Rapunzel, the Long-Haired One-Hit Wonder

rapunzel, 1958, shirley temple, television, carol lynley
Carol Lynley as Rapunzel, 1958
Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled failed to influence the U.S. baby name charts in 2010, but a televised depiction of Rapunzel from decades earlier boosted the baby name Rapunzel onto the charts for the first and only time in 1959:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 9 baby girls named Rapunzel
  • 1958: unlisted

Rapunzel was one of the top one-hit wonder names of 1959, in fact.

So what exactly caused this sudden interest in Rapunzel?

The “Rapunzel” episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958-1961). The German folktale first aired in October of 1958 on NBC. It aired again in 1959 when ABC reran the entire first season of the series.

The role of Rapunzel was played by 16-year-old Carol Lynley. The witch was played by Agnes Moorehead, best remembered today as an entirely different witch: red-headed Endora from Bewitched. And Shirley Temple, who was in her early 30’s by this time, served as narrator.

…And how did the long-haired folktale character come to have the name “Rapunzel” in the first place?

It was a pregnancy craving, believe it or not.

The original story began with a pregnant woman who had a craving for rapunzel, which is a leafy green vegetable. Her husband started stealing rapunzel from a nearby garden that belonged to either a fairy (in the Grimm brothers’ original 1812 version of the story) or a sorceress (in their revised 1857 version). The husband got caught and was forced to make a deal: he could take all the rapunzel he wanted, but in exchange he had to give the baby to the fairy/sorceress. And he did. The baby girl was named “Rapunzel” and taken away.

Have you ever met a person named Rapunzel?

Source: Rapunzel – a comparison of the versions of 1812 and 1857 – D. L. Ashliman


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *