As I have probably hinted at before, my daughter is quite the Disney Princess fan girl. So, when word came out their next major animated effort was the introduction of a post-modern take on Rapunzel (recently renamed Tangled), she was naturally curious about this classic tale.
So, off to my library I went to take a few books out about this long-haired princess in distress. Not surprisingly, there were many options. And, for both fun and review, we ended up taking out half a dozen. Instant favorites included the quirky, modern-day set Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale by Lynn and David Roberts and the subtly humorous illustrated execution by Dorothee Duntze. Even the more sophisticated and award winning take by Paul O. Zelinsky and the gothic graphic novel by Stephanie Peters and Jeffrey Stewart Timmins were a surprise hit with this toddler.
However, the book that Maia seemed to gravitate to the most was Rachel Isadora’s Rapunzel. Inspired by the author’s ten years of living in Africa, Isadora takes this traditional fairytale and transplants it to an African village. While the story itself remains mostly the same, Rapunzel is no longer the traditional, fair-skinned/blonde haired princess. In Isadora’s tale she is a stunning African maiden with long, beautifully-decorated dreadlocks. When her prince rides in to chant the traditional “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” line, he comes not by horse, but by zebra. The happy ending remains in tact and the witch is just as terrifying as seen in other interpretations.
The bright, colorful illustrations in this book are also non-traditional, comprised of collages of textured papers and oil paintings. Rachel Isadora, who has won a Caldecott Honor for her previous children’s book Ben’s Trumpet, has also created African interpretations of fairy tales like The Princess and the Pea, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Fisherman and His Wife, and Hansel and Gretel.
So, before Disney’s traditional, blonde Rapunzel makes it mark on the public conscious as the “Official Rapunzel”, share Rachel Isadora’s striking and unique version with your little ones.