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The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower

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A unique collection presenting Kate Forsyth’s extensive academic research into the ‘Rapunzel’ fairy tale, alongside several other pieces related to fairy tales and folklore. This book is not your usual reference work, but a complex and engaging exploration of the subject matter, written with Forsyth’s distinctive flair.


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A unique collection presenting Kate Forsyth’s extensive academic research into the ‘Rapunzel’ fairy tale, alongside several other pieces related to fairy tales and folklore. This book is not your usual reference work, but a complex and engaging exploration of the subject matter, written with Forsyth’s distinctive flair.

30 review for The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mieneke

    I’ve read and loved Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, though I still need to get onto reading her last novel The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When The Rebirth of Rapunzel arrived in my inbox I was really excited, since it was the non-fiction component to Forsyth’s MFA of which Bitter Greens was the fiction part. I love learning about the development of stories throughout the ages and The Rebirth of Rapunzel delivered exactly that for the story of the maiden I’ve read and loved Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, though I still need to get onto reading her last novel The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When The Rebirth of Rapunzel arrived in my inbox I was really excited, since it was the non-fiction component to Forsyth’s MFA of which Bitter Greens was the fiction part. I love learning about the development of stories throughout the ages and The Rebirth of Rapunzel delivered exactly that for the story of the maiden in the tower. The Rebirth of Rapunzel consists of three sections. The first is the titular exegesis, the second is a translation of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force’s Persinette by Jack Zipes, and the last section is a collection of articles published between 2006 and 2015, all touching upon the Rapunzel tale and on the power of storytelling. The translation of De La Force’s original is wonderful to read and will be familiar to anyone who has read Bitter Greens and the third section illustrated the role Rapunzel’s tale has played in Forsyth’s life from her early childhood to the present. My favourite part however was the exegesis. It not only reveals the way Forsyth developed her novel and what influenced her, it also gives a comprehensive overview of the development of the fairytale from its earliest roots in early matriarchal mythology to its most well-known incarnation in the Grimm’s collection of tales, to its more recent iterations, such as Disney’s Tangled. What I found fascinating about tracing the tale through the ages is the way that each re-interpretation says as much about the teller of this version of the tale and the age they lived as it does about the tale itself. However, Forsyth’s analysis shows over the course of the centuries, the story has returned to its strong, feminist roots, in which the maiden in the tower gains her own agency and saves her own life and love. The patriarchy can’t keep a woman down! Forsyth expresses a strong dislike for Tangled, since it strips so much of the original story away. Living in a house with two little girls who have decided that they are going to be Rapunzel when they grow up, I’ve seen the film dozens of times and I actually enjoy it a lot—there’s worse things to have to watch on endless repeat. Dora the Explorer, anyone? Yet Forsyth’s objections to the film and its interpretation of the original story are valid and made me consider the narrative in a different light. In addition to Tangled, Forsyth talks about a number of other modern retellings, which has given me a handy reading list for future reference. The Rebirth of Rapunzel is a quick and fascinating read, which can be read on its own. However, I think its true power comes as a companion to Bitter Greens. I loved the insights Rebirth provided into Bitter Greens, its influences and the narrative choices Forsyth made in its writing. Whether you’re a fan of fairytales or of Kate Forsyth, The Rebirth of Rapunzel will offer something of interest to you. This book was provided for review by the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book was given to me by the publisher at no cost. I adored Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens a few years ago - a reimagining of the Rapunzel story, along with the story of one of its first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (1650-1724). It's a book of excruciating loveliness, whose three interleaved stories are told in heartbreaking detail and with great compassion. But I'm not here to talk about that. If you haven't read it - and even if you don't think you like fairytale reimaginings This book was given to me by the publisher at no cost. I adored Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens a few years ago - a reimagining of the Rapunzel story, along with the story of one of its first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (1650-1724). It's a book of excruciating loveliness, whose three interleaved stories are told in heartbreaking detail and with great compassion. But I'm not here to talk about that. If you haven't read it - and even if you don't think you like fairytale reimaginings - you really ought to go read it. What The Rebirth of Rapunzel does is present Forsyth's research into the story of Rapunzel - about the differences in versions, and the people who told them, along with what the story has meant, can mean, and what it shows us about fairytales in general. I think it's just awesome that research like this can find a home; it's so depressing when something you've spent many years on simply... disappears into a black hole. Forsyth has made her research very readable. I'm coming from a background of literary and historical criticism (I've read a couple of the books Forsyth refers to), but I'm pretty sure that such a background isn't necessary to understand and appreciate Forsyth's points. This isn't academic-lite; it's academic-approachable. Read more... The book has three sections. First is Forsyth's exegesis itself, with a remarkably personal first chapter in which she talks about the appeal of the story to the child-Kate, after a horrific experience that saw her spend a lot of her childhood in hospital. It's here she also introduces the idea of a fairytale as a 'memeplex' which is brilliantly intriguing. In Chapter 2 Forsyth introduces a theory that fairytales can, or might, reflect lost matriarchal myths. I don't think she's making a definite claim for the great antiquity of Rapunzel as a story so much as showing its possibility, especially in a connection with the tripartite structure of the 'Great Goddess' myth. The next three chapters talk about the three named Rapunzel storytellers - Basile, La Force, and Grimm - and presents both potted biographies of them and how each of them inflected the Rapunzel story. She also connects these to her own Rapunzel creation in Bitter Greens - intertwining the tellers with the story, as integral to the very idea of a 'mythic biography'. The conclusion of this section is about the later descendants of Rapunzel, including those written by William Morris, Edith Nesbit, the Shannon and Dean Hale graphic novel, and of course Tangled - of which Forsyth isn't a great fan. I had a couple of small niggles in reading this. One was the occasional tendency of Forsyth to preface her intentions with something like "what I was hoping to do..." - the self--effacing-ness of this is a bugbear of mine. The other bit was the suggestion that La Force, in particular, may have been deliberately introducing symbols of the Great Goddess' triune nature. I would have liked to see some more evidence about just how prevalent this sort of knowledge was at the time The brief second section is a translation of La Force's version, "Persinette". I liked that this was in a different font! The third section, "Books are Dangerous", contains articles previously published by Forsyth in other venues on similar topics. My one complaint about these is that in some instances, there is too much overlap between them and the exegesis. Perhaps that was most noticeable to me because I read the whole thing on holidays, and it only took me a day or so. Nonetheless, and despite already knowing some of this history, I enjoyed the first two brief articles on the births, respectively, on fantasy and science fiction - the first attributed to JRR Tolkien in his "On Fairy Stories" lecture and the second to Mary Shelley. I was deeply moved by "Fuddling Up My Mucking Words Again" in which Forsyth confronts the idea of stammering being connected to shyness and what it means to be a stutterer, using her own personal experiences. And finally the overview of Australians writing Rapunzel stories was fascinating, to see how the story has resonated in our relatively small pond of creatives. It's important to mention the product itself. This book is SO CUTE. It's not much bigger than my hand; it's hardcover with a really nice cover; and the cover illustration, by Kathleen Jennings (naturally) is wonderfully understated and resonant. Even the paper is nice, and the fonts used for the text and the headings (that tower image is repeated throughout the text to indicate breaks). I can totally imagine Fablecroft making this into a series - there seem to be a lot of Australian spec fic people doing creative PhDs at the moment! - and I would LOVE to have a matching set of them on my bookshelf. This is a really great book. You don't have to have read Bitter Greens to appreciate it - you'll want to read it, though, after reading this. You don't really even need to know the story of Rapunzel to enjoy it, since Forsyth talks about its narrative structures enough to allow any reader, I think, to follow the stories and arguments presented. And you definitely don't have to be an academic. Just interested in the evolution of stories.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily Wrayburn

    Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 16 January, 2017: Ever since reading Kate Forsyth's Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens, back in 2015, I had been interested in reading more about her doctoral research into Rapunzel. However, I only recently discovered that her exegesis was published last year and that I would be able to get my hands on a copy. The book is divided into three sections. The first is Forsyth's "mythic biography" where she describes her research and creative proc Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 16 January, 2017: Ever since reading Kate Forsyth's Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens, back in 2015, I had been interested in reading more about her doctoral research into Rapunzel. However, I only recently discovered that her exegesis was published last year and that I would be able to get my hands on a copy. The book is divided into three sections. The first is Forsyth's "mythic biography" where she describes her research and creative process for writing Bitter Greens. The second section is a translation of Charlotte-Rose de la Force's Rapunzel fairytale. And the third is a series of articles written by Forsyth for various publications. The first section was the one I found the most interesting. Forsyth delves into the origin of the "maiden in the tower" motif and looks at different iterations of the story throughout history, from Greek mythology right through to Disney's Tangled. I did enjoy also hearing about Forsyth's personal connection to the fairytale and how she eventually came up with the framework for her novel. The second section was good for context, though the articles in the third section were all somewhat similar and I found myself starting to skim as similar stories got repeated (this wouldn't have been an issue when they appeared in different publications, but all grouped together like that, the similarities were obvious). It did feel a little bit like these were included to add some extra length to the book. Having said all that, I would still definitely recommend this for those interested in fairytale re-tellings, as I haven't come across too many publications on the history of these stories such as this, and this is written in nice accessible language that isn't too academic and dry. This review is part of my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rivqa

    An excellent, approachable text about the history of Rapunzel.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Freeman

    A mythic retelling Fascinating and erudite discussion of the roots and transformations of the Rapunzel myth. If you've ever wondered where fairy tales come from, read this! A mythic retelling Fascinating and erudite discussion of the roots and transformations of the Rapunzel myth. If you've ever wondered where fairy tales come from, read this!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Toni Kely-Brown

    Bitter Greens (the retelling of Rapunzel) is one of my favourite books ever! No Disney version, but rather a dark, dark adult fairy tale which I found extraordinary. Having seen Kate Forsyth talk at the Brisbane Writers Festival, I was very interested in reading about her motives for re-writing the Rapunzel fairy tale. The book is divided into three sections with the first describing her research for writing Bitter Greens and the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale, the second section is a transl Bitter Greens (the retelling of Rapunzel) is one of my favourite books ever! No Disney version, but rather a dark, dark adult fairy tale which I found extraordinary. Having seen Kate Forsyth talk at the Brisbane Writers Festival, I was very interested in reading about her motives for re-writing the Rapunzel fairy tale. The book is divided into three sections with the first describing her research for writing Bitter Greens and the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale, the second section is a translation of Charlotte-Rose's Rapunzel fairy tale and the third is various articles written by Kate. I enjoyed the first two sections but skimmed through the 3rd as some of it I found repetitive.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Corley Elizabeth

    2.5 stars. I wrote a short story loosely inspired by "Rapunzel" last year and in the process came across this book. Unfortunately, this was much more focused on the author's own novel and how the variations of the fairy tale influenced it. The only sections I liked were the ones where Forsyth discussed these variants and the people who wrote them down. This was also extremely repetitive, with multiple chapters and essays repeating the same material. 2.5 stars. I wrote a short story loosely inspired by "Rapunzel" last year and in the process came across this book. Unfortunately, this was much more focused on the author's own novel and how the variations of the fairy tale influenced it. The only sections I liked were the ones where Forsyth discussed these variants and the people who wrote them down. This was also extremely repetitive, with multiple chapters and essays repeating the same material.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Scho

    Exactly the kind of fairy tale history I've been looking for for ages. It had everything I wanted to know about the Maiden in the Tower tale, delivered in an accessible and entertaining way. It was also so nice to find a fairy tale book that emphasised and celebrated the role of women in fairy tale (both as characters and tellers). In short, this book was perfect and will definitely be one I'll reread many times to come. Exactly the kind of fairy tale history I've been looking for for ages. It had everything I wanted to know about the Maiden in the Tower tale, delivered in an accessible and entertaining way. It was also so nice to find a fairy tale book that emphasised and celebrated the role of women in fairy tale (both as characters and tellers). In short, this book was perfect and will definitely be one I'll reread many times to come.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robynsview

    A fascinating insight into the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale as well as Kate Forsyth’s reasons for writing reimagined fairy tales. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys her writing and also for people who are interested in the social and cultural history of mythological or culturally significant stories.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I found it informative. I didn't agree with some of the author's conclusions with analysis, but there are a lot of great resources and examples on the Rapunzel tale, as well as historical and general information. Definitely worth a read if you're researching this tale. I found it informative. I didn't agree with some of the author's conclusions with analysis, but there are a lot of great resources and examples on the Rapunzel tale, as well as historical and general information. Definitely worth a read if you're researching this tale.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Booknerder42

    I loved this book!!! This wonderful book combined history and fairy tales and folk lore, such an informative and interesting read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Isabel

    This was really insightful into the history and symbolism of the many different versions of Rapunzel. It also is a good reference book for all of these tales and versions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liesa

    Many thanks to FableCroft Publishing for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review! I have quite the history with the Rapunzel fairy tale, just like the author of this book. Let me take you along on a brief trip through the years. I’ve loved this fairy tale ever since I was a child. My grandmother had this amazing, beautifully illustrated, book of fairy tales. I remember everytime my sister and I went to stay with our grandmother, we got out that book and read it to Many thanks to FableCroft Publishing for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review! I have quite the history with the Rapunzel fairy tale, just like the author of this book. Let me take you along on a brief trip through the years. I’ve loved this fairy tale ever since I was a child. My grandmother had this amazing, beautifully illustrated, book of fairy tales. I remember everytime my sister and I went to stay with our grandmother, we got out that book and read it together. It was the romance and the adventure in this story that spoke to me the strongest. In 2010 the Disney movie Tangled came out and I also fell in love with that version. From this moment on I started to read more fairy tale retellings as well. One of those retellings was Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. The bookshop I worked at had ordered some copies of Kate’s book and I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and read the description. Bitter Greens braids together the story of three women: Margherita or Petrosinella, our Rapunzel figure, Charlotte Rose de La Force, the writer of Persinette, an early version of the Rapunzel fairy tale, and Selena Leonelli or La Strega Bella, the witch. I adored Bitter Greens so much that I decided to write my bachelor paper about it. I compared two versions of the Rapunzel fairy tale: Bitter Greens and the poem/short story Rapunzel Revisited by Alyxandra Harvey. Both of the authors were kind enough the help me during my research. At that time, Kate told me she was writing her doctoral exegesis about the history of Rapunzel and said it was a pity it wasn’t finished yet because it would’ve been a great source. You can imagine my excitement when I heard FableCroft was going to publish Kate’s work, The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in Tower might be a work of non-fiction but it reads just like Kate’s other novels. It's utterly compelling. It doesn’t only feature Kate’s exegesis on the history of Rapunzel, but several interesting essays and poems as well. I added so many more recommendations to my to-be-read pile. Kate was a source of inspiration to me before I read this book but has become an even greater one after finishing it. Her tale left quite the impression on me. I simply loved this book and will be purchasing the hardcover so I can return to it for many more years to come.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Abby Vincere

    This was an amazing research tool as well as a highly entertaining collection of essays. Five big shiny stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    theolivelibrary

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joetta

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rina

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate O'Hanlon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pippin Hart • The Pigeon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tehani

  22. 5 out of 5

    V Chafer-Soler

  23. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Dodd

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Booth

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mick

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beverley Hixon

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Franzino

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zahro

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