This post is part of a series. To view the introduction to the series, click here. Pepper Croote is based on the story Rapunzel, taken from a The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales collection. The original is available here, via Project Gutenberg.
There were once a man and a woman who had been hoping for a long time to have a child. The woman prayed over and over that God would grant her desire.
From the little window at the back of their house, this couple could see a beautiful garden. It was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to a witch. This witch, Hazel Croote, was very powerful and was everyone for miles around was afraid of her.
One day the woman was standing by the window, cutting green beans and looking down into the garden. She saw the most beautiful collection of summer savory bushes. The little light green plants with its pretty little white flowers and it seemed like the wind was carrying their scent to her. She looked down at her green beans and they suddenly seemed tasteless and bland to her. Without cuttings from that plant in the house, she didn’t think anything would taste good.
When her husband came in the house, he saw that she had stopped working and only stood looking out the window. She told him about the bush, about how nice it looked, how sweet it smelled, and how badly she needed to have it.
Her husband started to get worried, and asked: ‘What is wrong with you, dear wife? Has the witch put a spell on you? It is too dangerous to go into that garden.’
‘Ah,’ she replied, ‘but if I can’t eat food seasoned with that savory summer plant, which is in the garden behind our house, there is nothing else I will want to eat.’
The man, who loved his wife very much, thought, ‘I can’t just let her wither away from not eating. I will go cut down a few branches of that herb for her, no matter what the dangers are.’
When it was dark, he went out, climbed over the wall into the garden of the witch. He quickly snipped a few branches of summer savory, and took them to his wife. At once she made herself a pot of soup with the green beans she had been cutting. The soup tasted so good that she ate it up very quickly, leaving only a small bowlful for her husband.
The next morning, all the woman could think of was how good that soup tasted. She wanted to make some more, but she had used all of the herbs her husband had picked for her the night before. Now she wanted that plant three times as much as before.
Her husband quickly realized that if he was to have any rest, he would have to go down into the garden once more. So, in the dark of midnight he snuck down again. But when he had climbed over the wall he was terribly afraid, because he saw the witch standing right in front of him.
‘How dare you,’ she said with an angry look, ‘climb into my garden and steal my plants like a thief? You will be punished for his!’
‘Oh,’ he answered, ‘have mercy one me. I only did it because I absolutely needed to. My wife saw your herbs from the window, and felt such a strong desire for it that she couldn’t eat unless it was seasoned by your summer savory.’
Then the witch was not angry with him anymore, and she said to him, ‘If what you say is true, I will allow you to take away with you as much summer savory as you want, but with one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world. You can trust me, it shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.’
The man was so afraid of the witch that agreed to everything she said. Then, soon after, his wife did pregnant, and when the baby was born, the witch Hazel Croote appeared at once. She took the little girl away with her and gave her the name Pepper.
Pepper grew into the most beautiful child in all the land, but when she was twelve years old, the witch shut her into a tower. The tower was in a forest and it didn’t have any stairs or doors, but at the top was a little window. When the witch wanted to go in, she stood below the tower and cried out, “Pepper Croote, Pepper Croote, from the window let your hair out.”
Pepper Croote had magnificent long hair, like long strands of gold. When she heard the voice of the witch she untied her braids, wrapped it around one of the hooks over the window, and the hair fell twenty meters down to the ground, and the witch would climb her hair like a rope to get up to the window.
After a year or two, it just so happened that the king’s son rode through the forest and passed by the tower. He heard a song, which was so beautiful that he stopped his horse and listened. The voice he heard was Pepper Croote, who passed her lonely days by singing out into the woods. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it. Once when he was standing there behind a tree, he saw that the witch came there, and he heard how she yelled up to the tower: “Pepper Croote, Pepper Croote, from the window let your hair out.”
Then Pepper Croote let down the braids of her hair, and the Witch Hazel Croote climbed up to her.
“If that is the ladder that a person is supposed to use to go up, then I will try and see how lucky I can get,” he said.
The next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and yelled, “Pepper Croote, Pepper Croote, from the window let your hair out.”
Immediately the hair fell down and the king’s son climbed up.
At first Pepper Croote was terribly frightened by the prince, because she had never seen a man before, but the king’s son began to speak very nicely to her. He told her how much he liked her singing and how good he felt when he heard her voice. Then Pepper Croote wasn’t afraid of him anymore.
“Why does that woman keep you trapped in here?” he asked. “If you can set you free from this tower, will you come with me?”
The witch Hazel had always said that she kept Pepper Croote in the tower to protect her from a dangerous world, but if there were people like the prince in the world, maybe it wasn’t such a scary place after all.
She said, “I will go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Can you bring a bundle of silk thread every time that you visit so I can weave a ladder with it? When that is ready I will climb down and ride away with you on your horse.”
They agreed that until that time he should visit her every evening, because the witch was on there during the day. Every day the prince would bring her some silk, and she would sing for him and he would tell her about the world outside of her tower. The With Hazel didn’t know he was visiting, until one day Pepper Croote asked her a question:
“How come you are so much heavier for me to pull up than the prince. When he visits, he is up here in no time.”
“You wicked child!” yelled the witch. “What do I hear you say! I thought I had protected you from all the world, but now you are trying to trick me!”
The witch was mad that she grabbed Pepper Croote’s hair and wrapped it around one hand. She picked up a pair of scissors with her other hand, and snip, snap, she cut it all off. Pepper Croote’s lovely braids were laying on the ground. The witch was so mean that she took poor Pepper Croote into another village, far away from her real parents, and far away from the prince.
On the same day that she sent Pepper Croote away, however, the witch tied the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook above the window. When the king’s son came, he shouted out, “Pepper Croote, Pepper Croote, from the window, let your hair out.”
The witch let the hair down, and the prince climbed up, but instead of finding his dear Pepper Croote, he found the witch. He was immediately afraid, she stared at him with wicked and angry looks.
“Aha!” she cried, “you have come looking for your girlfriend, but that pretty bird is no longer singing in her nest. This cat has chased that bird away, and the same bird will scratch out your eyes too. Pepper Croote is gone and you will never see her again.”
The king’s son was beside himself with pain, but he didn’t want the witch to hurt him too. He quickly jumped through the window and slid quickly down the hair, but he slid down too fast, so when he landed, he fell badly and couldn’t get up to run away. The witch followed closely behind, and when she found him, she reached into her bag and threw a handful of spices in his face. They were so strong that they burned his eyes and his throat so much that he couldn’t see or talk anymore. The witch laughed and laughed at him, and walked away, leaving him in pain.
So the prince lived like this for days, and then weeks, and then months. He couldn’t see where he was going, and he couldn’t explain to anyone who he was or who he was looking for. He would wander from village to village, accepting charity where it was offered, but never staying very long. He was always listening to hear the voice of his love.
Before Pepper Croote was taken from the tower, she was able to steal some of the seeds that the witch was hiding there. She was later hired as a servant to work in a garden, where she tried growing the seeds. When the farmers wife saw the plants Pepper Croote was growing, she immediately put her to work in the kitchen, to see what kind of food she could make with this beautiful plant. Little did she know that this was the same summer savory that her father had also stolen from the witch.
One day when someone was guiding him down the road to the next town, he heard a familiar voice coming from inside a house. He begged his guide to lead him to the door where he could hear the voice more clearly. It had to be his long lost love. He stood outside the door and cried out, “Pepper Croote, Pepper Croote, from the window, let your hair out.”
Pepper Croote ran to the door and saw her poor prince standing there. She threw her arms around him and they both cried. Pepper Croote’s tears rolled down her face and dripped into his face and into eyes. His eyesight was starting to come back after all this time. She could see that he was trying to speak, but nothing was coming. She ran to bring him a bowl of bean soup with her magic seasoning mixed in, and as soon as he ate it, his voice came back too.
They told each other of all the things that had happened because of the witch and they both said how happy they were to be together again. They went to his father’s castle where his family was very happy to see him again, and they all lived happily ever after.