Reading Hair as a Symbol to Understand Changing Gender Roles in “Rapunzel” and Rapunzel’s Revenge


  • Suchismita Duttagupta University College Dublin, Republic of Ireland



Fairy tales, adaptation, gender roles, hair symbolism, social conformity


Fairy tales have always been captivating for young readers. Since most of the fairy tales have their source in oral folktales, they highlight traditional gender roles and create stereotypes. As Maria Nikolajeva (2003) states, fairy tales reflect its own time and society. Evolution in readership has led to a change in these reflections. “Rapunzel” is one of the most iconic fairy tale characters and she is known for her long golden hair. Hair carries symbolic implications and is often associated with femininity, and exhibits how societal control influences how she/he wears their hair. By the transformation of her hair in the adaptations, the authors depict a change in the traditional gender roles. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale will be read as a counter-narrative to Grimm‟s “Rapunzel” to investigate the changes in the fairy tale genre and enable a reading of the changing hair symbolism in order to understand the change in gender roles and identity.


---. (2014, October). Rapunzel’s Revenge. Retrieved from
Anderson, C. (2015). The importance of appearances in literature: what does it mean to be a redhead in literature?. Unpublished Honours Theses. Retrieved from
Blasingame, J. (2010). Interview with Shannon Hale about Rapunzel’s Revenge. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(6), 518-520. Retrieved from
Butler, J. (1988). Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Theatre Journal, 40(4), 519-531. DOI: 10.2307/3207893
Conrad, J. (1999). Docile bodies of (im)material girls: The fairy-tale construction of JonBenet Ramsey and Princess Diana. Marvels & Tales, 13(2), 125-169. Retrieved from Dunn, L., & Jones, A. (1996). Embodied voices: representing female vocality in western culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fisher, J., & Silber, E. (2000). Good and bad beyond belief: teaching gender lessons through Fairy Tales and Feminist Theory. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 28(3), 121-136. Retrieved from http:// stable/40005478
Grenby, M. O. (2014). Fantasy and Fairy Tale in Children’s literature. Retrieved from articles/fantasy-and-fairytale-in-childrens-literature
Grimm, J., & Grimm, W. (1993). Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (L. Crane, Trans.). Knoxville, TN: Wordsworth Classics.
Hale, S., & Hale, D. (2008). Rapunzel’s Revenge. (N. hale, Illus.). London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing P L C.
Hammerberg, D. (2001). Reading and writing “Hypertextually”: children‟s literature, technology, and early writing instruction. Language Arts, 78(3), 217-216. Retrieved from Heckert, M., & Best, A. (1997). Ugly duckling to swan: Labeling Theory and the stigmatization of red hair. Symbolic Interaction, 20(4), 365-384. DOI: 10.1525/si.1997.20.4.365
Hoffman, G. (2005). From modernism to postmodernism: concepts and strategies of Postmodern American fiction. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi. Joosen, V. (2011). Critical and creative perspectives on Fairy Tales: A intertextual dialogue between Fairy-Tale scholarship and Postmodern retellings. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press.
Nikolajeva, M. (2003). Fairy Tale and Fantasy Fiction: Archaic to Postmodern. Marvels & Tales, 17(1), 138-156. Retrieved from Synnott, A. (1987). Shame and glory: A Sociology of hair. The British Journal of Sociology, 38(3), 381-413. DOI: 10.2307/590695
Warner, M. (2010). After „Rapunzel‟. Marvels & Tales, 24(2), 329-335. Retrieved from
Weitz, R. (2001). Women and their hair: seeking power through resistance and accommodation. Gender and Society, 155, 667-686. Retrieved from
Wohlwend, K. (2009). Damsels in discourse: Girls consuming and producing identity texts through Disney princess play. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(1), 57-83. Retrieved from http:// Zipes, J. (2011). The meaning of Fairy Tale within the evolution of culture. Marvels & Tales, 25(2), 221