The fairy tale "Rapunzel", particularly as it is known from the collection of German fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm called Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), was the original inspiration for Disney's 2010 film Tangled (and thus the original inspiration for Tangled: The Series). The Grimms saw themselves not as authors, but as collectors of stories which, as they felt, illustrated the German national character as well as giving hints of the ancient Germanic religion. As such, they considered the story of Rapunzel, which had first appeared in print in the Kleine Romane ("Little Romances") of Friedrich Schulz, to be one which showed signs of great antiquity, which they did their best to bring to the fore in their various retellings. After they had retold the story in the original 1812 edition of the book, the Grimms revised it several times up to its final 1857 version, in order to improve its literary quality, to make it more authentically German, and to remove certain passages which they felt to be of dubious taste or morality.
- The oldest variant of this story found in print is found in Giambattista Basile's collection of Neapolitan tales called Il pentamerone, published in 1634, in which it appears under the title "Petrosinella.
- In the original story, Rapunzel is not a princess, but the daughter of a peasant farmer and his wife.
- In the story, Lady Gothel (Frau Gothel — in modern German "Frau" means "Mrs." or simply "woman," but its use was formerly restricted to the nobility) does not kidnap their baby, but demands her as payment when the peasant steals bellflowers (there is no sun drop flower) from her garden to satisfy his pregnant wife's urgent cravings.
- In the 1812 version Lady Gothel is a Fee, a fay or fairy, as the antagonist of Schulze's "Rapunzel" had been; by 1857 the Grimms have discarded the French word Fée, and she is instead described as a Zauberin, an enchantress, sorceress, or wizardess.
- Lady Gothel names the child "Rapunzel" after the stolen herbs.
- In various versions of the story found in many different countries, the child is named after many different types of garden produce: for instance, in the Neapolitan "Petrosinella" she is named after parsley, in the Italian "Prunella" she is named after plums, in the French "Persinette" and "Parsillette" after pears.
- Gothel does not place Rapunzel in the tower until she is twelve years old.
- Rapunzel in the story is discovered in her tower by a nameless prince, who hears Gothel calling to her.
- The chant whereby Gothel summons Rapunzel to let her into the tower, „Rapunzel, Rapunzel, lass deine Haare herunter!“ was considered by the Grimms as a guarantee of the ancient German character of the story, since it is written in the poetic form known as Stabreim, based not on rhyme, but on alliteration, which was commonly used in the pagan Germanic nations, but which had largely died out by the twelfth century A.D.. Nineteenth century translators, to remind the reader that the charm was meant to be a poem, would often add a line to make a rhyme, thus:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair
That I may climb the golden stair."
- The prince returns to the tower several times while trying to figure out a way to set Rapunzel free.
- Rapunzel lets the fact that a man has been visiting her slip to Gothel by thoughtlessly asking (in 1812) why her clothes are getting so much tighter [!] or (in 1857) why Gothel takes so much longer to climb Rapunzel's hair than her prince takes.
- Gothel cuts off Rapunzel's hair herself and drives her out of the tower into the forest.
- Rather than stabbing Rapunzel's lover, Gothel simply surprises him so much that he falls off the tower. In 1812 the fall itself causes him to lose his sight (die beiden Augen hatte er sich ausgefallen, literally "he had both eyes fall out for himself"); in 1857 he falls into the thorns at the base of the tower that scratch his eyes and blind him.
- In the 1812 version, there is no hint that Gothel meant to do more than surprise him at the window. In later versions, she is given a speech — changing narration to direct speech is one of the principal changes that Wilhelm Grimm made to improve the style of the stories — in which she says, "You have come for your Mistress Darling, but that beautiful bird is no longer sitting in her nest, nor is she singing any more. The cat got her, and will scratch your eyes out as well. You have lost Rapunzel. You will never see her again."
- Gothel then vanishes from the story completely.
- Rapunzel, while living alone in the forest, bears the prince twin children [!!!], while he wanders the land, grubbing up roots and grass to eat.
- Rather than Rapunzel's magical hair saving her lover's life, her magical tears restore his eyesight.
- The name "Rapunzel" (pronounced, more or less, "ra-POONT-sull") is the common German name for "rampion" (Campanula rapunculus), an edible bellflower, ranging in color from blue-violet to a purple much like that of Rapunzel's regular outfit in the feature film and TV series, with leaves similar to lettuce and a root similar to radish, which are both commonly used in salads.