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March 9, 2011
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The people’s hearts are heavy with the burdens life brings them. Larceny; poverty; rape; murder. All common occurrences in this dismal county. The sky is a perpetual grey - the sun does not see fit to bless the town with its light.
It is surrounded by a forest, about which many tales have been told: how the trees convene and conspire with one another, luring unwitting travellers into their twisted embrace. How the ghosts of heartbroken maidens whisper your name until you succumb to their sanguinary seduction, and before you know it, ice-cold fingers are locked around your neck. There are other accounts too, of repugnant old hags and black magic and Vampires with an insatiable hunger for fresh human blood.
But the most common one is of bloodthirsty, ferocious beasts that lurk in the shadows, red eyes glinting and glowing maliciously in the moonlight; if you look them straight in the eyes you might as well bid your life goodbye. These beasts have the souls of men, but the form of wolves, and will defile and devour any hapless young woman. Never talk in a graveyard at night for you will be haunted for a week, spread salt on your windowsills and doormats to keep the ghosts away, and (don’t forget!) a child born on Halloween will have the gift of communicating with the dead.
These are commonly known facts that everyone must learn and take heed of.
Frost and icy wind. A small fire crackles feebly in the dilapidated wooden hovel of a poor couple. There is a table, two stools, a mattress. Upon the worn mattress lies a woman with child, her pallid skin shining with sweat: death is near. Her husband sits helplessly by her side.
What can I do? he implores.
Get me the rapunzel from next door. Her demand is simple yet terrifying.
From the Witch’s garden? he asks fearfully.
With no other alternative, he went, crossed over the wall of the Witch’s property, ripped the Rapunzel, roots and all, from the fecund soil, and turned to see the old crone herself, looming over him menacingly. She had somehow paralysed him; all he could do was search frantically for – aha! There they were! – the wart on her hand, the hunched back, crooked nose.
Please, have mercy, he begs to no avail, My wife is sick, lying on her deathbed but still with child. She craves this plant; it will make her better, if not in body then in spirit!
The Witch has mercy. I will let you go, as long as you give me the child that will soon be born and let me raise it as my own.
In desperation, the man agrees and returns safely home to give his wife the rapunzel. She recovers, and in the early morning a baby girl is born with thick, shimmering golden hair. Before her parents can rejoice, the Witch appears at their doorstep, swoops in, and takes the baby without another word.
The Witch names the baby Rapunzel and raises her as her own, assuming the form of a woman rather than a hag. The two live contentedly together until Rapunzel’s thirteenth birthday.

She had just been buying fruit from the local stall. From underneath her long, coquettish lashes she couldn’t help but notice the vendors watching her like vultures watch a carcass. While making conversation, they leered at her and hungrily licked the saliva off their lips. It was late evening by the time Rapunzel made her way back home, close to dinnertime, and there wasn’t a soul roaming the streets. Tendrils of mist snaked up her ankles, and the cold began to bite at her skin. The eerie silence was deafening.
She was caught by surprise when they pounced.
Three ravenous wolves, the spittle dripping from their snarling jaws cornered her, snatching at her shawl, her dress. Rapunzel screamed, terrified, dropping the basket of food at her feet, and its contents scattered haphazardly across the filthy ground. Before the beasts could completely devour her, the Witch appeared in a haze of smoke, a knife gleaming in her hand. Without a second thought, she tore them apart savagely.

To protect Rapunzel from further harm, the Witch sent her to a tower far away from all creatures. There, Rapunzel forgot about the vicious beasts that had attacked her. Her golden hair grew longer and longer as the years went by, shrouding her figure until she seemed lost behind it. In an attempt to escape the smothering locks of hair, Rapunzel tied it in a long braid, but it still followed her wherever she went, a constant presence. At seventeen, Rapunzel had no hopes of ever leaving the tower, or cutting her hair off.
There are dangerous creatures, the Witch told her, Creatures ready to rip you apart, tear your hair out from your scalp and consume you. The Witch visited her every evening to make sure she had not found a means of escape. Rapunzel could have done so, quite easily, but the truth was that she was far too fearful of what would be waiting for her below.
Instead, she decided to pass the time by singing. All day she would sit by the window, bitterly brushing her hair and singing various songs that the Witch had taught her when she was young. Her voice was beautiful, and it rang out in the countryside, throughout the entire forest that surrounded her.
It was her voice that alerted him. Carnivore incarnate, with an insatiable hunger for young, moist human flesh. He caught her song in the air and inhaled deeply, sensing her whereabouts, dirty matted hackles rising. Slavering, the beast loped through the damp, dense cluster of trees, through the undergrowth and thorn bushes only to find himself at a new obstacle. Her scent was so powerful and yet he could not reach her up in the tower; he could only watch her sitting by the window in a long white dress that hugged her pale, slim figure. Red eyes wild with hunger, the beast hid and waited. Not long after, the Witch made her way to the tower once again to check on Rapunzel. After all these years her body was frail and bony, her hands were speckled with old age and her back was bent. Despite this, she carried a sword with her, hidden under a moth-eaten black cloak. Its hilt was blood red, the blade shimmering silver.
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair! The Witch called out
The beast tensed, alerted.
He had become so desperate for a taste of human tissue that he could not restrain himself. He leapt out from the bushes with a feral snarl, tongue lolling, red eyes ablaze. The Witch drew her sword, trembling.
Get away from me, animal! Be gone, I tell you! The beast pounced. He devoured her, stripped her bones clean of every scrap of meat. Hurriedly, he tossed the old crone’s skeleton and cloak aside, took the knife, and climbed Rapunzel’s hair, letting himself into the tower room.
The first thing she saw was the fresh, scarlet blood across his grizzled chin. In her heart, Rapunzel knew that her mother was dead. She backed away from this lycanthrope, hands pulling her long hair across her white dress as an ineffectual shield. The wolf watched her, esurient. Then, suddenly, Rapunzel smiled and approached him without fear, abandoning all apprehension. The beast began to reach for her unblemished white dress, overcome with anticipation, but she pushed his arm away, instead removing the dress herself, dropping it by the fire.

With that, he lunged.

The sun was a bright red ball of fire, barely peeking over the snowy mountains in the distance, bathing them in crimson. Rapunzel awoke in the early hours of the morning, and carefully extricated herself from the beast’s rough, hairy clutches. He remained unaware. She then picked her white dress up from the dusty floor, and put it back on. It had not been damaged, only slightly blackened from the ashes of the fire. The coal glowed dimly.

She tied her hair to the hook by the window for the last time, and slowly, carefully, let herself down onto the soft, dewy grass below. With the red-hilted knife that had been lying next to her dress, Rapunzel and cut her golden hair off with one short, swift motion. The braid fell apart, strand by strand, lock by lock, until the hair unravelled itself from the hook and fell, dead, to the ground. The wolf woke to the sound of Rapunzel’s joyful, soprano laughter as she ran through the trees, away from the tower and away from the beast that was trapped and left to die.

The sun’s golden rays guided Rapunzel through the forest to another town, where she prospered.

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