Hi! Well, this is my first fanfic, and I'm pretty pleased with it. Hope you enjoy!
In those last few terrifying moments of her life, Mother Gothel wondered what had brought her to that point. What had led her to become what she had? She remembered briefly a time when she wasn't consumed by her own vanity, greed, and fear, but it was too long ago; the memories would not come. These thoughts flickered briefly as she fell but were quickly replaced with the anticipation of impending doom.
She had been born Adah (meaning ornament) Gothel, to a poor farmer and his wife. Her name was becoming to her, for she was a peculiar yet lovely child. While the rest of the family had light brown or blonde hair with green or hazel eyes, Adah had raven curls, and gray eyes that gave one the feeling of being scrutinized down to the soul. Born the youngest to a family with many children, she was used to being overlooked, and she rarely spoke. She wasn't particularly close to anyone except her older sister, Aurelia, named so for her beautiful honey gold hair, amber eyes, and bright and shining disposition.
What a contrast these two made! but they were still as close as two sisters could be. They shared a bedroom in the family's farmhouse, and Adah and Aurelia would sit up long after everyone else was asleep, baring their souls to one another by sharing secrets, hopes, dreams, and fears (and of course having the occasional pillow fight and argument!). Often times, Adah would brush and play with Aurelia's golden hair while they talked so that they wouldn't have to face each other if the conversation was awkward. It was the only time that Adah really talked. She really was an incredibly intelligent child, and it wasn't that she didn't have anything to say, so much as the fact that she had no one to say it to. However there were even times when she knew certain things could never even be said to her sister.
Our story opens on one such night. Between the ten year old Adah and seventeen year old Aurelia, a fateful conversation ensued.
"Lia, what really is your greatest fear? You always give me mixed up joking answers, and you change the subject the next chance you get! You know you can trust me," Adah coaxed in that winning way that baffled her sister.
Aurelia paused a great while before answering. "I'm afraid of wasting the rest of my life here. I spend all day, every day, helping mother care for everyone while father is out in the fields. I want to go into town and meet a handsome young man who can provide for me. I want to leave this tiny farmhouse and barren farm for a place more exciting and lively than a dark forest on the other side of a field, perhaps a town would be best. I hate it here. I'm sick of it, and I'm nearly old enough to be on my own... What about you though, Adah? You have never given me a straight answer to that same question. What do you fear most?"
Adah replied in a small voice, "I cannot answer a question about something that I still fail to comprehend." For it was true that she did not honestly know what fear was at the time. However, there was one of those things that couldn't be said trying to force its way out of her lips, but she wasn't about to tell Aurelia just now, not after what had just been said.
"Oh Adah, you're still too young to understand this, and you are free to roam about as you please through the woods and fields. You're young. You only have to care for yourself and not all of our brothers and sisters. You're too young to understand the binds of duty, family, love-"
"I'm tired now. Night, Lia."
"Alright. Goodnight, Adah."
It was true that Adah didn't have to worry about duty to anyone but herself, for she was free to simply roam and explore as she pleased. One of her favorite things to do was to go for long walks in the forest that bordered the family farm. Yes, the "dark forest" as Lia had put it. There were trees there that were hundreds, maybe even thousands of years old, and Adah knew how to climb every one. There was a stream that had rapids in it which meandered all around. Sometimes fish could be seen swimming there, and young Adah loved to watch them. This was the world that she felt most comfortable in. There were no obnoxious siblings to bother her, there was no gruff father to yell and disturb the peace, and there was no mother constantly worrying over every little thing. There had been one time when Adah had invited Aurelia to come with her into the forest, but Lia had simply stammered out a lame excuse. Now, Adah was glad to still have the place to herself.
However, one day, soon after the quickly ended conversation between the sisters, Adah learned that she wasn't alone while she was in the forest. She had heard some of her sisters speaking once of an old woman who lived by herself somewhere deep in the "dark forest", and she was thought to be a witch or some sort of enchantress. Of course Adah didn't believe that such things existed, but she was startled nonetheless when she heard footsteps behind her one day. She didn't turn around to look, and jumped behind the rock she'd been sitting on to try to hide. Unfortunately, she had forgotten in her panic that the stream was directly on the other side of that rock, and she plunged into the water, ruining any chances she had of being unobserved. Worse was the fact that Adah couldn't swim, and though the stream wasn't too deep for the most part, it was over her head in that particular spot.
The owner of that footstep heard the splash and hurried over to the rock, getting there in time to see a young struggling girl slip beneath the surface of the stream. The mysterious person threw down the basket she was holding and reached down as far as she could into the water to try to pull the girl out. She managed to grab a handful of the girl's hair and then one of her arms, and then she pulled both as hard as she could. The woman managed to get Adah out of the stream after two more tugs, and she laid the girl out on the rock with her head down over the stream so that the swallowed water would run out of her.
Adah knew when she was pulled out of the stream, but she didn't have full control over herself for another few minutes until she completely came to. When she opened her eyes, she saw an old woman sitting on the grass next to her with a patient look on her face.
"Well dearie, that was quite a leap! More like that of a rabbit than a person, if you ask me," the old woman said. Her voice was rather high pitched and cracked quite a bit, but it was pleasant.
Adah wasn't quite sure of what to make of the old woman, but it wasn't like there was anything she could do except lay there. She felt incredibly weak.
"You need some looking-after right now. Let me help you up, and I'll take you to my cottage. It's a short walk from here, and you'll be able to dry off. Unless of course you're afraid of me like your sisters? Yes, I've seen them before, but that was years ago. It's funny, you don't look much like them, but I can definitely tell you're related."
Adah was a bit unsure, but she wasn't one to be afraid of this little old woman! Besides she knew her sisters were cotton-headed cowards, and she also knew that she wouldn't get any sympathy from anyone at home for having basically jumped into the stream.
I have nothing to lose, she thought, I might as well go with her.
And so, she let the old woman help her up and lead her to the cottage.
The cottage was, as expected, small. It smelled of herbs and earth, and after the old woman got a fire going, it was also warm and cozy. The only sound that could be heard was the crackling of the fire.
Why can't our home be this quiet? Adah thought to herself. Of course she knew why: A house with more than six children was bound to be loud all of the time.
"Here dearie, drink this. It will help you feel less groggy, and it helps soothe frayed nerves," the old woman said while offering Adah a cup that smelled of herbs.
After a first cautious sip, Adah quickly downed the rest of the contents of the cup in three gulps. It had a bitter taste at first, but that was followed by a sweet aftertaste. Adah looked inquisitively at the old woman.
"Don't worry, it's only some rosemary, sassafras root, ground peony seed, and mint. There's nothing in there that will hurt you, and it's not poison!" the old woman said good-humoredly.
"Thank you," Adah replied softly.
"Here, come sit closer to the fire. You'll dry off faster." With that, the old woman pulled a stool close to the fire and motioned for Adah to sit. Once the woman saw her seated comfortably she pulled a blanket down from a shelf and placed it over Adah's shoulders. "You remind me of my daughter," the woman said, taking a seat in a chair near Adah. "I don't know why, but you do."
"Where is she?"
"Gone. Swallowed by the great lake on the other side of the forest."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry."
"It's quite all right dearie, that was a long time ago... Why were you in the forest today? Everyone else avoids this place, but you... I've seen you around here before. You love the forest, I can see it in your eyes, and you're not afraid of it like others. You're not afraid of me."
With that, Adah began to tell the old woman about what caused her to seek refuge in the quiet peace of the woods. Soon, she became aware of the fact that she was telling this woman about her whole life. For some reason that she could not quite place, Adah felt very comfortable around the woman, and she felt compelled to tell her everything. The only thing that had not been disclosed to the old woman was Adah's own greatest fear. By the time she was done talking, she was completely dry, and the sun was beginning to set.
"Oh! I do need to get home, Lia will worry. Can I come back tomorrow?"
"Of course dearie," the woman said with a smile.
Adah didn't tell anyone at home about the incident in the forest, not even Aurelia. The next day, she did return to the old woman's cottage, and the woman was inside hanging some herbs to dry. They spent the day walking through the forest together, and the old woman began to teach Adah all about the plants in the forest. She showed her which ones had some medicinal value, which ones were eatable, which ones were poisonous, and so on. The old woman also shared old legends and tales that were known only to few. Some were exciting and adventurous, but Adah's favorite was the one about a flower that could heal; a flower that supposedly had grown from a drop of sunlight that had fallen to the earth. It fascinated her. She had marvelous ideas of what that flower could do for the world if it actually existed, and if she found it, how many people she could help.
These walks and talks went on for a few weeks, then months, then years. After four years Adah knew all of the plants. After seven years, she knew all of their uses, and she'd even come up with a few of her own. In the old woman, she'd found another person to talk to, confide in, and seek advice from.
The only downside to this time was the fact that Adah constantly had a small vague worry taking shape in the back of her mind. Ever so slowly, she felt her sister drifting away from her, year by year, and she became more aware of what her greatest fear was. The talks between the two sisters at night became shorter and shorter, and the gap between the two girls grew larger and larger. There were now secrets kept on both sides, and there were hopes, dreams, and fears that went unshared and unspoken. Aurelia began to be the one who talked less while Adah talked more.
Adah was noticing a change in her sister. She had known since that night seven years ago that Aurelia wanted to leave the farm, and when Adah returned home after dark on a day of walking in the forest to find Aurelia not in their room she began to worry about that gap that had formed between them. She still loved her sister more than anything else in the world, but she knew that they had very little in common anymore. What could they have in common though? Aurelia was a full grown woman now at twenty-four, and Adah was only seventeen. While Adah was fascinated by how to create a new color of dye from a combination of roots and berries, Aurelia was wondering if she would ever have her own life away from caring for the rest of the family. She didn't think much about Adah anymore; her brain was too clouded with worry and doubt for her own future.
A few weeks before Adah's eighteenth birthday, she and the old woman were having a conversation in the woods while sitting by the stream.
"Look at you now, Adah. I've watched you grow from a little girl into a woman over the years. You're such a beauty now, but more than that, you have a beautiful soul. You are kind and gentle, and you understand things very well. You understand the consequences of actions, and you think things through. I am old, but I felt much older eight years ago, before I met you, than I do today.
"However, I know that I'm drawing near to the end of my life. I'm sure that you've noticed the trees that grow very close to my house, and I'm sure you've noticed that many of them are dead. If you look closely at the bark on these trees, you will see that it twists and deforms in a spot at eye-level on all of them. These twisted spots spell out names, and among these names are the names of my daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, and as far back as twelve generations of women in my family. When a girl is born in our family, her mother plants her a sapling tree. The bark then grows with her name in it to show it is her tree. All of those people I just spoke of are dead, and all of their trees are dead. When our time begins to draw to an end, our trees begin to die. My tree is dying."
Adah was near speechless and confused by this sudden revelation, but she managed to reply, "I don't believe you."
At that, the old woman took Adah's hand and led her to the trees around the cottage. She then pointed out one tree and pointed to an oddly twisted area of bark.
"Do you see what that says? Ianthe. That is my name, and as you know, the name of a flower. Here, you can see, though it is spring, this tree is dropping its leaves. My time on this world is short."
Adah stared at the tree with a pained expression on her face. "I still don't believe it... I can't believe it, and I won't."
"My dear, it's something that must be accepted. There's something else that I have to show you." With that Ianthe took Adah's had again and led her to a tree close by but not right next to the cottage. "I didn't plant this tree, but I found it the day I met you."
Adah stared at the tree which was still small, but it looked sturdy and strong. As she looked closer at it, she saw where the bark twisted, and she read in disbelief her own name formed by the bark: Adah.
"You are destined to live a very long life my dear. This tree grows slowly; it's not much bigger than it was when I first found it."
Adah couldn't handle this discovery and news. She staggered back from the tree and then turned and ran. She ran out of the forest back to her home, but when she arrived there she instantly knew something was amiss. The house was quiet. Where was everyone? Where was Lia?
As she ran up the stairs to the bedroom that they had shared all her life, Adah ran right smack into Lia.
"Lia! Where is everyone? What's wrong?"
"They're out looking for you; looking for that witch that has claimed you as her own. "
"What on earth are you talking about? You mean Ianthe, the old woman? She's not a witch!"
"I followed you to the woods one day, and I saw you two walking as she showed you how to create and cast spells! She told you stories of witch lore! I'll not have her corrupting my sister anymore!"
"You followed me? You SPIED on me?"
"I needed to know where my sister was being led off to every day for the past SEVEN years!"
"So you followed me and then sent everyone out after her? Lia, she's a harmless old woman who wouldn't hurt a fly! She's not a witch, but she has spent her whole life in the forest, so she knows about all of the plants and their uses. Those stories aren't witch lore, they're just old legends! I've never belonged in this house! I've never belonged with this family, but I felt like I was where I belonged when I was with her. In the woods, just the two of us, but Lia! You're still the person I love most in this world, but Ianthe is the closest thing I've ever had to a mother, an-... why do you have that trunk?"
" Leaving to go where?... Where Lia, answer me!"
"Leaving to go far away from here. Now let me pass."
"No... Lia you wouldn't! You can't just leave me here alone!"
"Why not? It's what you've done to me every day for the past seven years! "
"You sent them out just so that you'd be alone and free to leave."
"So what. if. I. did?"
"Lia, they'll try to kill her!"
"Then let the old witch die! Now let me pass!"
"You want to pass?... Fine I'll let you pass." With that Adah hit Aurelia across the face as hard as she could with her arm, sending Lia spiraling down the stairs. She hit the bottom with a sickening thud. "I know that there were things that you never told me. I never pried into them. You have a right to have your own secrets, but I don't? You have a right to leave to live your own life, but I don't?"
Lia staggered to her feet, picked up her trunk, and walked to the door.
"Goodbye Adah," she replied coldly, and with that, she walked out the door.
Adah stood there stunned for a moment and then began to yell as loud as she could, "Lia! LIA! LIIIAAAAA!" Then her thoughts returned to Ianthe.
Adah ran back into the forest as quickly as she could, and she ran right to the cottage, which she found in flames.
She ran to the side of the house with the trees. There she saw that there were only four leaves left to fall on Ianthe's tree: There was still a little bit of time.
Adah tried to remember where Ianthe's favorite spot in the forest was, and after a moment, she recalled a weeping willow that stood next to the stream near where she had fallen in. She ran there as fast as she could. Ianthe was sitting against the trunk. Her eyes were closed.
The old woman's eyes opened.
"I am so sorry Ianthe, I had no idea that they knew, that they'd go after you,tha-"
"Hush dearie," Ianthe interrupted softly. Her voice was almost inaudible. "It's alright. I told you I knew that my time was short."
"No it wasn't, and this is my fault. If I lose you now, I'll have nothing left to live for. You can't die."
"It is not your fault. Do not tell yourself that. It's just not true. Please,... remember what I've taught you. I've loved you and cared for you as if you were my own daughter. Remember that."
"You're the closest thing to a mother I've ever known. There is no way that I could ever forget what you've taught me. I wish I had that magic flower now. I could help you; you could live..."
"Do not spend your time wishing for what cannot be. Remember why you treasure the past instead. My dear Adah, I love you very much."
"I love you more."
"I love you most. Goodbye, dear."
With that, Ianthe closed her eyes. Now in a better place, she was at peace, but Adah was not. She had to find her family-no, she had to simply leave. Let them think she was dead, let them think she had cursed them with a witch's spell, for she had cursed them: cursed them for destroying the little happiness she had. They thought she'd shamed them? Well she'd give them shame...
Adah's name became infamous. She was feared and hated by many, and she had certainly shamed her family thousands of times over. The worst shame was when Aurelia's daughter married a prince and became a princess destined to be queen. When the people learned of her relation as niece to Adah Gothel, she forbade her aunt from ever entering the young kingdom to protect her own, her mother's, her husbands, and the kingdom's honor.
Adah's greatest fear had been the fear of Aurelia leaving her, and then the fear of losing Ianthe. When both happened on the same day, it nearly broke Adah, and it did in a way. She became obsessed with finding a way to make her sister pay for what she had done to her and Ianthe. She turned to dark magic, which she taught herself. She also obsessively began to search for the flower of legend that Ianthe had first told her about. Finally, when she was in her late eighties (now referred to as old woman Gothel), and her tree was beginning to die, Adah found the flower. It was an unusual bloom, for though it was clearly a Rampion flower(Campanula rapunculus,or Rapunzel-Glockenblume which is pale purple), it shone gold with the sun's magic. She also found that not only did it have the power to heal, it had the power to bring back her youth. Her bitter heart no longer wished to share the flower's wonderful power with the world as she once had. She only wanted it for herself, and she hid it. For the next three hundred years, her tree stood -dying, but unable to die- while she used the flower again and again to restore her youth. But one day, someone else found the flower, and they took it away to heal the queen. Adah saw the whole thing happen but was powerless to do anything to stop them. When she learned what had been the flower's use, and that a child had been born to the queen, she decided to find the child.
When she snuck into the castle to find the golden-haired princess, Adah was forced to pass the many portraits of her sister's descendants. As she did so, her hatred was renewed, and she wondered if she could get away with more than the magic of the flower... perhaps revenge?
She finally found the room where the child slept, which happened to be in a cradle in the king and queen's room. When Adah set eyes on the child all she could see was the magic of the flower reflecting in the baby girl's hair. She sang the incantation that brought out the power and went to snip off a lock of the girl's hair, but the instant the hair was cut it turned brown and the power was gone. Adah realized that she would have to have the child with her, not just her hair, to have the magic. So she took up the baby girl and disappeared into the night.
Knowing very well that the king and queen would try to find their daughter, Adah decided to hide the little girl in a place where no one would find her. The kingdom was on its own "island", if you will, that was surrounded on all sided by water. The one side was a channel that separated it from the mainland, and on the other sides were the waters of the great lake. Adah finally decided that the best place to hide the child would be the forest on the mainland. This was the selfsame forest that had at one time bordered a side of her family's farm; the same forest where Ianthe had lived, but that had been centuries ago. It was also the same forest that had hid the flower from the rest of the world. It was only fitting that this child who lived because of the Rampion bloom should have to endure the same existence that the flower had.
The specific spot in the forest that she chose was a valley surrounded by the mountains where the flower had been. The only entrance to the valley was a cave, covered by ivy and weeping willow branches from the outside so that it was nearly impossible to tell that it wasn't just solid rock. Adah had lived there a century ago but had left on account that it was too difficult to live there by one's self. The tower still stood in perfect condition, and all it needed was some serious cleaning to make it livable again.
At first, Adah had only cared for the child in a way that showed her only concern was preserving her own well being (through the use of the child's magic hair). She called the girl simply "flower" because of the cause of that golden magic hair. However, as time progressed, Adah eventually christened the child "Rapunzel", which had been Ianthe's own special name for the Rampion flower. After having looked after Rapunzel for a year, Adah had grown to be fond of the child. It wasn't love; it was nowhere near strong enough to be that, but if the child cried, Adah was truly concerned with what was wrong. With each passing month, the bond between the two of them grew stronger. Adah began to look upon the girl as her own daughter, and when Rapunzel began to speak when she was three, her first word was "Mama", uttered while Gothel held her.
As the child grew, she had come to resemble her tenfold great-grandmother, Aurelia. Adah's hate and anger towards her sister was slowly replaced with a love for the child, and it brought back fond memories to Adah that had been buried under hurt and pain for centuries: those of Ianthe. Adah wanted to protect the child from the world and keep her, as she had not been able to keep her own sister. No, there was nothing now in the world that could take the child from her. Ever. True, Adah still used Rapunzel's hair to keep her young, but that seemed like a minor detail in their lives. Rapunzel wasn't even really aware of the affect that she had on her "mother", or what she was capable of until she was twelve.
Adah taught Rapunzel how to sew, cook, clean, and anything else that she would have to know to help care for the two of them and the tower. She also taught her academics such as arithmetic, reading, and penmanship. Of course most importantly, Adah taught Rapunzel about plants and animals in the forest by bringing them back to the tower to show her. Rapunzel was quite taken by all of the animals, and they seemed taken with her too. Rapunzel asked each time if she could keep the animals, and the first few times Adah said yes. However it got to the point where there were four birds, a lizard, a frog and a toad, two bunnies, and a deer residing in the tower with them. Adah drew the line there and said that they would not have any more pets. However, when a little chameleon found his way into the tower on his own one day while Adah was out, Rapunzel decided that there couldn't be any harm in keeping him... she would just hide him when mother was around!
At night, after the two of them were done with the day's work and chores, they would sit in front of the fireplace, and Rapunzel would sing while Adah brushed her hair. Rapunzel would often ask the same question at these times.
"Mama, why can't I go outside?"
"The world is a dangerous, cruel place. You're safe here, please don't ask to go out again."
Adah also noticed that Rapunzel seemed to have a love of art. She found this out one day as Rapunzel was drawing on the walls in the tower with a stick of charcoal she'd found. Adah's initial reaction of frustration and anger was subdued when she saw that the drawings were actually pretty good. Rapunzel had drawn some of the flowers, plants, and animals that she was learning about at the time. Adah then supplied the little girl with some paints made from berries, roots, and leaves and other art tools to encourage her. When Rapunzel was thirteen, Adah gave her some beautiful, fine paints that she had made from seashells. The one thing that she could not supply the child with was canvas, so she allowed Rapunzel to paint on the walls, and soon there was hardly a bare spot anywhere inside the tower.
The only thing that marred their happiness (or Adah's at least) was the lights that appeared in the sky on Rapunzel's birthday each year. Adah knew that they had to have been sent by the king and queen, who probably hoped that their little girl might see them and know that she was remembered where ever she was.
Rapunzel loved the lights. They were so beautiful, and she did have the feeling that since they appeared on her birthday, and only on her birthday each year, that they were somehow meant for her. She would never tell Gothel that though, because she knew that her mother seemed to dislike the lights. She always tried to ignore them and act like they weren't there, and she would always put Rapunzel to bed early on her birthday in hopes that she would fall asleep before they appeared. That never happened though, for Rapunzel would sit by the window and wait until the lights came.
Aside from that, Adah was happier than she had been since before Ianthe's death. She felt that she finally had something to live for now, aside from her own vanity, and her life was centered around her love for Rapunzel, rather than the hate that had consumed her for so long.
With each passing year, Rapunzel grew to look more like Aurelia, and Adah became more and more possessive and obsessive with keeping the girl in the tower. She convinced the child that in the outside, there were people who would try to cut her hair off for its power. Adah also found ways to frighten Rapunzel into wanting to stay in the tower with stories that twisted the rest of the world into a terrible, terrible place. After years of telling these stories, Adah began to believe them herself seeing as she had as little contact with the outside world as Rapunzel did.
By the time Rapunzel was sixteen, she showed remarkable spirit and knowledge for one who had lived such a sheltered life, and she became more and more restless. She was determined, witty, and brave, but she didn't realize this because she never had the need or the chance to prove it. Adah made sure she never had the chance to prove it. She wanted Rapunzel to believe that she was weak so that she would stop asking to leave the tower. Adah felt she could take no chances: Rapunzel must never leave the tower. She was all Adah had left to live for, and in actuality, the only way she could live. At this point, she was nearly four hundred years old, and without the power of Rapunzel's hair, she would age and die within about four days time.
A year came and went. Rapunzel turned seventeen, and nothing had changed. She was still not allowed to leave the tower, and she had somewhat convinced herself that it was better to stay inside anyway. Pascal kept reminding her otherwise. Adah was still using Rapunzel's hair to keep herself young, and she was beginning to think that she had finally convinced Rapunzel that the tower was the only place where she was safe. However, a few weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Rapunzel decided that she would ask one last time if she could go see the floating lights. She was nearly sure that Mother would let her go. Meanwhile, Adah was sure that Rapunzel had given up any idea to leave the tower and was finally beginning to relax again. Rapunzel wanted to stay with her, and they would be together forever...
Gothel didn't remember any of this as she fell from the tower. All that was left was her cold selfish heart which was dead with fear even before she hit the ground; when her tree finally dropped its last leaf.
What did you think? This is the first in a series I'm planning on doing about the backstories of Disney Villains. I currently have one about Ursula and one of Cruella DeVille, but it will probably be a while until I finish and publish then. For now, I hope I did Tangled and Gothel justice here!