Once upon a time, there was a girl who was stuck in a tower. Her name was Rapunzel, and she spent her days reading and gazing out the tower window. It got tedious.
Rapunzel was never entirely clear why she couldn’t leave the tower. The old woman had explained it to her once. It was some muddled story about her parents and some lettuce—or was it a cabbage. She couldn’t exactly remember. Whatever the reason, here she was, stuck in this tower, reading her books and looking out over the forest.
The old woman came to see her sometimes. When she did, she would stand at the foot of the tower and call: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair.”
Rapunzel didn’t understand why the old woman had to shout every time she came to the tower. Rapunzel was usually at the window. The old woman would climb up, carrying food or books or new clothes. They would always talk for a while, and the old woman would always warn Rapunzel about letting anyone into the tower.
As if she would! Rapunzel might be stuck in a tower, but she wasn’t an idiot.
She supposed the old woman was talking about the young man she sometimes saw from her window. He would sneak out of the forest when the old woman wasn’t there, come to the tower, and call: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
Good luck, buddy.
He couldn’t have been the brightest crayon in the box if he thought she was just going to drop her braids out the window for anyone. And besides, gathering up all that hair was hard work, and she had to wash it every time the old woman used it as a climbing rope. And then she had to dry it and brade it.
It went on like that, day after day, until, one day, Rapunzel decided she’d had enough. Towers were fine, but this was ridiculous. One of the books she had been reading was about a man who lived for years and years on a deserted island. He had to do all kinds of inventive things to survive on that island, and Rapunzel thought she would take a leaf out of his book—not literally, of course, but she liked some of his ideas.
She gathered up all that hair, masses and masses of it, and, taking a pair of scissors, she cut it off. With nimble fingers, Rapunzel began to weave herself a rope. Soon she had a golden rope that reached right down to the ground, and she wove the rest of the hair into another rope, which she stuffed into a make-shift bag she stitched from an old cloak. She took the heavy velvet dresses the old woman always made her wear, and she cut and stitched and stitched and cut. Soon she had a sensible set of clothes—pants and shirt and jacket. Shoes were a problem, but Rapunzel rummaged through the pile of things at the back of the tower room until she unearthed a pair of combat boots the old woman had left by accident.
She was finally ready.
Saying a quick goodbye to the room, Rapunzel hopped out the window and repelled down the side of the tower. It was wonderful to be outside, under her own steam and finally able to do what she wanted.
She ventured into the forest, and there she built a house, following the example of her island survivor guy. She caught fish in a nearby lake, and she gathered edible plants from the forest. She was very happy.
Things went on for a while until one evening Rapunzel heard a bellowing and crashing in the forest. She caught up her walking stick, which also served as a beating stick in case anyone should bother her, and she waited.
And guess who it was—the prince. He was crying and bellowing and crashing through the trees, not seeming to know where he was going, and Rapunzel felt a little sorry for him. She guided him into her little house and sat him down. He seemed to have something stuck in his eye.
“I saw the hair,” he blubbered.” “I saw the hair and thought you’d left it out for me. I tried climbing the tower, but I lost my grip and fell. Nearly broke my neck, and I got something stuck in my eye. I think it’s a thorn from one of those beastly roses. I’m probably blind, now!”
“Don’t worry,” said Rapunzel. “Just sit still and let me have a look.”
And she had a look, but it was only an eyelash that had gotten stuck in the prince’s eye. With one deft flick, Rapunzel got it out. “There you go,” she said.
The prince sprang to his feet. “Rapunzel,” he cried, “will you marry me and come and live as my wife in my castle?”
Rapunzel didn’t have to consider long. “You realize I’ve been stuck in a tower for a long time,” she said. “I don’t think I want to be stuck in a castle. It sounds as bad as the tower.”
“Oh,” said the prince, looking rather crestfallen and a little hurt.
“But,” said Rapunzel, brightly, “I’m off soon to see the world, and you are welcome to join me, if youlike.”
“Off to see the world?” said the prince, uncertainly.
“Yes, I have a list of places I want to visit. I want to see Stone Henge. I want to go to Brazil—I’ve always liked the nuts. I want to go to Canada, although they say it’s always winter there, and I want to visit New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand.”
“I guess that would be fine,” said the prince, a little uncertainly. “I should really ask my mother first.”
And speaking of mothers, or at least old women, Rapunzel wanted to give hers a proper telling off before she went away. The old woman was contrite, and she begged Rapunzel’s forgiveness, recognizing that imprisoning young girls in towers wasn’t cool. And the old woman, whom some called a witch, went off and set up shop as a family therapist.
As for Rapunzel and the prince, they left to see the world. They visited Stone Henge, and they sailed on a ship to Canada. It wasn’t always winter, but there were lots of mosquitoes. Next, they went to Brazil to eat nuts, and, finally, off to New Zealand. They toured around the North and South Islands, until they got an apartment in the city. It was in a high-rise. Rapunzel supposed it was part of her thing about towers. But this one, she could leave whenever she wanted. You could say that she and the prince lived happily ever after, but Rapunzel forever kept her hair short.