Eighteen years ago, in a small rural town in Kentucky, there lived a young, growing family. There was the husband, Charles, and his young wife, Charlotte. The two were about to have a baby, when Charlotte became deathly ill. Charles took his wife to every hospital they could afford, but the doctors all shook their heads and claimed nothing could be done.
One day, an elderly woman, Sharon Gothel, overheard the man lamenting to the doctor that he couldn't afford treatment for his pregnant wife. Taking the man aside, she claimed to know of an herb that would heal his ill wife, and for a fraction of a price of what he'd pay at a hospital. Charles was normally a sensible man, who would never believe such nonsense, but his pockets were almost empty and his normal skepticism was replaced with a new naiveté. He followed Gothel to her home and she placed a few healing herbs in his hand, telling him to make a broth with them to feed to his wife. The herbs were soft and leafy, and included a small yellow lily. Charles thanked her for her generosity and hurried home, where he did exactly as the woman commanded. Within moments, his long-suffering wife regained her strength.
Gothel's intentions were not as pure as Charles had hoped. The herbs that she gave him certainly healed his wife, but they also affected the child inside her. The herbs would absorb into the fetus, and their healing powers would transfer into the child. Gothel had been searching for years for a pregnant woman on her deathbed and she was pleased to have finally found one. Gothel planned to steal the child right from under the couple's noses and keep it for herself. She had used up all her age regenerating herbs years ago, and the child was her last hope at staying young.
After keeping a close eye on the couple for weeks, Gothel was relieved to see that the child was finally born. She differed from the parents tremendously in that she was born with beautiful golden hair. Gothel smiled at the thought of the husband becoming suspicious of his wife, as the two of them both had dark brown hair. But it was obvious that the happy baby with his daughter, and the couple dismissed the hair issue as a possible recessive trait in the family.
Gothel waited a few nights before finally sneaking into the couple's house. She snuck into the baby's room and sang softly, just so she could be absolutely sure that the child was blessed with the healing powers. As she sang her special song, a thought came to her head. Perhaps she didn't have to take the whole child, maybe just a lock of hair would do. She produced a small pair of scissors from her purse and snipped a small clip of hair. The strand instantly turned a dark brown, and Gothel jumped back. The decision was made. She had to take the child.
Gothel wasted no time leaving town. She popped the newborn into a car seat and began down the road. She was headed west, to California. With her new youth and beauty, it wouldn't be too difficult to find a job out there. Finally settling in an old apartment building in Anaheim, Gothel quickly found a job as an entry level model and used her small skills in magic to climb higher and higher in her career. It wasn't long before she was at the top of the modeling chain, thanks to a few persuasion charms and the fountain of youth that waited for her at home. She often left the baby alone for a few hours at a time, checking on her only to take care of her basic needs and to use her hair.
Fortunately the girl was a very quick learner, and by the time she was two, she could be left home alone for a whole day. Gothel raised the child as her own, always claiming that the outside world was horribly dangerous, and people would use her and abuse her for their own needs. Rapunzel was kept quiet and sheltered. However there was one thing her mother couldn't hide from her. Every night, from the window of her bedroom, Rapunzel watched as light seemed to shower over a castle in the distance as fanciful music played. One day working up the nerve to ask her mother about it, Gothel tried to instill fear in the girl, insisting that it was "fire falling from the sky!" Certainly it was too dangerous for Rapunzel, and she should just try to put it out of her head. Gothel knew the risk in trying to move to a different location now. Rapunzel could slip away so easily, and then how would she get her youth? Gothel instead tried to scare the girl into staying inside, and for years it worked.
But still, almost every night, Rapunzel peeked out her window and watched the light rain over the beautiful castle, and she knew that it wasn't some horrible frightening thing like her mother described. Sometimes when Mother was gone, Rapunzel would pretend that she was with all those people down there, staring at the fire in the sky. She never believed that her dream might actually come true, until one day, when a charming stranger stumbled into her home.