My presence in the village has long been a source of intrigue. Endless hours ofgossip have sprung from my rather sudden appearance one stormy spring day and I know thatnothing was ever fully explained. Very few people know my whole story and, at their suggestion,I have taken pen to paper to set the record straight. No, I am not a changeling. Yes, I was named after a plant. No, I am have not studiedmagic. But, yes, my life has been touched by it. My journey was not easy and may seem strange to some, but I have grown to bethankful for every single step along the way. I have come far in the past few years and gainedmuch for all that I have sacrificed. To truly explain it all to you, I must go many years back.
It all began with a Bible. Mother Gothel’s Bible, to be precise. She brought it back with her many years ago after a long afternoon of foraging forfood when I was about seven. She had found it in what had once been a great cathedral and,knowing that many would go to great lengths to lay their hands on it, she brought it to thetower to keep it safe just as she had done with me. Of course, I couldn’t wait to learn whatmysteries the highly coveted Bible held, but I never imagined the literary hunger it wouldawaken in me. As Mother liked to say, that was “the beginning of the end”.
After Mother Gothel taught me my letters, I spent most of my days reading andrereading the bible. I fondly remember sitting by the fireplace with the heavy book balanced onmy small knees and Mother watching me read with pride in my ability, but sadness in her eyes. “Rapunzel,” she would often say, “by these words men used to govern their lives.They sought greatness by following these examples set out before them, but, alas, this Bible isnow only a reminder of a world that once was.” By the time I was eight, I had learned what shemeant. The Great War had ravaged the kingdom for decades until only those too weak ortoo cowardly to fight were left. Chaos erupted and overtook the land and all its people.
Mother never hesitated to answer my questions about the past. Once upon a timeshe lived in the castle working as the Queen’s attendant. When the royal family was deposed andfled across the border, she had to move to a small patch of land on the edge of the kingdomwhere she lived in fear, scraping out a meager living. Several years later she found me. She had lived next to a young couple: my true parents. They were cowardly andgreedy people. They refused to fight in the Great War and used anarchy to their benefit. Theyran with a gang of thieves, pillaging the town and stealing from honest folk, including MotherGothel. Finally their day of reckoning came and they were imprisoned for burglary. MotherGothel remembered that I had been left alone in their house and so she took me in, vowing toraise me as her own daughter. I was barely two weeks old.
For my first year Mother sent me to a wet-nurse that lived far out in the country.During that time Mother had the tower built. It was a great stone edifice rising hundreds of feetinto the air and located high in the snowy mountains. It had no doors and one opening windowand provided excellent defense from the outside world. We moved in soon after and there I was to remain.
Throughout my childhood Mother lived in the tower with me. It was a happy home,filled with joy and laughter. Once a week, Mother would leave in search for food to tide us overuntil her next departure. She would be gone for two days at a time, during which I would readthe Bible (at the time our only book) and count the minutes until she would return with her armsladen down with her newest acquisitions.
My twelfth birthday was the first one I had ever spent alone. A week before, Motherhad come to me with disparaging news: the townspeople were growing mighty suspicious of herlengthy disappearances and she was afraid she risked my safety by coming back and forth sooften. “Rapunzel, my dearest,” she said with a sigh, “I am afraid that I can no longer stay in thetower with you. I must spend most of my time in my hut on the edge of town, but I shall comeas often as I can to see you.”
Of course I cried and begged her to stay. “At least let me go with you, Mother!” Iimplored through my tears, but Mother stayed strong and said I must remain in the tower. Theoutside world was simply too dangerous and she could not bear to lose me. Finally the day came when she departed. I bawled. Her parting gift was a new book.“A companion,” she explained, “for your lonely nights.”
After that, books became my life. Every time Mother came to see me, laden downwith food and supplies, she would always remember to bring with her several new novels. Theywere rare treasures in the outside world, but Mother always managed to find some for me hereand there. After a few years, the tower was filled with them.
I piled them onto the shelves until they bowed under the weight. I condensed lessimportant things, like preserves and bread and soap, onto fewer and fewer shelves at the top untilI had no room left. The floor became my new, bigger bookshelf. I piled them all around,frustrating Mother Gothel to no end. “A big, fat mess!” she called my organizing system, but it all made perfect sense tome. I always knew exactly where a book had been set and although Mother made many threats,she never stopped bringing me more of them.
During the years after Mother moved out, books governed my whole existence. Islept only when I happened to doze off in the middle of a page and I ate only when food waswithin reach. I let myself become completely engrossed in each new novel. They transported mefrom the freezing tower, high in the mountains where the snow never stopped falling, and tookme to exotic, warm lands where illegal duels were fought between sailors and mustachioed men,true love faced grave trials, and damsels in distress were rescued by knights in shining armor. Of course, I knew that the books had all been written years ago, long before theGreat War had torn all of society apart, and such stories could never happen, but I found itbetter to pretend that they could. The books were perhaps the only reason I held on to my sanity.
When I turned seventeen, Mother Gothel brought me the biggest present I had yetreceived. “A writing table,” she explained eagerly, “for you to create your own stories on.” With itshe brought a large stack of blank parchment and a new set of quills and ink. She set it up forme in the corner next to my bed for me to try out.
I was as excited as could be. For years I had read what others had written, but I wasactually getting the chance to create my own story! Of course I did not stop reading, but Icarved a few hours out of my days, usually around dusk, to put my own words down onto thepage. I would sit down on my little stool, uncork my bottle of ink, and set to work. Ifever I should be at a loss for the next words, I would rest my pen and watch the gently fallingsnowflakes until inspiration struck.
Of course, I never, ever, expected inspiration to come in the form of a man. About ayear later, I saw him out the window, a lone figure walking in the distance. Had I not been at my writing desk, I never would have spotted him. I never wouldhave seen that he was wounded. I never would have become worried that he might die out in thefreezing cold. And I certainly would never had let down my long hair and encouraged him toclimb up my eighteen-year-long braid. So I guess, in a roundabout way, one could say it was actually Mother Gothel’s faultthat I learned that everything she had told me, my entire existence, had been a lie.