“Rapunzel, for cryin’ out loud, are you fooling with your hair again?”
Dame Gothel stood with her warty hands on her ample hips, watchig as Rapunzel tried to French-braid her long, golden hair.
“Well, there’s sure as heck nothing else to do up here,” Rapunzel said.
A pretty girl, she wasn’t so pretty when she sulked, which was most of the time. But, as she frequently noted, what was there to be happy about, walled up in a one-room tower with only a witch for company?
Oh, sure, she’d heard the story about how her parents had agreed to hand her over to Dame Gothel at birth, just because her father got caught sneaking into the witch’s garden to steal rampion. Her pregnant mother craved it, just had to have it no matter what. On Father’s second expedition into the garden, Dame Gothel nabbed him rampion-handed. She only let him go when he agreed to give her his first-born child, which Rapunzel thought was not exactly the best bargain of the century. And where was her mother in all this? Presumably munching away on her salad, with no thought for her future daughter.
Rapunzel had been living in the tower since she was thirteen, because that was the age when she’d developed curves in all the right places and Dame Gothel decided she was a flight risk.
“I don’t even like boys!” she’d shouted, as the witch and her work crew disassembled the ladder.
“Just concentrate on growing your hair,” Dame Gothel yelled back.
“It’s not like I can will my hair to grow,” Rapunzel said.
But the next morning it had grown nearly a foot. And the next night, another foot. And the next, and so on, until it was so long Rapunzel had to bundle it up in her cape.
Her food supply was almost gone and the chamber pot was filled when at last she heard Dame Gothel calling, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair, so I may climb the golden stair.”
She looked down and saw little witch below. “Ride your broom,” she said.
“Nope, has to be your hair,” said Dame Gothel. “Just toss it out the window.”
So Rapunzel did, and immediately felt such a pulling on her scalp that tears sprang to her eyes. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”
Dame Gothel pulled herself up Rapunzel’s hair hand over hand, stepped in through the tower’s one window and plunked down the packages she’d carried on her back. Rapunzel’s head hurt for days afterwards.
The next time she heard the witch’s command to let down her hair, she threw the contents of the chamber pot out the window instead. Dame Gothel didn’t seem to mind, just stood there dripping and yelling, until finally Rapunzel sighed and flipped her mane downward. Despite the pain, it was the only thing she had to look forward to, those once-a-week treks up her tresses. It helped when Dame Gothel brought an IPod, but still, the days were interminable, and the years glacier-like in their creeping passage.
Rapunzel was singing along with Beyonce one day – “All the single ladies, all the single ladies, put your hands up, oh, oh, oh”- when she heard a different voice below.
“Hail, the tower,” the voice said. “Who is singing that haunting melody?”
“Me,” Rapunzel said, popping her head out the window. “Who’re you?”
“Handsome Prince here,” said the young man on the ground.
“Is your name really Handsome Prince?” Rapunzel asked, laughing.
“None of us can help what our parents name us,” he said stiffly. Rapunzel could see his blush.
“Well, what do you want?” she asked.
“I heard you’re a beauty. Thought maybe we could mess around. How do I get up there?”
“You’d have to climb my hair, I guess. That’s what the witch does. Are you game?”
“Uh, I guess. I’ll try, anyway.”
And up he clambered. The young couple spent blissful nights in the tower from then on, with Handsome leaving only when it was time for the witch’s weekly visit. Dame Gothel noticed the change in Rapunzel’s attitude. No longer sulky, the girl was positively radiant.
“Hmmm,” Dame Gothel said, tapping her fingers on her nose. “What’s with the radiance? Have you had any company besides me?”
“Why, gosh, no,”Rapunzel said, big blue eyes round with innocence. “Only you, Dame. Nobody else even knows I’m up here.”
“If I ever catch a man with you,” Dame Gothel said, pushing her ugly face right up into Rapunzel’s, “I’ll fix him so he never sees the light of day again.”
With no warning, she sprang upon the girl, pulled a pair of scissors from her pocket and hacked off the long golden hair. “There! Let’s see how you like a pixie cut,” she said with her trademark cackle.
Handsome didn’t like the new haircut a bit. He tried repeatedly to scale the smooth sides of the tower, but to no avail. Rapunzel hung out the window and watched his awkward scrambling. Finally, he gave up.
“No can do,” he said. “Much as I want to see you.”
“Well, see this!” Dame Gothel said, leaping out from behind a tree. “Eye of newt, rooty-toot, blind this prince so he ain’t cute!”
The spell was cast, and instantly Handsome lost his sight. For years, he wandered the forest blindly, picking up tip money by singing in taverns. He never forgot his love, Rapunzel, and the magical hours he’d spent with her. In his dreams, he climbed her long, shining blonde hair only to be met at the top by the horrible visage of Dame Gothel. He feared Rapunzel was lost to him forever.
Meanwhile, Rapunzel had grown quite rotund, with nothing to do but eat. Her hair never again reached staircase length. Finally the old witch got tired of hoisting supplies up to the tower in a basket, and freed Rapunzel.
“Nobody would want you now, anyway,” Dame Gothel said. “Nobody with eyes.”
So Rapunzel, too, wandered the forest, always searching for Handsome Prince. She heard of a blind troubadour who worked the bar scene, but somehow their paths never crossed. Then one night, she heard a familiar voice murdering her song (“All the single ladies, all the single ladies!”), and there he was.
“Handsome!” she shrieked, and with that shriek the enchantment fell from his eyes and he could see again.
“But I’m older, my hair is sort of dishwater blonde now, and I’ve put on a pound or two,” Rapunzel said sadly. “Maybe you don’t like what you see.”
“Are you kidding?” Handsome replied. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any women at all, so my standards aren’t exactly sky-high. You look good to me, baby.”
And with that, Rapunzel and Handsome Prince fell into each other’s arms. But they couldn’t go on wandering in the forest forever; there was the little matter of making a living to consider. Handsome was the third son, so he wasn’t in line for his father’s kingdom. Rapunzel had long been forgotten by her rampion-crazed parents. But one thing the couple could do was sing, and they auditioned and won a spot on Fairy Tale’s Got Talent. Their cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” zoomed to the top of the I-Tunes hit list. They became the Next Big Thing, and lived happily ever after.