‘But Mother, I’m not a little girl anymore! I haven’t stepped outside this tower my whole life, not even once! It’s my birthday in a few days, don’t you think it’s time for me to finally grow up?’, Rapunzel cried out, frustration built up over the years finally spilling like an overboiled kettle. They’ve been arguing for hours, but to no avail. Mother was clear as day – Rapunzel was not to leave the tower under any circumstances. The risk of someone taking advantage of her precious golden hair was too big. Mother stared at her locked as if that allowed her to read into her thoughts.
‘The world is a cruel unforgiving place, my dear. If they saw your beautiful hair and knew what powers it held, they would do anything to obtain it. And people are capable of some horrible things, trust me’, she stroked a strand, avoiding Rapunzel’s eyes. She slapped Mother’s hand away.
‘All my life you’ve praised my hair like it’s covered in diamonds, but I don’t even know what it really looks like – we have no mirrors in here!’
‘My child, it’s like you forget everything I teach you. Vanity is yet another one of the sins causing the downfall of humanity. I’m trying to raise you better than that!’, Mother shouted. Rapunzel knew she wouldn’t get anywhere like this. She had to be sneaky.
‘I’m sorry. You’re right. I just wanted something for my 18th, that’s all’, she said in the saddest tone she could muster up. ‘Maybe... maybe you could at least bring some of that paint I always loved? I ran out and I want to finish the wall. If you could, please?’, she gave a meek smile.
‘Rapunzel, it’s a three-day trip’, Mother sighed.
‘I know, but it would be a better gift than the whole outside thing’, Rapunzel muttered.
‘Okay, fine. Only because I love you so very much, my darling.’
‘I love you more’, Rapunzel said.
‘I love you most.’
Over the next day, Mother was preparing for the trip. Rapunzel made her the best travel snacks, containing herself as to not reveal the hurry to get her out of the tower. The hardest moment was waving goodbye as Mother disappeared between the trees far ahead. That very moment she grabbed a backpack from the far end of the closet and put it on her shoulders.
‘I don’t care what Mother says. I want to get out and see the world, meet other people for the first time ever. I don’t care about my precious hair. She can’t stop me’, she tried to reassure herself as she strategically placed her hair in order to get to the ground as she would do with Mother. ‘Come on, you’ve come this far. You can do this’, after a few more moments of pep talk, she took a deep breath and jumped.
The wind rushed through her face, prickling her skin and before she knew it, the ground was there. Grass tickled her feet so softly she couldn’t help but laugh. Sun warming up her body completely for the first time, letting her flourish. Mother was wrong – the world wasn’t a dangerous place. It was beautiful, inviting, and almost intoxicating. She figured the town couldn’t be that far away if she kept walking towards the direction Mother always went.
As she was making her way through the woods, Rapunzel saw some silhouettes ahead. Her heart raced with excitement. I’m finally going to meet another human being’, she jumped happily and ran towards them smiling and waving. Their reaction, however, was not what she expected.
‘Stay away, you monster!’, one of the men shouted at her while the others shot up their wooden poles.
‘My name is Rapunzel, I’m just trying to find the town-’, she mumbled, confused. Why are they stepping away from her with expressions of utter horror and disgust on their faces? What did she do?
‘I told you to stay away, or else!’, the man shouted again, looking like he didn’t understand a word she said. Rapunzel, driven by naïve courage, took one more step and raised her hand, which seemed to set the men off as they shouted and jumped on her, knocking her to the ground.
The next few minutes were a blur. What was sharp, however, was the pain of their wooden poles beating her mercilessly, as well as their pointy feet bumping into every open bit of her body. She could feel bones breaking, she could feel the metallic taste of blood in her mouth, making her choke on it. Life was drifting away from her more and more every second.
Finally, it seemed like they were done. The man who shouted at her gave her one last kick, then spat on her and ran after the other. Rapunzel slowly crawled across the ground, hoping to find some help, trying to understand with her fading mind – why did they do this to her? Was it because of her hair? But then why didn’t they cut it before they left?
She stumbled onto a puddle of water. Unable to move any further, she tried to take a sip and it took her a few drawn-out moments to realise she was seeing her reflection for the first time in her life. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Open flesh, cuts, and bruises the men caused were the least scary parts about her face. She looked like the creatures she saw in books, the ones with deformed eyes, nose, lips, features terrifying beyond rationality. The creatures that were killed in the end by princes to protect princesses. She looked like a monster. And she got her ending now.
Maybe Mother did know best after all.