Sunday 15 August 2021
“Truly, there is magic in fairy tales. For it takes but a simply-uttered 'Once upon a time...' to allure and spellbind an audience.”
—Richelle E. Goodrich
The term “fairy tale” or
“conte de fées” was first used by French writer Countess d’Aulnoy at the end of
the seventeenth century. “Once upon a time” is even older and can be traced
back to an English poem from 1380! Of course, short stories based on myths and
folklore existed long before people started to call them fairy tales, and they
continue to evolve as new writers reinvent the characters and their
Last year I wrote a blog post about Beauty and the Beast retellings. It was the first time I’d used a fairy tale as the basis for my reading choices, and I really enjoyed both the research and the reading. With that in mind, I repeated the exercise this week with a different fairy tale. I chose Rapunzel, partly because I’ve always loved the film Tangled and partly because I was curious—it’s a less mainstream fairy tale and arguably more difficult to reimagine.
The earliest version of the story, Petrosinella, is from 1634. Persinette followed in 1698, and the Brothers Grimm published Rapunzel in 1812. The story begins with the theft of some special salad leaves from a witch’s garden to save the life of the main character’s mother. In fact, the names Petrosinella and Persinette came from the Italian and French words for parsley! Most people are familiar with what follows: the tall tower, the long hair, the handsome prince, the witch’s revenge, and the main character’s magical tears.
Once again, the research
was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to exploring a new fairy tale in the future. I hope you find my choices interesting, and thank you very much for
visiting my blog today 💕.
** Writing update: Further to my previous post about villains, I’ve written prologues for both new books, and now I feel like I should apologise to my characters for what they’re about to face! **
What if Rapunzel was Snow
White’s evil stepmother? In this kingdom, only one fairy tale can end with
happily ever after.
I love descriptions that begin with “What if…?”
I also like the idea of bringing two fairy tales
together and exploring what happens to Rapunzel after she marries her prince. Then
I read the prologue, and I was hooked. I can’t resist a sympathetic and
I was the girl with the
long long hair, trapped in the tower. You have no doubt heard of me. As a young
woman I was very famous for those tresses, even though I lived in the middle of
the woods and had never been to court, not for a feast or a wedding or a matter
Poets and troubadours
sang of my beauty then.
It was sorcery, that
hair. Sometimes now I wonder if things would have been different, had I been
It is a hard thing, not
being that girl any longer. Even as I sit here, I cannot help but turn toward
the mirror and ask the question I have asked a thousand times before:
“Who is the fairest of
The mirror shifts. The
glass moves back and forth, like water. And then my image disappears, until a
voice, like a memory, or something from my bones and skin, gives me the same
answer it always does now:
I turn back to the
parchment in front of me and try to ignore the ache inside. The apple waits on
the table next to me, gleaming with poison. All that’s left to do is write it
down, everything that happened, so that there will still be some record in this
Gothel is a witch.
Punished for the actions of her mother, her choice is simple: either she stands
guard over Princess Rapunzel—or she dies.
This caught my eye
because the story is told from Gothel’s POV, and she’s not the villain from the
original story. Rapunzel’s father, the king, became a powerful sorcerer by
stealing from Aethel, Gothel’s mother. Aethel took her revenge by cursing
Rapunzel. Rapunzel can only be freed by a prince of noble heart and some
special, heavily-guarded magical shears. Oh, and the prince also has to kill
Gothel, the innocent witch forced to guard Rapunzel. As if that wasn’t enough
of a challenge, what happens if Gothel and the prince fall for each other along
the way? I can’t wait to find out... Here’s a short extract from the beginning of
“My name is Prince Merek
“You’re the king’s son?”
My stomach knotted. A prince? Could he be the one? If he was, then I should’ve fought him off. I should’ve kept him as far away from the tower as possible. There was a foretelling that a prince of noble blood would free the princess and kill the witch. Kill me.
She never wanted to leave the tower. He never wanted to rule the country. But when war breaks out, this reckless prince and reclusive maiden are faced with overcoming their deepest fears in order to determine not only their own fate, but that of their entire country.
I was intrigued by a
Rapunzel who doesn’t want to be rescued, and the Italian setting, and a prince
with his own character development challenges. Plus the main character’s name
is Nella, short for Petrosinella—just like the original version of the story 😀. Here’s a short extract of some dialogue between Nella and Prince
Benedict about a third of the way through the book.
“And do you—that is, have
you any betrothals currently?” she asked.
He laughed. “I do seem to
go through them at an alarming rate, don’t I?”
“Well, you did when I was
a child. I think there were five before I reached the age of twelve.”
“Oh, probably at least
eight or nine.” He grinned. “No, not currently. I seem to have a bit of bad
luck with that.”
Nella was horrified to
find herself glad. Jealousy was a sign of attachment. Or worse. “Well, I wish
you all the best in that, then.” She hated saying the words, and she hated that
she hated it.
Benedict seemed not to
notice. “Do you ever hope of getting married?”
He looked at her and
grinned. “I suppose being tethered to a man for the rest of your life makes you
“Until the rest of his
life,” she corrected, not able to restrain a smirk.
My tale has been told
again and again, and I’ve heard each one. Except for my hair, I barely
recognize the pitiful renditions. Muddled versions, crafted to entertain
laughing children… but the children wouldn’t have laughed if they’d known the
real story. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t know the truth. Nobody did. My
name is Rapunzel. I will tell you my story. I will tell you the truth.
The first person POV in
the description works really well, and it sets the scene for a fresh take on
the story with a strong protagonist. Anything could happen following an
introduction like that!
I peered out my window,
waiting for the right moment. There. The sun dropped below the horizon,
casting the castle grounds into darkness.
I tied the corners of my
blanket together into a knot then slung the makeshift sack over my shoulder. I
scurried to the door. Looking back was not an option.
I had thirty minutes,
maximum. That’s all I had between the setting of the sun and when the dragon
would expect to see the candlelight flicker in my window, my daily assurance to
him of my presence in the castle. If he didn’t see that glow from my tower…
Rapunzel is not your
average teenager. For one thing, she has a serious illness that keeps her
inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is fifteen feet
long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world
from certain destruction.
I had to include a
retelling with a contemporary setting, and Rapunzel Untangled is my
choice. At the beginning of the story, Rapunzel is reluctantly accepting of her
captivity because she’s been told she has an immunodeficiency. But she also has
a computer with internet access, and one day she discovers social media. She
connects with “Fab Fane Flannigan” from the local high school, and her
perspective soon begins to shift. I’m interested to know Fane’s backstory in
this version and his real name. Here’s a short extract from one of Rapunzel’s
and Fane’s early conversations.
Rapunzel closed her eyes
tightly, thinking, debating. Then, before she could change her mind, she typed:
There was nothing but her
flashing cursor, then
Rapunzel? That’s your
You’re not kidding
Unusual. Rapunzel. Never
heard of it. I like it.
Please don’t try to guess
my last name.
Okay, you win. For now.