Rapunzel: The Goodly Child
The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, A Dream, a Wish, and a Curse: Retellings of Seduction, Terror, and Choices in the Fairytale Forest available Winter 2019.
This retelling of Rapunzel draws inspiration from Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698, an even earlier Italian tale, Petrosinella by Giambattista Basile, published in 1634, and the famous Grimms tale published in 1812. The framework of Rapunzel is timeless, this version invites some deeper questions around the choices we make for the things we desire.
As all good stories go, and this is naturally a good story, a man and a woman long wished for a goodly child. At length, the woman dreamed the day would come where she would be fertile with such a child. It so happened that this delightful couple also had a had a little window at the back of their house from where they could see a splendid garden. And how glorious this garden was, lush and full of all delectable flowers and herbs. Also too, was this garden surrounded by a high wall, as the garden was owned by an Enchantress whose powers were feared and dreaded by all.
One day, the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw planted a bed of the most beautiful rampion. This rampion was unlike anything the young woman had ever seen. It looked so fresh and green, glistening with the morning dew, that she longed with the greatest desire to eat some. She felt her mouth become parched, and her heartbeat quicken at the sight of the rampion. Her desire increased every day, as she longed after what she knew was forbidden.
One evening her husband was alarmed by his wife, and asked, “What ails you, beloved?”
“In the garden, behind our house” she replied, “is rampion! I long for it. I shall die without it."
The man, who loved her, thought “You can't let your wife die, what harm can come from fetching some rampion? Let it cost you what it will!”
That evening, under the twilight of the stars, the dutiful husband climbed over the wall and into the garden of the enchantress. Quickly he clutched a handful of rampion and took it to his wife. The sight of the rampion caused her breath to quicken and mouth water. She felt her body become tense and tremble as she took the delicate leaves from her husband. With frenzy and joy, she feasted on a salad, devouring every morsel.
She, however, liked it so much--so very much, and quite frankly judging by the moistness she felt between her legs, that the very next day she demanded more. She craved and demanded for three times as much. If her husband was to have any rest, at once, he must again climb into the garden. In the gloom of evening, he let himself down again over the high wall. This time as he climbed down the wall he found himself terribly afraid, for he saw the Enchantress standing before him.
“You there!” said she with an angry look, “who are you to thrust yourself upon my fertile garden bed and steal my rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for this insolence!”
“No!” answered he, “Please take mercy on me. I had to do it out of necessity. You see, my poor wife, she saw your beautiful rampion from the window, and had such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.”
At hearing this, the Enchantress' anger began to soften and said to him, “Oh, your poor unfortunate wife. I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition. In a fortnight when the moon is full, so too will it be revealed that your wife is with a child. You must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world."
"What?" the man shuddered. His voice trembled in fear. The Enchantress was growing impatient with the man.
"Yes dear, for the rampion. It's really quite simple," The Enchantress replied, "You are going to give me your first child, and I will raise her as my own, and love her!" The Enchantress laughed and smiled. "Or I will kill your wife. Kill your family. Kill all your friends. Everyone you know will die, because you thrust and plundered by rampion." "Do we have a deal?"
The man in his terror consented to everything. What else could he do? And, so he returned home with piles upon piles of rampion.
"Where have you been!" exclaimed the wife as her husband came through the door weary, and still in terror. How exactly was he going to tell his wife that not only was she was about to become pregnant with the baby they had always longed for, and also, that he promised their baby to an Enchantress in exchange for some vegetables?
It didn't seem to matter right away. As soon as the husband's wife saw all the rampion, she was overwhelmed with passion.
"Beloved, look at all this rampion in your arms!" the wife began to tremble, her eyes wide and heart race. "Oh, so very much. How brave you are." She kissed him and caressed him. "You will be rewarded for you this act of bravery" she cooed as she pulled him into her bosom the rampion falling onto the floor.
The husband thrust himself greedily into his wife's wet and fertile desires. His volatile hunger for release was matched only by his wife's ferocity for more and more rampion. Each night he would leave the bedchamber only to return, seemingly more heroic, as if back from battle, scared and torn, the champion of the leafy green. And this daring act satiated his wife all while he thrust and seeded her, and plundered the rampion in the Enchantress' garden.
The full moon came to pass that fortnight, and as predicted the wife's once-barren womb was soon swollen with child.
"My love, I have great news," she said one morning as she ate her precious bounty of rampion. "There shall be a child..." but before she could finish, her husband interjected. "I know."
"But how could you know?" She asked.
"The Enchantress told me one night in the garden that soon upon the full moon, we would be barren no more." her husband spoke softly, his eyes lowered.
"The Enchantress!" the wife screamed in terror. "The Enchantress told you. Oh, God. No. What else?" The husband froze, as his wife flew into a rage. "What else did she tell you?"
"Nothing," he replied. "It's just, she gave us all the rampion we could eat, and we have to give her the baby!" The husband shouted.
The first few days without rampion were the hardest. The husband was miserable, and the wife a pregnant terror. But together they both figured, how much rampion could they have possibly be eaten to hold a debt? After all, if enough time passed, perhaps the Enchantress would forget. Besides, the wife didn't make any deal, just the husband- and she wasn't giving up her baby.
And so the husband stopped pillaging the Enchantress' garden, and the wife made bean soup instead. Then one morning after the husband left to work the fields, on the doorstep there it was, rampion. Beautiful, fresh, green, rampion. The wife's loins ached for it. But she was strong and threw the rampion over the tall wall into the Enchantress' garden. "No," thought the wife, "I will not be tempted!"
Every morning after the husband would leave the rampion would appear on the doorstep. So lush, and so green, and the wife was so hungry for anything other than bean soup. "It has to be a gift?" she convinced herself. And into the house, she brought the rampion. Every part of her pregnant body had longed for the rampion. Her swollen breast leaked like the fresh dew on the verdant green leaves, as she bit into the crisp rampion. It was all she could do not to scream in climax as she devoured it.
Like clockwork, the husband would leave, and the rampion would arrive, and the wife would indulge. And indulge she did, growing ever so rounder and fuller with rampion and child. Like all well-timed cycles soon too there was a baby in the arms of the wife. The wife became a mother and husband became a father, and the rampion stopped coming to the front door. All seemed idyllic for three moons. Then there was a knock.
The wife could feel it was her, the Enchantress at the door.
"There is no use" the Enchantress spoke softly through the door. "I am at the front door, and I am at the back door." She could hear the couple scurrying around in a panic. "I am everywhere you are." The couple could hear her voice so clearly as if she were in the room with them.
"I have come for my daughter" the Enchantress declared.
"Go away! She is not your daughter. You can not have her!" the wife yelled. "Get out of here. You tricked us with rampion."
Soon the room began to get hot and bright. Everything felt overwhelming and compressed. It was hard for the husband and wife to breathe.
"You were not tricked." said the Enchantress, with a booming voice. In an instant, the Enchantress was standing in front of the husband and wife. She stared at them with flames in her eyes.
"We had a deal!" she snapped back. "The baby for the rampion!" The Enchantress was mad. "You accepted it. You are greedy. Full of lust and deceit."
The husband stood up tall, "No! We just..." he tried, but was cut off.
"Sit down you fool" the Enchantress commanded. "You are pathetic." she laughed. "You think you're clever. Did you know all this time your fat, greedy, wanton wife has been eating more and more rampion, that I have been delivering to her in secret?"
"You lie. You witch!" the husband shouted!
"Haha! I'm through with you," and with the pointing of her finger and the word rapunzel, she turned the husband into stalks of rampion!
The wife froze in horror, and fear. Her eyes locked onto the rampion. Her mouth watered, and her grip loosed on the baby, as her loins moistened for the rampion.
"Hungry?" The Enchantress looked at the wife. "Give me my daughter" she commanded, and as she spoke the newborn baby magically appeared in the Enchantress' arms. In a daze, the wife was unwittingly eating all the rampion that was once her husband.
"Foolish wife," thought the Enchantress, she would remember nothing come dawn. Not the baby, the rampion, not even her husband. The Enchantress looked down at the little baby she held in her arms, "I will name you Rapunzel" she said, and together, vanished.
The days turned to weeks and months into years. Rapunzel grew into the fairest child beneath the sun, with hair of flax and a voice like a songbird.
"Sing for me, Rapunzel" the Enchantress, now disguised as a wealthy maternal widow demanded.
"Anything to please you, Mother Gothel," replied Rapunzel, and she sang her beautiful songs. Rapunzel's obedience pleased the Gothel.
One day, when Rapunzel was fifteen years old, she was in the garden when a farm boy he heard her singing. The young boy climbed the wall, where he glimpsed the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. Rapunzel's long hair trailed behind her, her voice like an echo, and he was hypnotized.
"Hello," he whispered, for he feared the rumors the Dame Gothel was a witch. "Who are you?"
Rapunzel was startled. She has never seen anyone else. No one came to visit, and indeed, she never left the garden. What would the Gothel do if she saw him? Rapunzel trembled. "You must go away!" she said.
"What's your name?" the boy replied.
"Please, please, go away!" and Rapunzel ran into the house. The boy was relentless, and every day he would linger around the outside of the garden wall until he heard Rapunzel's voice. Then he would scale the wall to glimpse her.
" If only she would reveal her name. Or maybe a kiss?" the boy thought.
"Please, you must leave!" Rapunzel cried. The boy was relentless in his pursuit. And Rapunzel would always run inside, just in time.
"Rapunzel, sing for me tonight." The Gothel asked. And dutifully at her feet, Rapunzel sat while Gothel brushed Rapunzel's hair. "Tell me of your day in the garden?'
"Oh, Mother Gothel it was just planting and singing. The same as every day," said Rapunzel.
The Gothel continued to brush Rapunzel's hair, a little harder. As she asked again. "How was the garden, my dear?"
"I told you," cried Rapunzel. The Gothel was yanking at Rapunzel's hair.
"You lie!" Gothel threw Rapunzel to the floor with a force that terrified Rapunzel. "You've been seeing a boy in the garden! Does he touch you?"
"No!" Rupunzel tried to explain.
"Whore!" The Gothel jumped on top of Rapunzel. "You will not lie to me," as she struck Rapunzel repeatedly.
It was all so sudden. When Rapunzel awoke, she was in a tower, which lay in an enchanted forest. This tower had neither stairs nor door. But entirely at the top was a little window. When the Gothel wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath this, and cried:
Let down thy hair.”
Rapunzel's flaxen locks had become magnificent tresses, spun fine as gold that filled the entire room of the tower. Whenever she heard the voice of the Gothel, she unfastened her braided tresses and wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and the Gothel would climb up by it.
Life in the tower was one of loneliness and time spend looming and spinning, singing and talking to creatures of the sky. The birds, butterflies, and bees. It came to pass that The Gothel would visit less an less, and after a year or two, on an excellent summer's day, through the enchanted forest, a cavalry of men rode by the lone tower.
It was by chance that the king's son heard the singing by the tower, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. Naturally, this was Rapunzel, alone and complete within herself. The young prince was confounded as to how he could meet this songstress for there was no door to the tower and thus to her chamber. How could this be! He called out, "my lady" but alas, the singing continued with no replied.
He rode home with his men, unable to forget the sound of such a sweet voice. The singing had so deeply touched his heart with its purity, that every day he went out into the forest, to rest by the tower and be lulled by the melody of the voice so fair.
Eventually, the Gothel came back to visit Rapunzel, and surely there was the Prince, laying alongside a tree when he heard and saw with his own eyes the way into the tower.
The Gothel commanded,
Let down thy hair.”
Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and Gothel climbed up
Startled, but inspired, the prince thought, "If that be the way to my good fortune and sweet song, then so it shall be.”
The next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried:
Let down thy hair.”
Immediately the hair fell down, and the prince mounted up.
At his sight, Rapunzel screamed! There was nowhere to run or go int he tiny tower room. Terribly frightened, it was more than just a stranger in the tower Rapunzel had never yet beheld a man before, as he came toward her.
"Do not be afraid, my lady," the prince said softly, as he reached towards her. I mean you no harm."
"Why are you here, what have you done with Gothel?" Rapunzel cried. She was sobbing.
"Princess, do not cry," he soothed. "I have not harmed the old woman. I just needed to see you." The prince began to recount being with his men and coming upon the tower. That every day he sat by her tower listening to her song, how he had no rest and how he was compelled to see her.
"I am no princess, kind sir," Rapunzel said. "You must leave. Now. Quickly, before The Gothel returns."
The young prince just looked at her, his eyes so kind. calming he said, "I fear no old beggar woman!"
He was tall and robust. Rapunzel thought, "maybe he would rescue me from this place?" He made Rapunzel feel ways that she had never felt. Her heart raced. She began to lose fear.
"You will be my princess," he commanded, reaching out his hand. I will love you more than the sun and the moon. I will take you from here and make you queen one day of all the lands."
Rapunzel thought, “He will love me more than old Gothel” and she said yes, and laid her hand in his.
The prince kissed Rapunzel. She leaned into him, his arms mighty. The prince embraced Rapunzel close, and she felt him thicken, his hands reached around her small corsetted waist.
"Wait, what is happening?" she whispered between kisses.
"I love you, and I have always loved you" caressed the prince. "Since I first heard your song." His embrace was tighter, unlacing her dress. "I need to make you my bride, my love."
Rapunzel could taste the sweat from his brown in her mouth. She could smell the leather of his doublet against her soft skin. She was fearful, but not afraid. She trusted him, and yet the room felt as though it might close in on them. Before she knew it, the prince had undressed Rapunzel, her breasts bare, nipples alert and pink.
"I won't hurt you." the prince continued to whisper. "Please, trust me..."
Rapunzel looked at his earnest face. She kissed him passionately and began to unlace his doublet, unbuckle his belt, freeing his member. She had never seen a naked man. The prince was dark, and his skin taut and the muscles veined like the ox that Rapunzel watched till the soil from her tower. His vitality brought the heat and quickness between her legs, and soon his fingers, tongue, and beyond, were exploring her body.
Rapunzel quivered and shook in the safety of the prince's power and passion until she fell asleep in his arms. The prince held Rapunzel all night and into the early hours of the morning.
As dawn broke, Rapunzel kissed the prince good-bye. They hatched a plan to return nightly with skeins of silk, that Rapunzel would fashion a ladder to aid in her escape, and that he would come to her every evening as the Gothel went during the day.
The prince returned nightly as promised, and together he and Rapunzel lay by night in the embrace of lovers with a velocity only matched by Rapunzel's own mother's love for rampion. As the weeks passed, Rapunzel's belly began to swell, and diligently she tied skeins of silk waiting patiently to escape.
Let down thy hair,”
she let the hair down.
“Look at me, child?" said the Gothel. Rapunzel made her way towards Gothel, timidly. Rapunzel was covering herself with her long golden hair. "Oh Rapunzel, my precious. Your beauty is beyond compare. Come, sit by old mother, Gothel."
Rapunzel sat by her, "Rapunzel, let me tell you a story, " Gothel began to weave a dark and sinister tale.
"Once upon a time" Gothel began, "there was a beautiful orphan girl who had everything provided for her by her loving guardian. Her hair was pure gold, her voice soft like summer rain. She really should have been grateful. This girl had been rescued from a mother who had eaten her own husband, the girl's father, a common thief. However, like the cannibal mother, the orphan girl was also wicked. Ungrateful and selfish. She defiled her innocent body with a deplorable man, allowing him to trample her lush garden with his muddy seed. Until at last, he had defiled her with his babies. "
Rapunzel was shaken to the core and horrified, tears in her eyes. The Gothel continued.
"Nothing good could ever happen to a vile girl like that. Don't you agree?" The Gothel, reached towards Rapunzel, smiling at her. "Oh child, don't cry. fetch yourself some silk in my satchel." and she pointed and Rapunzel froze.
"Silk. Satchel." thought Rapunzel. "No, it couldn't be." She had frozen in panic.
"The satchel Rapunzel. Fetch for mother, the satchel." The Gothel gestured again.
Slowly, Rapunzel moved towards the satchel. Her back towards the Gothel, she placed her hand in felt he silk skeins she and the prince had been knotting into a ladder. Tears filled her eyes, as the breath left her body. Her hopes of escape drained from her. The life she planned, was gone. What might happen to the life inside her? What would the Gothel do to her? All this flooded through her in a matter of seconds.
“Ah! you wicked child!” cried the Gothel. “I thought I had separated you from all the world, I thought I had loved you, and yet look at you."
The Gothel grabbed Rapunzel by the hair, and in her rage transformed back into the Enchantress. In her hand appeared a sickle, curved and sharp- Rapunzel was determined she would die. However with one swift move, they were cut off, and the lovely golden braids lay on the ground. The Enchantress looked at Rapunzel, hair shorn, looking so frigid that the Enchantress softened transforming back into Mother Gothel.
"I should kill you," said Gothel. "Instead you will live your days in solitude, grief, and misery, alone in the desert."
In a blink and an instant, Rapunzel was pregnant, alone and in a cave. The only thing to eat was rampion.
On the same day, however, that she cast out Rapunzel, the Gothel, in the evening, fastened the braids of hair which she had cut off, to the hook
of the window; and when the King’s Son came and cried:
Let down thy hair,”
she let the hair down.
The prince ascended. He did not find his dearest Rapunzel above, but rather an Enchantress like none he had ever beheld. She gazed at him with fire in her eyes and heat from her bosom. The golden locks that once cascaded from Rapunzel, bound and braided into her auburn tresses.
"Who are you?" he demanded! "What have you done to Rapunzel?"
The Enchantress ignored him, removing her dressing gown and beckoning him toward her. The prince could feel himself stiffen at her beauty. Like steel, he was instantly at her attention.
"No!" He thought, but the room was like fire. "Where is my love?" he demanded again. "Answer me, witch!"
"I am her and she is me" the Enchantress sand softly as she sat on the bed, spreading herself open for the prince. "Warrior, you are tired and hungry. Come, feast at my bounty."
The prince was feeling intoxicated. "What is wrong with me?" he murmured and yet soon he was naked, and on his knees he was, hoisting the Enchantress' legs atop his shoulders. Her essence was sweet like the nectar of life, and like a greedy boy, his tongue devoured into her. Soon too, he had thrust himself into her.
Atop the Enchantress, the young prince had forgotten his beloved Rapunzel, as he lay his seed deep into the Enchantress. Nails were scratching at his back, followed by a whisper into the ear of the spent prince.
"I killed your beloved, your babies, and soon you'll be next!" whispered the Gothel as the prince looked to see the Enchantress had turned back into the haggard old woman.
At this, the prince quickly realized what he had just done. He flew into a rage!
The Gothel just laughed at the naked prince. "What? cat got your..." as she looked down at his member. "The beautiful bird sits no longer singing in this nest. Rapunzel is lost to you!”
The prince lunged at the Gothel, beside himself with grief and in his despair, choking the old women. Grappling the old witch with rage to the floor, her neck in his hands.
In a flash, The Gothel was the beautiful naked woman again, the prince's hands at her throat. She was screaming and crying. "No! Stop!"
But the prince's blind rage continued, as he choked her harder. "You witch. You murdered!" he cried.
The Enchantress was frantically pinned down and fast losing consciousness. She would not be beaten. Quickly she changed again, this time looking like Rapunzel- "stop my beloved... I am here!" the Enchantress whispered between gasps.
The prince released his grip slightly and looked at his right love. Could it be? In a split second, the Enchantress took her hand at scratched the young prince's eyes, freeing herself from his grip.
"You will die!" She shouted. The prince was wounded, but as the Enchantress began to chant and weave her spell, the prince felt his sword and scabbard near him and drew forth his weapon.
"No!' The prince cried and lunged towards the shadowy figure he saw through his scratched face. It was in an instance that he stabbed the Enchantress through the heart and she engulfed in flames. The immense power of her death filled the small tower room, and the prince jumped from the tower window.
The prince escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes even more. The Enchantress was dead, but he was alone, entirely blind, and lamented over the loss of his dearest wife.
Once again, the days turned to weeks and months into years. The once mighty prince had become mendicant, and he roamed about in misery, and alone, his beloved Rapunzel thought dead. His mind tormented by his infidelity and the echoes of her sweet songs.
It was at this same time that Rapunzel, who was quite alive and living alone in the wretchedness of desert caves had birthed twins. She named the little boy, Star, and the daughter Moon after the many nights she spent with her cherished lover, The Prince. Rapunzel fed the twins from her bosom, and then the leaves of the rampion plants that mysteriously filled the cave. Her sweet songs echoed throughout the cavernous desert like symphonies, and she wondered to herself, "so what happens now?"
It was in the darkness of their despair that the prince heard the echoes of a voice so familiar to him that he went toward it. The dangers were perilous, the cliffs and sandstorms seemingly impossible, but when he approached,
"My love," Rapunzel knew him, and fell on his neck and wept. "My sweet, and handsome prince, what has the Gothel done to you."
"You're alive!" the prince rejoiced. “The Gothel witch is dead,” cried the prince, “ She told me you were dead.” The Prince kissed Rapunzel madly as tears streamed down her face.
It was Rapunzel's tears that in their eternal goodness that wetted the Prince’s eyes, and his eyes grew clear again. The prince could see with them as before. He could see his beloved Rapunzel, their children Sky and Moon, and all around them the bounty of rampion leaves turning into gold for Rapunzel's love was most celebrated still than all that was good.
The Prince's Kingdom would welcome Rapunzel, and they would live for a long time, happy and satisfied.
© 2018 Erick DuPree | Circle Within Press