Of all the Grimm fairytales, 'Rapunzel' is one of the most mysterious and enduring. It is the story of a young girl who is sold by her parents to a witch for a handful of bitter green herbs. At the age of twelve, Rapunzel is confined by the witch in a tower without stairs or a door. Years later, a prince rides past and hears Rapunzel singing. He is haunted by her voice and returns often to hear her sing. At last he sees the witch climb up her long braid of hair, and knows the secret of gaining access to the tower. He climbs up, and seduces Rapunzel. When the witch discovers Rapunzel is pregnant, she shears off all Rapunzel's hair and casts her out to wander alone in the wilderness. Then she lowers down the severed braid to the prince, who unwittingly climbs up. The witch taunts him and causes him to fall from the top of the tower. He falls into thorns and brambles, and is blinded. Although he cannot see, he searches for Rapunzel, and one day hears her singing in the wilderness. Rapunzel has given birth to twins, a boy and a girl. When Rapunzel sees the prince she flings her arms around him and weeps. Two of her tears fall into his eyes and heal him. Able to see once more, the prince takes Rapunzel and the twins back home, and they all live happily ever after. The story of Rapunzel has always fascinated Kate Forsyth, probably because it is full of so many unanswered questions. Why does the witch lock Rapunzel up in the tower? What happens to the witch? What does Rapunzel eat while in the tower? It is also a poignant love story. Rapunzel begins as a passive child-like victim, but by the end of the story she is strong and powerful, bringing up two children on her own. She has become a magical agent of healing and redemption. The tale we know best was published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812, but is based upon an earlier Italian story - "Petrosinella" in Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone (1636). It is, however, the Grimm version which has the characteristic dark touches. (Rapunzel's pregnancy, the birth in the wilderness, and the blinding of the prince). Bitter Greens is a story told in two strands. Firstly, there is the story of Dortchen Wild who grew up across the road from the Grimm brothers in the Electorate of Hesse-Kassel, in what is now Germany. Dortchen Wild and her family were the primary sources of the Grimm brother's collected fairy tales, which were first published in 1812. Dortchen first met the Grimm brothers when she was twelve, when Hesse-Kassel was invaded by Napolean's Grand Army, and ruled by Napolean's young brother, Jerome Bonaparte. Dortchen's father was very strict, and kept Dortchen at home to care for him until his death. Only then was she able to marry Wilhelm, the younger of the Grimm brothers, and she and Wilhelm and the elder brother Jacob lived together happily for the rest of their lives. It is a very tender yet dramatic love story, filled with war, grief, thwarted desire and, ultimately, joy. The second strand of the story is set in and around Venice in Italy in the late 16th century, and tells the story of Rapunzel from the point of view of Salvatore, a young, impoverished musician - "the prince" - and Aurealia, a courtesan of Venice - "the enchantress". It is a story of betrayal, loneliness, seduction and ultimately redemption, and will be rich with details of life in 16th century Venice, including courtesans, the castrati, and the early history of opera.
Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon's Ride series for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Starthorn Tree for children. She has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including Best First Novel and a CYBIL Award in the US, five Aurealis Awards, and a CBCA Notable Book. Her books have been published in 13 different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain and Turkey, and Kate is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology. Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, A Mother's Offering to her Children.