Chapter 1: The Princess' Prologue

Once upon a time, a single drop of sunlight fell from the heavens, and from this drop of sunlight, grew a magic golden flower. It had the ability to heal the sick and injured. One day, a old woman named Mother Gothel discovered the Golden Flower. She decided to use its power to keep herself young and beautiful for hundreds of years.

As those centuries passed, there grew a small and happy kingdom, which was ruled by a beloved King and Queen. The kingdom was surrounded by sparkling blue water, its gentle waves dappled by sunlit skies, and the island was rich, both in good fortune, and in an easy harmony among its people. Though the people of the kingdom had heard the legend of the Golden Flower, no one had ever seen it. It was the stuff of stories told around the fires on cold winter nights. They had never really needed the flower.

The people of the kingdom had recently become joyful, as there was news that the Queen was going to have a child, but all too soon, the kingdom's happiness came to an abrupt end. Word spread the Queen was gravely ill. There seemed to be nothing that could help her...or was there?

Perhaps the Golden Flower was more than merely an old legend. Willing to try anything to save her, the people launched a search throughout the kingdom and the surrounding lands. They combed the hills and fields, mountains and valleys. They even crossed the clear blue water to explore the stark and rocky terrain on the opposite shore.

Mother Gothel, who had kept herself and the Golden Flower isolated from the people of kingdom, was singing softly to the flower, as she did every day, when she spotted some strangers in the distance. They were searching every square inch of the land. Mother Gothel began to panic. Quickly, she hid and watched as the strangers moved closer to the rocky ledge where the Golden Flower grew.

"We found it! We found it!" The strangers shouted at last.

Mother Gothel watch horrified, horrified, as a palace guard uprooted the flower and carried it off. In a panic, she followed the strangers as they brought the flower to the castle. She stayed hidden, hoping to come up with a scheme to get the Golden Flower back, but it was too late. The flower was made into a potion and fed to the ailing Queen.

Its magic worked, and the Queen soon recovered! The King and all the people in the land rejoiced. Soon afterward, the King and Queen stood on their royal balcony, holding the newborn Princess together. She was such a darling baby, with her mother's emerald-green eyes, and curly golden hair that gleamed in the sunlight, and her name was Rapunzel.

The palace courtyard was filled with the cheers of the kingdom's people as they saw their princess for the very first time. Mother Gothel, who was watching from the shadows, did bit cheer. Without the magic of the Golden Flower, she was growing older by the day. Seething with anger, she waited.

As the day faded into night, the King and Queen launched a single glowing lantern into the night sky to celebrate their princess' birth. All their love and hopes for the Princess' happiness were contained in the lantern. The crowd joyfully watched as the glowing lantern rose to the heavens, but the King and Queen's happiness was sort-lived.

For later that night, as the kingdom slept, a vengeful Mother Gothel crept into the royal nursery and approached the Princess' cradle. Swiftly, she thrust her hand toward the child, but she suddenly stopped. The lovely golden curls of the infant entranced Mother Gothel. Compelled to gently stroke the baby's hair, she quietly began to sing, as she had so many times with the flower.

Most unexpectedly, the child's hair began to glow. Mother Gothel watched in shock, then with delight, as her withered old hand became young again. The healing power of the Golden Flower lived on in the golden hair of the little Princess! Mother Gothel cut a piece of the Princess's hair and gazed at it as it lay in her hand.

Now she could take it with her and use it anytime she liked, but that was not meant to be. Mother Gothel watched as the light hair in her hand turned dark brown. She looked at the back of the Princess's neck. There was now a short brown tuft where the golden hair had been cut.

Mother Gothel was furious! She realized that the magic only worked if she sang and stroked the hair on the Princess's head! There was only one thing to do. She would have to steal the baby...and keep her hidden from the rest of the world forever.

For many months, the people of the kingdom searched and searched, but they could never find their princess. No one knew that far away, hidden in a boxed-in valley, Mother Gothel was raising the child as her own. To prevent her from leaving, Mother Gothel kept the girl at the top of the tall tower they called home.

The beautiful valley provided stunning views for the little girl. A waterfall fell from the crest of the steep surrounding cliffs, plunging to a sparkling, winding stream below. The meadows were filled with flowers and lush greenery. Often, rainbows rose from the water, glimmering and arching over the stone tower.

During the day, Mother Gothel would frequently go outside the flower to gather herbs and vegetables. On other occasions, the little girl watched as Mother Gothel went to the edge of the valley and slipped into a dark hole at the base of a rocky cliff, disappearing through a tunnel that led her beyond the places that the child could see. The tunnel oped to a forest outside of the valley. Mother Gothel made sure that when she came and went thought the tunnel, no one ever saw her. If anyone did see, they might find the tower, and the Princess!

Mother Gothel adored Rapunzel, and the child adored Mother Gothel, too. After all, she was the only mother- and the only person! -whom Rapunzel knew or remembered. Mother Gothel was there to feed and bathe the infant. She watched Rapunzel take her first steps, and she sang lullabies to the little girl as she stroked and brushed her hair every day.

Rapunzel never knew the true love of the parents. Nearly four years passed before Rapunzel asked Mother Gothel, "Why can't I go outside?" Mother Gothel remained cautious in her response. She knew she had to make the little girl fearful, so she would never stray from the safety of the tower.

"The outside world is a dangerous place, filled with horrible, selfish people." Mother Gothel replied.

She did not want to lose Rapunzel. The child was a part of her now. She treasured Rapunzel as she would with a prized rose or a precious jewel. Mother Gothel lifted a section of Rapunzel's hair. Rapunzel reached back and touched the small tuft at the nape of her neck. It was the only part of her hair that was dark and short.

"They wanted your gift for themselves," Mother Gothel said, lying to Rapunzel as she gazed at the hair that she herself had cut.

"So they cut a piece of your hair." Mother Gothel said.

"Yes, Mommy." Rapunzel answered, and shivered a little.

The outside world must be a terribly dangerous place, but on the night of her fourth birthday, Rapunzel tiptoed over to the the tower window. There, in the night sky, she saw thousands of sparkling lights drifting up beyond the valley toward the stars. The same thing happened on the night of her fifth birthday, and also on her sixth and seventh birthdays.

Rapunzel loved those floating lights, and she even grew to believe that somehow, they were meant for her. What Rapunzel didn't know was that each year, the King and Queen and all of the people in the kingdom released thousands of glowing lanterns as beacons for their lost princess. They hoped that one day, the lights would guide her home.

Many years passed, and Rapunzel grew into a beautiful young woman, with sparkling green eyes and golden hair that was nearly seventy feet long. Seventy feet of hair that was used to make a swing so she could swoop from the rafters in the tower, and that made brushes for beloved paintings, and despite her lonely life spent inside the top of the tower, nothing could destroy Rapunzel's true spirit.

With her eighteenth birthday approaching, even though it was many weeks away, Rapunzel had decided that this birthday would be different. At least, she hoped so, but first, she had to gather enough courage to ask Mother Gothel for the biggest favor she could grant. Mother Gothel had always told Rapunzel that someday, when she was old enough, when she was ready, she would be allowed to go outside. Outside! Rapunzel could only imagine outside. A place she barely glimpsed from her window, a place filled with creatures and plants, and with sights, smells, and sounds she had never experienced!

Rapunzel nervously hoped that Mother Gothel would finally allow her to go out. She needed to find the source of those mysterious floating lights. What Rapunzel also noticed as she grew up, was a mailbox with a flag attached to it. The mailbox was not far from the tower. While Rapunzel doesn't really have anyone to write to, she wondered if someone from the outside world would receive a letter she wrote, so when Mother Gothel does come to the tower, Rapunzel was definitely going to ask her about that mailbox...