I am Gothel and I stand here in chains because you fear me.
You fear me because I blinded the lord’s son, because I stole a babe, because I kept her in tower and after raising here, threw her and her babes defenseless into the darkest woods to die.
I testify because even though you are all fools, you need to know the truth.
Few remember my name before I took my vow.
A Southeil I was born. Ursula was I named. And long before the cabinet-maker Shipton married me, I was known as a soothsayer. I was born in a cave, near Harrow’s gate with webbed toes and though those were cut by my aunts so that the men in black robes could not mark me, they knew I was something special.
My mother left to join a convent and the wise women raised me among their own. I charmed the carpenter, fat and secure with his work and his land, through charms and trickery, and though he found my form loathsome, I gave gave him strong sons, and myself good daughters, each of whom moved far from here, each now forgotten. Their father lived his time and he died, as men do, having wasted away his wealth on gambling and drink, save a small house in town and one small plot at the edge of it, a garden, which I demanded he keep.
My Sight has always been a long one.
I remember the time just before It came.
There had been warnings and the people were looking to me as the source. Blood in eggs, a cow delivering a stillborn which tried to devour it’s mother. The ache in the joints and the bleeding sores. Accusations of witchcraft, of deviltry. They wanted to burn me.
I let them burn his house. Let them think I was there inside.
I went to collect It.
It had fallen from the sky, a colour I have never seen before or since, when the moon was dark and the stars were dim. The clean earth had reacted to it, building a pustule around it. I watched as It Squirmed and tried to get out. I took it from that place to my cave, the one in which I was born. I tried to smother it. I tried to drown it in an endless well. It would not die.
I took it to the garden. Buried it in living soil and started the task for which I’d been born.
Skyfire iron to bind it in one spot. Clean stone around it, set so tight that even the smallest of bugs could not enter. That was not to be a worry though. The beasts staid far from it.
The garden, though, could not run. That which did not wither became monstrous sized, some twisted, some withering in their beauty. While the animals would not come, the children were more foolish. I had to built a wall. I put skulls in the garden to frighten them away. For the most part, it worked.
Until the miller’s wife saw the rampion.
She was not pregnant. She lied to him. She had seen it and she wanted it. She needed it.
She was pregnant soon after she ate it, though.
I caught him the third time he came to steal the rampion. Would that I had killed them then. But that kindness was my weakness.
Instead, I demanded the child.
Terrified of me, they agreed.
She didn’t survive the birth. Did they tell you that? Did they tell you that when he saw what came from her, he gave it to me gladly? I’m sure he’s recanted that now. He doesn’t want to be remembered as a bad father or husband. I’m sure it was easier to blame it on me.
It wasn’t because of me. It was the thing beneath my tower. Now it had form.
From rampion, it came, so Rapunzel I called it.
It held the shape of its mother but only for short times during the day. Even then, its face tended to molt and change on a whim.
The hair. What horrors can I express to you about the hair? It enticed, it beckoned and then it fed. I saw it pull in a bird once, glimmering to excite the birds curiosity and then pulling it down when it got too close. The end of each hair was a tiny mouth nipping at both flesh and drops of blood as they fell.
She tried to draw me in, many times, but I had as many ways to protect myself.
I sealed her up in the tower so that I could starve her.
Skyfire iron to contain her. Clean earth in handfuls to weaken her.
This would require me to go up to the mountains and fetch some. When I did so, that left her alone. I did not know that her hair could reach the ground of the tower.
I did not know she could cause men to dream.
The lord’s son was one who fell to her. He was not the only one. Later I found a number of her unsuccessful suitors, hidden in corners of the room I could not get to, for fear of attack. I do not know why she valued his seed beyond the others that she snared but I found my mistake when her twin spawn attacked me, enabling her and them to escape into the world. Only her hair was left, shed like a snake molts its old flesh for something new and vile.
I blinded him. I was angry. Who wouldn’t with such at stake?
I couldn’t find her, though I searched the deep forest. Not before you found me.
I still hear things though.
I hear that maybe he found her, out there in the woods.
I hear that tears, or something similar, from her healed his eyes.
I wonder if he screamed when he saw her as she truly was.