees, selling out his daughter to fulfill his wife’s desires and save himself from Gothel’s wrath. As soon as the baby is born, the enchantress appears, names the girl Rapunzel for the radishes that caused all the trouble, and whisks her away from her family.
So far, no thread of love has been woven into the recurring pattern of desire, fear, and imprisonment that is the tapestry of Rapunzel’s life. First, she is trapped in the womb of a biological mother who shows no compunction about potentially ending Rapunzel’s existence to slake her lust for forbidden rampion. She stunts her daughter’s development by refusing to take in the proper nutrients for the two of them to remain healthy and reach the birth at full strength. Fearful that she will not get her wish, the mother also verbally abuses her husband, showing a lack of respect for him by whining and wheedling, giving him no peace until he fulfills her demand. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands” (Proverbs 14:1). The mother’s manipulations are eroding trust from her marriage and jeopardizing her daughter’s life. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). The cruelty of her mother’s selfish words encases Rapunzel in a vessel of death. Reduced to a bargaining chip by both terrified parents, she will be born with the mark of rejection. No one believes that she is worth fighting for except the enchantress, who winds up being as emotionally abusive as her biological mother.
Although he doesn’t know all of these details, it becomes clear to the prince that the best way to reach Rapunzel is through her hair. The next evening, he calls for Rapunzel to let her locks down to him. Having never seen a man before, she is surprised and terrified when the prince hops through the window. But right away, his character puts her at ease. The prince speaks to her like a friend and tenderly admits his affection for her. Like Cinderella, Rapunzel has received more love and kindness in the last few minutes than she has in her entire lifetime from her so-called family. When he proposes to her, she doesn’t hesitate to say “yes,” recognizing right away that “he will love [her] more than old Dame Gothel does.” The prince’s love is both ardent and selfless, boldly expressing itself while giving her room to reject him. This is how God speaks to us. Whether it’s a grand demonstration or a still, small voice, He woos us through the windows we leave open, conveying to us His everlasting love. Jesus came that we would have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10b). But He also respects our right to free will. He will not force us to accept Him or abandon our anxieties. Gentleman that He is, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). When you accept Jesus, you belong to Him, having “taken off [the] old self with its practices and [put] on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). You are yourself, but better. Like a child, you are unfettered from the corrupt practices of the world and permitted to live as your true self, reflecting God’s light and love. The more of your life you give to Him, the less tolerant you will grow toward the terrors, deceptions and distractions of the enemy.
After meeting the prince and accepting his proposal, Rapunzel’s fears are not entirely removed. She wants to go away with her husband and begin her new life, but does not know how to get down from the tower. The question always arises—why didn’t Rapunzel think to cut her hair and use it to escape? I posit that her living arrangement has conditioned Rapunzel to believe that her hair and her value are linked. The only contribution she can make to anyone else is to offer her hair as a means of transportation. If she puts a stop to that, what else does she have to give? In addition, she would have the same sensitivities about her hair as any of us. It’s an expression of her identity, an outer reflection of her inner glory. If she were to lose it, in a sense, she would be losing herself. She needs more time to understand that sacrificing the soul tie to her prison is the first step to walking in abundant life. But a clear transformation is beginning to take place. In her own way, she has found the courage to leave this intolerable existence behind. Resolutely, she instructs the prince to visit her every night, bringing with him a skein of silk which she will weave into a ladder. When it is finished, she will climb down to him and they’ll ride away together on his horse.
Weaving in fairy tales serves a similar purpose to sifting. It is an outer expression of an inner development. But instead of separating good and bad, the weaver binds together everything that is in front of them to make something new and beautiful, a symbol of connections and renewed thinking. As Rapunzel weaves the silken strands into the ladder that will enable her to embrace her new life, she has begun to mirror the process in her heart, creating a new identity from the threads of her joyful encounters with the prince. After years of abuse and neglect, she finds herself loved and wanted. She truly is worth fighting for. She is someone’s wife. And soon, she will be someone’s mother. These thoughts take shape and repeat themselves again and again with each new binding of silk in her hands. Emboldened by love, Rapunzel is succeeding where her mother failed in her relationships. Instead of plaguing her husband and harming her children, she gives life to the prince with her words of hope and encouragement, and becomes a freedom fighter, guarding herself and her unborn twins from despair and bondage. Even while imprisoned in the tower, Rapunzel knows that her children will be born free. Inside their mother, they feel hope and expectation quickening her spirit as she works tirelessly to weave the silken ladder and secure their escape. Her dreams of a better life free of darkness and confinement are the legacy she passes to her children. Where once there was fear, manipulation, and despair, now there is courage, love, and hope. When we welcome Jesus into our lives, we go through a life-long healing process just like this. One by one, the agreements and lies of the enemy are destroyed and replaced with truth. We put on the mind of Christ and leave our old ways of living behind, choosing “to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). It changes the way we think and behave, even how we speak. And the enemy doesn’t like that one little bit. If we speak out of the abundance of our heart, and we want to talk about Jesus all the time because He’s taken up residence there, that means we can’t belong to the accuser anymore. So, he’ll do his best to torture us and quench our boldness by any means necessary.
One fateful day, Rapunzel is so ecstatic about her marriage, children, and freedom, the very things the enchantress never wanted her to have, that she makes an offhand comment to the witch, asking her why she is so much heavier to pull into the tower than the prince. It isn’t surprising from a spiritual standpoint. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light, especially when compared to the weighty bondage Satan would lay on our backs. The prince offers liberty while the witch demands incarceration. But even in this stone dungeon, Rapunzel has found a way to let freedom in. Enraged that her plans have failed Dame Gothel does what Rapunzel never found the strength to do—she cuts their soul tie. Seizing the young woman by the hair and snatching up a pair of scissors, the witch hacks off Rapunzel’s beautiful tresses, and abandons her in the desert, leaving her with sorrow and suffering for company.
We know that no one can serve two masters. But sometimes, like Rapunzel, we keep the new life inside of us under cover, hiding it as best we can from the world around us so that we are not cast aside. We don’t speak about our faith in front of bosses or coworkers in case they decide to prevent us from succeeding at work. We stay quiet at the dinner table while friends and family drag God’s name through the mud or exalt things above Him which we should be casting down, fearful that we will ruin our relationships if our words are too harsh or “churchy.” But at some point, you will be brought to a crossroads in your faith, and you will have to decide for yourself that it is better to obey God than man. It’s very possible that you will lose an earthly empire for the sake of a heavenly kingdom. And if so, you’re in good company. I’m right here with you. We have to count whatever suffering that comes afterward as pure joy, because we are being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Once we are cut off from the fears we once let bind us, God may remove us from where we have been and lead us into the wilderness to prepare for the next step.
You’ll remember from “The Goose Girl” that deserts and the wilderness represent trial, training, and pruning. They are they places you go to be purged from your old life so that you can hear God more clearly and embrace your true destiny. In her heart, Rapunzel had begun to rebel against Mother Gothel’s demonic stronghold over her. Now that she is no longer physically tethered to the enchantress, Rapunzel is free to eradicate her influence from her life completely. With no one to guide her through the difficulties of motherhood, Rapunzel chooses to be for her children what both of her mothers never were for her. She willingly brings them into the world, ensuring their health and survival in the midst of turmoil. Because of her reaction to the return of the prince at the end of the story, we know that she never loses the capacity to love and hope. How does she find the strength to do this? “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). Rapunzel survived 14 years of neglect, abuse, and rejection, yet she kept believing for a better future. Empowered by love, she continued to persevere, weaving her escape plan in defiance of the limited destiny that the witch would thrust upon her. Even when the enchantress cuts her hair and casts her into the desert, Rapunzel refuses to give up.
This determination has produced fruit in her life both metaphorically and physically. Inside, she has developed a strong character and nurtured hope. Outside, she has given birth to a healthy set of twins, a boy and a girl. Notice that the story begins with a man and a woman ushering a curse into their home, like Adam and Eve. Rapunzel and the prince arrive as the second set of man and woman, Christ, the second Adam, to break the curse. This third generation born from their labors is pure and clean, untainted by the horrors and strongholds experienced by the two generations before, representing the children of promise bought from sin and death by the blood of Jesus. Because she desires freedom for herself and her family, Rapunzel endures having her hair, her outer glory, removed, and is stripped of the few comforts that come with her lavish prison cell. In the name of our salvation, Jesus suffered many abuses and indignities, loving us enough to lay His life down and take it up again (John 10:18). After suffering a little while, Rapunzel, too, will experience the beauty of a renewed life.
Her husband also endures much turmoil before complete restoration can take place. Unaware of Rapunzel’s expulsion, he returns to the tower and is caught by the witch, who threatens the prince, informing him with a wicked gleam in her eye that his love is lost to him. Fleeing the dangerous enchantress and the agony of his own despair, the prince leaps from the tower into a tangle of thorns, which preserve his life in exchange for his sight. Some people argue that the prince intends to commit suicide in this moment. I disagree. The witch flat out tells him metaphorically that she will scratch his eyes out. Even if he landed cleanly on the ground, she would have taken revenge on this man for stealing her rampion. She’s done it before.
The thorns piercing the prince’s eyes hearken back to the crown of thorns thrust on Jesus’ head by the Roman soldiers. Like our Savior, the prince becomes a man of sorrows, mourning the loss of his beloved and the miserable loneliness he must endure. In the wilderness segments of both Rapunzel and her prince, we see the complete illustration of the physical and spiritual story of Jesus’ death. The suffering of the prince mirrors the physical and emotional torture Christ took on for us, while Rapunzel raising her children in liberty from sin and death demonstrates the spiritual victory Jesus’ sacrifice secured. When the couple reunites, it is symbolic of the resurrection; when Jesus returned, His spirit was united with a glorified body, just as Rapunzel is reunited with her prince. Romans 8:11 tells us that “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit lives in someone, He flows out of them like “streams of living water” (John 7:38-39). We see this represented in the healing tears flowing from Rapunzel’s eyes as they fall onto the prince’s scarred lids and miraculously restore his sight. Rapunzel’s time in the wilderness has purified her. She is now able to live up to her name and be an agent of restoration and healing. At last, their family is truly free from the influence of the enemy. The four of them journey to the prince’s castle where they are joyously welcomed and live together in happiness, a reminder to us of the happy ending we as the Beloved have to look forward to with the Prince of Peace.
Like our heroine, no matter how dark your life has been, hold on to the hope of your salvation. Jesus came to redeem you from the curses of generations before. Because the Son has set us free, we are free indeed. Rise above the ashes of your past, and step forward into God’s perfect love, fearlessly living out the destiny of who He has called you to be.
Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode and rate the show on your favorite podcast platform. If you’d like to be part of what goes on in the fairy tale forest, click the support the show link in the notes, or follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I’m Autumn Woods and I can’t wait to see you on the path next time you get Lost in the Woods.