Notes Toward A Theory Of Hair
One in every of the various tales I loved as a child and read to Sophie after our hair-braiding ritual was “Rapunzel.” The Grimm story has multiple sources, including the tenth-century Persian tale of Rudaba, from the epic poem Shannameh, wherein the heroine offers the hero her long, dark tresses as a rope to climb (he refuses because he is afraid to hurt her), and the medieval legend of Saint Barbara, by which the pious lady is locked in a tower by her brutal father, a story that Christine de Pisan retells within the E book of the town of Ladies (1405), her nice work written to protest misogyny. The later tales “Petrosinella” (1634) by Giambattista Basile and “Persinette” (1698) by Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force are much closer to the Grimm model (1812), which the brothers adopted from the German writer Friedrich Schultz (1790).
In all the last four variations of the tale, the action begins with a pregnant woman’s cravings for an edible plant (rampion, parsley, lettuce, or a form of radish—rapunzel) that grows in a neighboring garden owned by a powerful woman (enchantress, sorceress, ogress, or witch). The husband steals the forbidden plant for his wife, is caught, and, to avoid punishment for his crime, promises his neighbor the unborn youngster. The enchantress retains the woman locked in a excessive tower but comes and goes by climbing her captive’s long hair, which then becomes the vehicle for the prince’s clandestine entrance to the tower. The final Grimm version, cleansed for its young audience, does not include Rapunzel’s swelling belly or the birth of twins, however “Petrosinella” and “Persinette” do. When the enchantress realizes the girl is pregnant, she flies into a rage, chops off the offending hair, and uses it as a lure to trap the unsuspecting lover. The heroine and hero are separated, suffer and pine for each other, but are eventually reunited.
Rapunzel’s fantastical head of hair figures as an intermediate zone the place both unions and separations are enacted. A pregnancy begins the story, in spite of everything, and the lifeline between mother and fetus is the umbilical cord, cut after birth. beauty queens hair extensions But an infant’s dependence on her mother does not end with this anatomical separation. Rapunzel’s hair or in depth braid is a automobile by which the mom-witch determine comes and goes on her visits, an apt metaphor for the back-and-forth motion, presence and absence of the mother for the youngster that Freud famously elaborated in Beyond the Pleasure Principle when he described his one-and-a-half-year-old grandson playing with a spool and string. The little boy casts out his string, accompanied by an extended “oooo,” which his mom interpreted as his try to say “fort,” gone, after which he reels it in and joyfully says “da,” there. The game is one in every of magically mastering the painful absence of the mother, and the beauty queens hair extensions string, which Freud does not talk about, serves as the sign or symbol of the relation: I am connected to you. Rapunzel’s hair, then, is a sign of evolving human passions, first for the mother, then for the grown-up love object and the phallic/vaginal fusion between lovers that returns us to the story’s beginning: a girl finds herself in the plural state of pregnancy.
The story’s kind is circular, not linear, and its narrative pleasure turns on violent cuts: the infant is forcibly removed from her mother at birth, then locked in a tower, reduce off from others, and jealously guarded by the story’s second, postpartum maternal figure. After the punishing haircut, Rapunzel isn’t only estranged from her lover, she loses the sorceress mother. Notably, Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Drive reconciles the couple and the enchantress in “Persinette,” an ending that’s not only satisfying but one that dramatizes the fact that this is a tale of familial struggles.
A child’s early sociopsychobiological bond with and dependence on her mom changes over time. Maternal love may be ferocious, ecstatic, covetous, and resistant to intruders, including the child’s father and later the offspring’s love objects, but if all goes well the mother accepts her child’s independence. She lets her go. Rapunzel’s long hair, which belongs to her, but which may be hacked off without injuring her, is the proper metaphor for the transitional space by which the passionate and generally tortured connections and separations between mother and child happen. And it is in this same space of back-and-forth exchanges that a baby’s early babbling becomes first comprehensible speech and then narrative, a symbolic communicative kind that links, weaves, and spins phrases right into a structural whole with a starting, a middle, and an end, one that can summon what was, what is likely to be, or what may never be. Rapunzel’s supernaturally long cord of hair that yokes one particular person to another may be assigned yet another metaphorical meaning—it is a trope for the telling of the fairy tale itself.
My daughter is grown up. I remember combing and braiding her hair, and i remember reading her stories, stories that still dwell between us, stories that used to soothe her into sleep.