Disclaimer: Tangled belongs to Disney, the original characters belong to the Brothers Grimm. I'm just playing from a spark the movie lit in my mind. Any events from either are obviously not originally mine, though I have adapted several elements of the original fairy tale to fit this story. Amusez-vous! Give me criticism, people!
Long ago, there was a young woman. Centuries later, her story would end with a fateful flower and a fall into the wind, but before either were even an idea, she was young. The woman's name was Gothel and centuries later she would become known to a young, blonde princess as "mother" through a twist of greed, envy, and vanity. However, long before the young princess Rapunzel, long before the blessed golden flower grew from the sun's lone tear, she was a beautiful young woman herself.
Before the terror of the plague, the village she was born into was lively and spirited. It was quiet, quaint, but wonderful and full of dark haired people who felt like home. One bright morning as the sun peaked over the horizon, she came into the world as the daughter of the sickly blacksmith and his terse wife. The Wise Woman of the village chose her name, as she did every child born to the people. She was named Gothel and the Wise Woman prophesized that one day the babe would hold influence over the people like no other had before (or ever would again) in their village.
As she grew, she became more and more beautiful. She was fair skinned with clear eyes the colour of the moon and hair as dark as the night sky. Considered to be the jewel of the village, she was loved by all and doted upon as the most beautiful in all the land. From the moment she could speak, she was kind to her fellow villagers and eager to assist them in any way, thus increasing their adoration for her. Though they could not see it for themselves through her actions, Gothel feasted on their adoration. In her heart, she adored their praise for her far more than the people themselves and their attention made her vain. To them, and soon enough to herself, she was as beautiful as anything on earth ever could be. As time went on, the sin that had her praising her own reflection grew and grew. However, as much as she reveled in it, there was one single thing that made her let go of her vanity for a time.
Because when she was young, she was in love.
His name was Sinclair.
It had been a dark and storming night when he arrived at her home for the first time, soaked to the bone and seeking shelter. His horse had run at the first bolt of lightning and he had been left to wander far from the main road which led from the kingdom of Albedo to its largest surrounding towns. Three days off course, the light of a single candle shining through the window of her home (just on the outskirts of the village) had been a sight for his very sore eyes. He'd stumbled to the door, fatigued and hungry, and had rapt on the wood, begging whoever was inside for entrance for the duration on the storm. Gothel, knowing very well the dangers of letting wandering men into her home (especially because she was a young woman and living alone) was very wary, but finally allowed Sinclair entrance into her small house. He had thanked her profusely, staring in wonder into her enchanting face, and she served him a warm bowl of stew that she had shared with her mother hours before. That night, he spoke to her of his journeys, of the beauty that the kingdom of Albedo was, and of far off lands that she had never seen. In the light hours of the morning, despite having no sleep, Sinclair departed. His lips had lingered on her soft hand as he bowed out of her home, and Gothel stared after his retreating figure. She had only known him a night, but a night was all it took for her to know. She was in love. In love with a man she would never see again.
The next month on the first night of the full moon, the village was celebrating. It was the official start of the summer season and they feasted and danced and sang cheerful songs of great harvest and prosperity. That night, as the moon was high in the sky, a stranger rode up on a large steed and asked for the beautiful young woman known as Gothel. The townspeople, stunned, pointed the strange rider to the center of the village, to a fountain where the dark haired beauty sat with six young girls lying at her feet, marveling at the stories she told them. The man descended from his horse and approached her and though the town fell into a hush, he told her, softly, that he felt as though he could not bear the thought of never seeing her again. He asked for her permission to continue visiting her, and she agreed with flushed cheeks and bright, optimistic eyes.
His name was Sinclair and he lived in the kingdom of Albedo. He was beautiful and warm with soft blonde hair and warm hazel eyes. He was her sun and he told her that she was his moon. Every month, when the moon was full in the sky, she waited with bated breath for him to arrive on horse to her small home in the small village far from the kingdom. Those three nights, every month, he pursued her and after almost a year of his visits, he confessed his love to her. He was passion and for three nights a month, he was all hers in every way. She was young and she was in love.
In her village, the couple was loved with an intensity almost fiercer than that which she had been loved on her own. For the years since his first public visit, when they ventured out into the village, the people rejoiced in the beautiful couple. Though their relationship should have been viewed as scandal, there was not a thing that the pair could have done to have a shadow cast upon their image. To the simple townspeople, they were perfect. In the days between his visits, the people showered Gothel with gifts of value. Jewels, gold, oils, dresses and cloaks of the finest and most exotic fabrics were given to her in hopes that her "rich gentleman caller" would soon deem her a suitable bride and take her as his own.
Gothel's mother, however, had a quite different view on it all. Though her husband had been lost to age years before, she felt no grief for him, deciding instead to live for what few days she had left. She constantly chastised her daughter for falling for the mysterious, golden man with promises that were as insubstantial as the mist from the sea. To the woman, her daughter was being immature, falling easily into lovely eyes and too quickly to believe the man's public declarations of his devotion. "It's demented," she told her light eyed daughter. Demented that Gothel would ever think that the man from the kingdom would love her as her daughter claimed he did. Love was not something you could build a home from, the old woman told her, and it was beyond the comprehension of men who were handsome enough to evoke the feeling in foolish young girls like her.
Her mother handed her a bowl and a rag and lowered herself into a rickety wooden chair in the middle of her home, beside the stove which kept her aging feet warm from the winter frost. She shook her head pitifully, her long grey hair lying braided down her back. "Why would he like you? Come on now, really?" Her fingers plucked at her daughter's thin arms, and then her bushy black hair. "Look at you; do you think that he's impressed? You may be the fairest in the small world we've created here, but in a kingdom like Albedo there are many fairer."
Gothel set down the bowl and crossed the dirt floor to kneel before her mother, taking her frail hands into her own. She tried in vain to assure her mother of the man's sincerity, spinning before her mother a tale of beautiful, sweet nothings that had been whispered in dark, warm places. Her mother, however, remained unimpressed. Realizing that her daughter would remain unmoved in her beliefs, the old woman sent her off. "If he's lying, don't come crying to me. Remember, Gothel: mother knows best."
At the end of that month, Gothel arrived at her mother's house with Sinclair. He was charming and kind, and Gothel looked up at him with adoring eyes, his twinkling warmly in return. Her mother's leveled gaze and cold, blue eyes never changed once in the entire evening and minutes after the man departed on the third day, the Wise Woman came to Gothel's house and told her softly that her mother had passed away in the night. Gothel was racked with grief but also with pride at having proven to her old mother just before her last days that she had been wrong and Sinclair did truly love her. At the end of the month, Sinclair came and paid his respects to his lover's dead relative.
Several months later, two weeks before the moon was full and bright in the sky, Gothel fell ill. Panicked at the thought that their star would be taken from them, the townspeople called the Wise Woman to her home. The Wise Woman, after taking almost no time at all tending to the beautiful girl, revealed that she was with child. Though most of the town had no idea how to react (shock because she was not married? Joy because she was their gift and she would be bringing more joy to them? Disgust because it was improper?), Gothel was absolutely overjoyed. She visited the kindly old man in the village and asked to borrow his horse, for he was the only one in town in possession of one, and she rode to Albedo with her heart bursting in excitement.
She arrived at the breathtaking kingdom in awe. So different from her own village where every person's features were dull and their hair of varying dark hues, this kingdom was bursting at the seams with beautiful people with hair the colour of the sun. She asked around, asked anyone who would give her an answer, where she could find her golden lover (her Sinclair) and was pointed to the castle. She stood, feeling small in the huge building, waiting, bubbling over, until he came to her to speak. He was as gorgeous as ever and she was glowing, but he was cold and he regarded her with cruel indifference. Gothel told him, warmly, that she wanted them to be together, finally; that she didn't want to wait each month to see him. She moved to embrace him, but he cast her away. His hazel eyes were hard, searing. He spoke with a tongue as sharp as a knife. She was naïve, he told her, for inventing a romance between them. To him, he told her, hers was only a willing bed to warm while his wife bled. He had a perfect golden haired family, with a beautiful wife and four beautiful heirs to his throne, each fairer than her in every way. Why, he taunted her, would he want her?
Gothel was shattered and Gothel was infuriated. Her nails slashed across his face in scorn. She stormed from the castle, from the kingdom, promising him that he would regret using her. Her promises were so much more substantial than the mist he spun from pretty words.
Gothel returned a changed woman to the village where she was praised as the fairest. The people could not understand the sudden shift inside her from a beautiful, kind young lady to a cold, malicious woman with venom in her heart. In what would have been the time of eight of Sinclair's visits later (because she still counted in terms of his visits, though it angered her to do so), she gave birth to a boy with shimmering black hair and Sinclair's golden eyes. The Wise Woman held him in her arms and cleaned the boy off and named him Fitz. Aside from feeding him, Gothel refused to hold her son for more than a week, and after that, only reluctantly.
To keep bread on the table for the both of them, Gothel trained under the skilled hands of the Wise Woman. She learned the old ways of healing, herbs, and even poisons that the dark skinned woman with the enchanting green eyes had learned on her sunny island home where the forests were sharper and wetter where she had been taken from as a young woman, not much older than Gothel. She spoke to Gothel of the ways the sea could heal, of a special flower that had grown in the forest of rain that glowed like the moon and took a day off your age with a simple lullaby, and she told her of the animals with their own protection from being eaten.
When her son was old enough to walk on his own over a distance, Gothel left with him for far away. They walked for days until they came to an undiscovered forest where she built them a small home in a small clearing that hid just within the deceitful cave entrance. She raised Fitz to hate his father viciously, she taught him to wish the golden man to death, and she fed him on stories of the horrible king's eventual demise at his hands.
As he grew older and stronger, they built a tower from her home with a winding staircase leading high up into the main room of the tower. Fitz built beautiful carved furniture for her from the trees in the forest. He hand crafted each window and railing in the tower, and every night after she slept he laid down a stone in the floor, creating a beautiful mosaic over the plain wooden boards, hoping that the colours would bring a brightness to the tower. He brought her wood for the fireplace when it was cold and he brought her meat for food and occasionally he even came back with silks or trinkets that he'd gotten from a traveler in return for his unique furniture. It was all for her. Fitz believed his mother deserved every comfort he could give her. Her son loved her like a son loved a mother, and all he wished was that she would return his love. He made her a beautifully crafted long mirror for her room and she cherished it above every other gift he had given her.
On the boy's eighteenth birthday, she took him to Albedo, to the kingdom of his father, the deceitful Sinclair who had stolen her heart more than twenty years before. She gifted her son with a silver knife her own father had made and she stood, smiling at Sinclair, as their illegitimate son slaughtered him.
Having completed the deed that he had been destined for since birth, had been trained for since he could remember, Fitz, with his wavy black hair falling into his sinfully golden eyes, looked to his mother, hoping to see approval. Instead, her cold grey eyes were flat and uncaring when he grinned. Never come back, she told him. She turned, her dark blue cape that he'd killed a man for to give her trailing behind her as she left him. Fitz could not understand what he'd done wrong; hadn't this been what she wanted?
Her revenge had been settled. The weight that Gothel had felt in her soul for so long, the pinch she felt whenever she looked into her son's eyes, was gone. She was her own person now, and she immersed herself in a world of selfish indulges and reflections of her own face, once so much more youthful than what she saw staring back at her. But she was still as beautiful as the moon, and she told herself she was still the most beautiful woman in the world, even if she didn't have a man to whisper the words into her ear during a moment of heightened passion. Still, loving the confirmation, she set out each month when the moon was full and seduced a young man until the day when they no longer told her she was beautiful. When that day came, she holed herself up in the tower, ashamed that her age was catching up to her. She saw no one, and she hid the cave entrance as well as the doorway to her staircase behind ivy so that it would be insured that no one would see her, either.
The older she became, the more cruel she was. Living on her own, she flew into fits of rage, and soon was not satisfied with staying in the tower. She set out almost daily, trying to find some way to please herself. When her son returned to the tower, he found her with graying hair and skin much looser than it had been when he had last seen her. He embraced her, not seeing the look of fury in her eyes, and told her about his life, about his family, and asked her to be a part of it; to leave with him. Disgusted that he would dare to return after she'd ordered him not to, Gothel pushed him and he toppled out of the open window of the tower that he'd helped create. The fall did not kill him, but Fitz was blinded and stumbled away while his mother stared coldly down on the scene. He wandered about blind and crippled living off of berries and roots that he could dig up and recognize by feel alone. Not long after, his eldest son found him and brought him back to his home in Albedo, where Fitz died painfully three days later. That summer, the plague wiped out the rest of his family as well.
Gothel stood in that tower remembering the day and never once felt regret. She didn't know what had become of him, and she made no effort to find out.
It was decades later when she knew that her life was drawing to an end. She had been on the far beach gathering white shells for a paste that would help her own bruises to fade when her eyes caught on a bright light falling from the night sky. She followed the faint glow until she came to the spot where it had fallen and watched in envy of the beauty as a single golden flower sprouted from its luminescence. The flower practically thrummed with energy and she knelt by it, paste forgotten, bewildered by the bright gleam of each petal.
'Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine…'
Gothel recalled, faintly in her aging memory, a song that the Wise Woman in her village had sang to her son as the two worked. She remembered, faintly, the story of a white glowing flower that granted a day to the life of anyone who sang to it.
Desperately, she sang to the flower in her croaking voice. "Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine," she paused there, trying to remember the rest of the song, but to no avail. She closed her eyes and opened her lips, letting her own desperation and desire for what she'd lost fill her old heart. "Make the clocks reverse; bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt, change the fate's design. Save what has been lost; bring back what once was mine." She felt…something burst into her and when she looked down at her hand, it was flawless and soft as it had been when she was young. She groped at her face, feeling the skin as it once had been, and she felt her arms, her legs, her stomach—all young, all soft, and all beautiful.
Envy sprung up within her—the Wise Woman had had this long before her. This wasn't something that she could share, not ever.
Desperate, though she knew that no other travelers would go this far off their path, she quickly constructed a dome of ivy, which she used to hide the magic flower during the day.
At first, she visited the flower once a month, on the first night of the full moon. As time went on, though, she visited more and more, sometimes more than once a week. She became addicted to it. She craved the youthful feel that the flower granted her and each time she sang to it, she wanted more.
Centuries passed and the flower remained hidden to all but her until one fateful night.
Much had changed within her unnaturally prolonged lifetime. The kingdom of Albeda, so lively and prosperous and thriving in her youth, had met a bloody end during the worst years of the plague, and then invasion from a stronger foreign kingdom, which also no longer existed.
Just off the coast of the forest where she inhabited, a small island Kingdom grew, known for it's peace, tranquility, and artistic influence. The king and queen were beloved and expecting a child. Gothel never was interested in the dynamics of the royal town, but when news broke out that the queen was fatally ill, she jumped from her chair in the pub and took the day traveling to the flower, only out of view from the castle because of her mundane covering. She had to make sure that her immortality was protected.
Loud shouts and footfalls broke the calm of the lapping ocean and Gothel, in her panic to get away without herself or the flower being noticed, knocked over the one thing shielding her lifeline from the world. She hid behind a bush and watched in horror and fury as the royal guards dug up her flower for their queen. She didn't care who the queen was; no one had the right to steal her youth from her. Not when it was all she had.
She stayed in the town for the next three days, the nights of the full moon, and on the third day, the kingdom rejoiced with the news of a baby girl with beautiful golden hair named Rapunzel. Gothel stood below the king and queen's balcony looking up at the blessed princess. Her eyes caught on the girl's hair, the colour of the sun just as Sinclair's had been, and her eyes narrowed suspiciously. The king, the queen, everyone in the kingdom… The princess was the sole keeper of the magic of the flower, Gothel was sure of it.
That night, she set forth to find out.
Gothel had learned many tricks over the years and she would be lying if she said she'd never stolen from anyone. It wasn't her forte, but it got the job done. That night, she snuck into the castle and made her way to the sleeping baby silently as the wind. She kept her voice low to avoid waking the monarchs sleeping on the other side of the room, and she sang to the child until the baby's hair began to glow. It was perfect. Gothel's hopes rose. All she needed, forever, would be just a lock of the babe's hair. Even more convenient than the flower, she mused, as she raised her shears to the blonde hair and snipped.
She gasped in shock. The severed hair fell from her hand, limp and brown and the child's hair where it had been cut changed to the same colour.
Who were they to deprive her of her beauty, her life, her flower?
The old woman seized the baby and her cold eyes met the girl's startled parents' just as she leapt down and fled to her tower.
From that day on, Gothel was more determined than ever to keep the magic of the flower all to herself.
Centuries after her own natural life had passed, Gothel still resided in the same tower. Her memory was as sharp as ever, restored with each refrain of her healing incantation. The memories she could remember the sharpest were fresh on her mind. She could remember Sinclair's cutting betrayal after such loving moments together. She remembered the biting words delivered honestly from the mouth of the woman she'd called mother, but the memory of that woman was all but gone, only refreshed with a vague memory of a voice or face when she assured Rapunzel that "mother knows best", no matter what the situation was. She remembered the adoration she received for her beauty among nameless, faceless simple people of a village she'd all but forgotten. She remembered every word and bit of knowledge she'd received from the Wise Woman.
Gothel did not remember her son much at all, though she knew that she had given birth to one. He had died to her the moment he was no longer useful to her. He died the day he avenged her by killing Sinclair.
Once upon a time, Gothel had been in love. Once upon a time, she had been young and she had been beautiful. That time had passed for her, however. And in jealousy of the blooming flower that grew up in front of her, Gothel kept Rapunzel to herself, insuring that she would stay young and beautiful forever.
And when Rapunzel found love, she promised the young girl that it was all in her head and born of naivety.
"Dear, this whole romance that you've invented
Just proves you're too naïve to be here.
Why would he like you? Come on now, really?
Look at you; you think that he's impressed?
Don't be a dummy; come with mummy.
Mother knows best."