Straight “Rapunzel” is often a sad “Rapunzel.”
So, my novella Braided, a lesbian Rapunzel (part of our Sappho’s Fables series, lesbian fairy tales!) will be released April 3rd.
The original fairy tale is…I mean, let’s be blunt here. It’s not empowering stuff. Girl’s mom has a hankering for a vegetable that grows in a very selfish please-to-not-be-touching-my-garden witch. TERRIBLE things ensue, involving girl being taken by witch to live in tower. Her hair grows super long (if your hair is going to be tower-length sized by the way, it’s PROBABLY not going to look like most pictures depicting Rapunzel–all pretty and neat in a braid. It’s probably going to be EVERYWHERE), she falls in love with a prince, the witch FINDS OUT.
Cue threatening things-are-probably-not-going-to-go-well-for-our-fair-heroine music.
Witch casts Rapunzel to some handily-located desert to Think About What She’s Done (here versions differ. Did she sleep with the prince? Probably! There’s a lot of versions where she bears kids living in a cave in a desert.), and when the prince comes back, ready to Rescue The Princess, the witch–having cut off Rapunzel’s hair–uses it to lure him up into the tower, and then PUSHES HIM OFF. He falls into a patch of briars, suprisingly lives but is blinded by the thorns, goes off to wander in the desert and finds Rapunzel. Versions differ: her tears cure his blindness, or he’s blind forever, and their lives are crap.
“Happily ever after” and “Rapunzel” don’t really go hand in hand very well.
With our Sappho’s Fables series, it was very important to us to keep the bones of the fairy tales in their essence, but to also make the retelling VERY unique on TOP of the idea of retelling it from a lesbian perspective. There are eleventy million retellings of “Rapunzel.” If I just gender-switched the prince (or the witch) and did nothing to the story besides that…that wouldn’t have been my cup of tea. One of my favorite things, as a writer, is to look at the old bones of Story, see what could be and reinterpret them. (I have done this before.) So I wanted this story to be empowering and incredibly original, and there are so many things about the original fairy tale (AS MUCH AS I LOVE IT) that bother me as a feminist.
Please to not keep reading if you want to be totally surprised when you read Braided when it comes out! I won’t completely spoil you, but I’ll be talking about some aspects of the world…
Still here? VENTURE ON, STALWART PERSON, PREFERABLY with a TEA-LIKE BEVERAGE in HAND!
One of my favorite aspects of “Rapunzel,” is how it’s kind of weird. A desert? We don’t usually get deserts right next to our fairy-tale-esque forests, and it’s such an original point. That was always my (uh, I suppose this says something about me…) favorite part, when Rapunzel is–technically–free, has an entire land of opportunity before her. I never really saw it as a terrible thing to be away from the witch who imprisoned her, and the dude who was kind of stalking her in the forest (may I just point out that I AM a lesbian, so I may have been hoping every single time I read it, that she might find some lovely desert-pirate-princess and live happily ever after :P).
In my version of the story, the tower has been changed, and even the point of view is different. We meet Gray, a witch’s daughter, who was born with a cursed fate. There was once a tree in the middle of the forest that people made pilgrimages to, secreting written prayers and wishes into its bark or tied to its branches. A few hundred years ago, the tree died (though no one knows how), and the tree’s spirit was put into a person. So, this person had to live on a platform built in the dead tree, letting their hair grow long, so people could continue their ritual of giving it their prayers and wishes. Unfortunately, as the years go by, even though the people are bound to the tree and can’t leave it…the magic grows weak. Fewer and fewer prayers and wishes come true.
When Gray is born, the witch–Momma Bone–despairs. Gray has the tell-tale scar over her heart, blackened veins in the shape of the tree, that means she is meant for a life on the platform. But, when Gray is very small, Momma Bone takes up her sheers and cuts out the fate from Gray’s heart. She keeps it in a jar (Gray tells us it looks not a little unlike a moth) until she’s able to trick another child out of another mother’s grasp…and sew the fate of the tree into that child’s heart, instead of her own daughter’s.
Gray grows up taking care of this girl, who must live on the platform: Zelda. And she falls deeply in love with her. They can’t run away together–though they so desperately wish to–because too many people depend on the tree, but one night, something strange happens.
The Luna Fair comes to town. And a strange, hairless, ancient and slightly-scary-and-wrinkled feline tells Gray a secret. There is a place, she visits each night, a place that she could travel to and bring back the tree. And save it. And save Zelda.
And the cat gives her a riddle that only she can answer: Luna will find you.
Gray (and Zelda!) must travel to Luna (is it a real place? Or is it only in their dreams?), triumph over an army of Despair, travel through the Forest of Hair and meet the witch and the tree before morning, figuring out the cat’s riddle as they go. The desert of Luna is vast and monstrous, and when they are separated, Gray must find the courage to outsmart a horde of strange creatures for the possibility of a happily ever after with the love of her life…and her sweetheart’s freedom.
I have so, so, so immensely enjoyed retelling this story, and I can’t wait to share it with you. <3 I’m so excited about it. :) April 3rd is coming! <3
Can’t wait until April 3rd? I’ve posted two excerpts from Braided on my Tumblr! Here they are, in order: