Author's Note: Watching Tangled, I had hoped that Disney would give us a more realistic ending, or would give us more to the character of Gothel. Initially, we knew her to be the villain and then, after watching some tender scenes between Rapunzel and Gothel, I think there was more to the relationship than meets the idea. After all, the world doesn't come in black and white, and I think Gothel was the epitome of a character in shades of grey - in my mind at least. This inspired me to write an alternate ending to the film - one where I had hoped, sitting in the dark cinema, Disney would give us but sadly didn't. The story changes the events leading up to the resolution we see in the film and explores the emotional side of both Rapunzel and Gothel. Enjoy!
Conversations with Fire
"Rapunzel? Rapunzel, let down your hair!"
Eugene's voice carried from the bottom of the tower. Rapunzel bit the cloth which gagged her, feeling the muscles in her cheek strain in the effort. She tried to make a noise, but only a pathetic moan escaped her. She shot Gothel a furtive glance as the older woman contemplated her next course of action. Would she hurt Eugene? The wrinkle between Gothel's eyebrows deepened as seconds ticked by and Rapunzel wondered how she never realised how the woman sometimes looked older... and then younger again – the discrepancy had gone completely ignored in all the years Rapunzel was growing up.
Gothel seemed to have to a plan as she scooped up Rapunzel's hair, the golden tresses carried in her arms like a precious baby, and tossed it out the sole window of the tower.
Rapunzel panicked. She was luring Eugene up the tower – what was Gothel planning to do to him?
"Why couldn't you have listened to me?" Gothel muttered, and in that instant, Rapunzel saw the quick reflection of light off a sharpened blade.
Rapunzel struggled in her chains, but the cold, hard metal only served to bite into her skin. "Mmmhh! Mmhhmmh!" she tried, but Eugene was obviously on his way up as she could feel the tugging of a weight on her scalp. No, please! She shot a pleading look to the woman she had thought of as her mother for eighteen years, the woman who had raised her, who had bought her all those paints no matter how far a distance she had to travel... Surely, Gothel had to love her in some way? Her cruelty was astonishing to Rapunzel, who had never been exposed to such a dark side of her prior to these events.
"All these could have been avoided if you had listened to me and stay in the tower. Why did you have to run away?" Gothel turned on Rapunzel, the glistening blade in her grasp making Rapunzel tremble with fear.
Rapunzel shook her head desperately, and let out a stifled scream.
Gothel frowned. "I'm not going to hurt you, Flower, and I'm really sorry it has come to this but you are not giving me a choice. You made me the bad guy. You cannot leave me."
"Rapunzel, I thought I'd never see you again!" Eugene's voice resonated and Rapunzel felt her heart skip a beat. He was going to die. She watched him adjust his vision to the dimness of the room, and then notice Rapunzel was not the one who had let down her hair. "Huh?"
Rapunzel struggled desperately but her efforts were futile. "Mhmmhh! Mmmhnm!" Gothel was going to kill him, she was going to, she was going to – she was going to kill him!
"Rapunzel!" Eugene cried out, not seeing Gothel's shadow behind him.
"Mhhmmm! Hhmmm!" Rapunzel cried, her eyes widening in terror as the blade of the dagger sparkled from the light streaming in the window. Please! she screamed, but no sound came from her throat. And just as her heart stopped, Gothel hesitated for what seemed to be a fraction of a moment, as though hesitating to plunge the blade into her victim, and the air stilled. Rapunzel, eyes squeezed shut, could almost hear her own heartbeat, breaking the deafening silence of the moment before the dagger was out of sight, hidden beneath the folds of Gothel's cloak.
Eugene collapsed heavily against the floor but Rapunzel could not see any wounds. Was he still alive? What had Gothel done to him? Her mind whirred with what seemed to be a million questions, and she felt faint.
Gothel stood silent in the tower, her dark cloak swallowing the light and casting only a shadow upon her hardened, beautiful face, now marred with fine lines. She looked imposing, like one of the villains Rapunzel had read about in books Gothel sometimes brought her. She had mostly felt safe in her tower, felt that with Gothel around, she would always be protected. The revelation that she had been living – loving – the villain of a story was a twisted irony.
Gothel took a step closer and Rapunzel shrunk back.
Instead, Gothel leaned forward and nimbly removed Rapunzel's gag. Rapunzel felt herself gasping for air, the relief seeping into her burning lungs. When had she stopped breathing? Perhaps it was the moment she thought Eugene was going to die before her eyes. Or perhaps it was when she actually tried to wonder how this woman whom she really, really, beneath it all, loved with all her heart, could be an entirely different person in reality... the facts of the matter congealed to make her head pound, and heart ache with all the lies and fallacies.
Why did Gothel hesitate? Why did she finally decide to not go ahead with her plan?
Perhaps – just perhaps, she did love Rapunzel after all? Tried as she could, Rapunzel could not see the woman's face, still hidden behind the shadow of her cloak. She had left Rapunzel's shackled side and was standing a few feet away, Eugene's motionless form at her foot. Rapunzel could not see anything but a stillness (and darkness) that made her stomach flutter with nervousness.
Rapunzel's voice was thin when she spoke; "Please." It was pitiful to beg, but she could not see any other option. While she was used to begging Gothel for those paints, and those special paintbrushes made with special animal hairs, for Gothel to make her delicious hazelnut soup, for Gothel to allow her to paint on the walls so very long ago, she was now begging for Eugene and her lives to be spared. The macabre situation was overwhelming and Rapunzel was not sure if she had the strength or courage to deal with it.
"Don't be dramatic. He's merely fainted, that's all. Nothing a sharp knock wouldn't handle," Gothel finally spoke. Rapunzel was reminded her own attack on Eugene with the frying pan and let herself feel relief – he would be all right. A little woozy, if anything.
But he would be all right.
"But you were – you were going to kill him." Rapunzel stammered, the scenario of Eugene dying too awful to imagine. She moved an arm but the chains clinked ominously, as if telling Rapunzel she would never get her freedom.
Gothel kept silent.
"Weren't you?" It was a whisper, although Rapunzel did not meant for it to sound so quiet
"Now, what purpose would that have served? You would have hated me even more than you already do now," Gothel reasoned, sounding very matter-of-factly. She cocked her head slightly to Rapunzel and the girl could see her profile against the light of the setting sun but no more than that. "Whisking you away would have been harder then."
Rapunzel didn't like that she could not see the woman's expression, didn't like that she had turned away from her and had gone to the window to see if anyone else had followed Eugene. In response, Maximus' outraged neigh echoed throughout the valley. He had probably recognised Gothel looking down onto him.
Rapunzel didn't like it even more that she was wrong. Rapunzel did not hate Gothel.
Hate. The word was ugly, and tasted like an awful, strong herb which Gothel sometimes used in her medicines.
Rapunzel felt angry. Betrayed. Confused, really. Disgusted. But hate? Not an ounce. Which did a fine job at amplifying the confusion she already felt.
"I don't hate you." Another whisper, the words tumbling out on their own accord. I can't hate you.
There was a rustle when Gothel moved, the heavy cloak brushing against her gown underneath. "You will, darling. When your pretty little head has managed to process everything, you will," she said, breezily, although Rapunzel was unsure if the tremble she heard in Mother – it was all right to still call her Mother, wasn't it? She must care for Rapunzel; she didn't even hurt Eugene (not really)! - Gothel's voice was real or imagined.
Gothel knelt and reached out to touch the golden strands of Rapunzel's hair. Rapunzel could just about make out the wrinkles and veins on Gothel's hand which smoothened as she made contact with the hair – the hair which had essentially caused Rapunzel's imprisonment for the past eighteen years. But was it really imprisonment if she had (most of) everything she had ever wanted? Again, her confusion intensified.
"Will you take me away?" Rapunzel asked, unable to bear the curiosity any further.
Gothel's dark eyes flickered up to meet her own green ones; such difference in both shape and colour, such lack of resemblance. She had loved Gothel so intensely, was willing to do everything Gothel asked of her – she had been so absolutely devoted to her that little things like the physical disparities between their appearances had not even been a question.
But now. Now, everything was different. Now, she had parents, a separate set of them which had no weight on her life before this, no relevance to what she knew to be her life. And it would be wrong if she ignored it, wrong if she pretended that it was not so.
And for all her faults, Gothel had raised Rapunzel to be a good person, a good daughter.
"Please don't take me away. I want to know my real parents," Rapunzel begged. Feeling as though she was threading on thin ice, she quickly added; "I'll tell them not to prosecute you, I promise. If that is what is keeping you, I'll make them listen to me, and they'll have to or I'll tell them I'll leave them again. I don't want – anything – to happen to you." Rapunzel bit her lip hard. She could not understand the conflicted feelings rooted deep within herself but knew that she was telling the truth. Nothing will ever be the same again, or as easy as it used to be but at least, she knew that it was the truth. "If you'll just let me go. Please."
Gothel smirked. "And then what? Live happily ever after, one big happy family?"
The cynicism in her voice made Rapunzel cringe and ache a little inside. "Well – why – why not?" she asked, as confidently as she could. She was sure that if she tried hard enough, things will play out for the best.
Dark eyes looked away in an uncharacteristic gesture of vulnerability. Maybe she was seeing the light, Rapunzel dared to hope. She was certain she saw a flicker of something cross the older woman's face if not vulnerability. "You have been so sheltered from the real world that you don't know that is not how things work. It's not that simple."
Rapunzel opened her mouth to protest but Gothel clucked her tongue to silence her.
"You're so innocent. My fault, I suppose." With an elegant shrug of a shoulder, Gothel straightened, nudging Eugene's body slightly with her foot as she stood. He gave a snort and continued on in his deep slumber. "At least the bastard looks like he's enjoying the rest," she muttered under her breath, but not softly enough. "I definitely need it."
"I forgive you," Rapunzel said, in a small voice, stronger than a whisper. She did.
"I didn't ask for forgiveness, Flower."
Despite Gothel's dismissal of her pleading, she inched slightly across the floor, the chains following noisily. She felt tears prickle her eyes. "Let me go."
"You had me for eighteen years. Don't you think, perhaps, that my parents deserve to have me now? If it's my hair you want, you can have it. All I'm asking is for you to just let me go." She was begging with every fibre of her being to leave someone she cared about, despite what Gothel had done, Rapunzel was beginning to realise that she could not stop loving her on a whim. Emotions could not be extinguished like one snuffed out the flame on a candle with moist fingers.
Gothel stood still, as if contemplating her plea. But then, her eyes hardened, becoming dark flints, and her lips pressed into a thin line. Determination seeped into her stature and she shoulders tensed, as though in preparation for a fight.
Tears finally spilt down Rapunzel's cheeks, realising that she might never meet her parents, or see Eugene again. "Please, Mother," she begged, choking down a sob. "Let me go."
Then, the hard flints melted.
The chill of autumn was setting in, and the lush greenery of the forest was turning a brilliant hue of red, speckled with gold throughout – a painting of a master artist called Nature. It had only been two weeks since Rapunzel left her tower for good, travelling back to reclaim her rightful birthright as the Princess of Corona. Now that she had done it, it seemed less important, less pressing. And it was so rare that she had the opportunity to slip away from the confines of the royal palace (had she traded away one tower for another?) and wander outside on her own.
While she understood her parents' protectiveness, it did not mean that she had to like it. It was not as though much of the people recognised her anyway, as she had left through a side entrance of the palace, one which did not require her to walk through throngs of the public who still wanted to catch a glimpse of their returned princess. She had been given two bodyguards who were supposed to watch her and Rapunzel had easily avoided them by instructed them to leave her alone as she would be resting in her room for the entire day. She had also left instructions to not be disturbed at all costs. Let it not be said that Rapunzel was not physically adapt to scaling walls, and climbing in general. Not to mention, years of practice and the presence her hair came in handy when she climbed over the balcony and descended from her bedroom in less than conventional ways.
Rapunzel had yet to tell her parents about the tower; it was her place, one which she selfishly kept to herself. She was not even sure if she would ever tell her parents about it. And so, she would not risk anyone finding out about it by allowing them to follow her on her little journey.
The heavy veil of foliage deep which covered the entrance to the valley was a bit confusing at first, but she finally found her way. There it stood, tall and proud – her tower.
She circled it once, and then twice, before she found the entrance to the tower. What used to be sealed was now available for her to enter. With every step she took up the winding stairs, Rapunzel felt her heart constrict with trepidation. Would Gothel still be around? Or had she already left and moved on with her life without Rapunzel?
Rapunzel finally reached the top of the tower and saw the familiar colours on the wall. She grinned.
"Mother?" she called.
The disappointment was stronger than Rapunzel expected it to be – after all, didn't she already accept the fact that Gothel would have probably already left?
There was a thud and she immediately brightened. Mother was still around!
She rushed up the stairs, cloak billowing behind her as though she was running from a pack of wolves, hoping that it wasn't her imagination playing tricks on her.
"Mother!" she cried, bursting through the door, only to find nobody in sight. "Is anybody around?" she asked tentatively, as her eyes searched the room wildly.
Rapunzel felt a lump in her throat as she sat down on the edge of the bed. Then, noticing something white on the dark sheets, something she had missed earlier in her excitement, she looked around to find a folded sheet of paper. Picking it up, she unfolded it and read the first line written in the familiar script she had seen so often in the past.
My dearest, precious Flower,
I do not know if you will ever find this, but I feel the need to tell you why I did the things I did. You should know that by the time you read this, if ever, I will be already gone, in the most literal sense of the word. However, I was overcome by a need to explain things to you – why I took your from your parents and why I call you, 'Flower' and why I kept you to myself.
As Rapunzel read line after line of the letter Gothel had left her, she felt tears staining her cheeks. She began to understand Gothel's actions, selfish as they were, she gained answers to the questions she had been asking herself for the past two weeks. All the whys and hows were finally being given answers.
When she reached the final paragraph, she thought her heart was going to burst with the torrents of emotions threatening to sweep through her. And the anguish, oh the anguish!
Finally, it is most important, most vital, most pressing that you know I love you most. Perhaps you may not believe it now, and never will, and I shall never know, but believe that I love you, my beautiful Flower. I may not be your Mother, and you will probably never love me as much again, or at all, but trust that I love you with all my heart as I have no reason to deceive you now. It pains me that I will never have the chance to brush your hair, make you hazelnut soup (I don't think anyone makes it as well as I do), and tell you what a mess you're making although I honestly adore the paintings. But I digress.
All I want to tell you is that I love you most, Flower. I do.
Clutching the letter to her chest, Rapunzel cried.
Corona was beautifully golden and warm during summer, but winter was harsh, and the cold was brittle. It was a time when the sun left earlier than usual, and howling winds brought gloom to many homes. It is only with the presence of family around a fire, presence of life that allows winter to be bearable.
Rapunzel stared ahead into the flickering flames ahead of her. Fire reminded her of her other Mother, the one who raised her, the one who was there when she scraped her knees. The passion, the unpredictability, the dramatics and even the danger – all qualities of fire, Rapunzel saw in Mother Gothel.
Why didn't you tell me that you would die if I left?
The fire crackled, as though responding to her unsaid question.
"Why did you let me go? Why didn't you come with me?" Rapunzel whispered to nobody in particular, sounding loud in the echoes of her high-ceilinged chambers. Nostalgia brought memories of the letter, which she still kept in the drawer of her dressing table, in a box with her other precious trinkets – things which were of not real value to anyone but herself.
I love you. Mother Gothel would say that.
"I love you more."
I love you most.
And Rapunzel knew it to be true.
Author's Note: That's all folks. Hope you enjoyed! Reviews will be greatly appreciated! :)