Rapunzel has everything: A mansion with a huge garden to play in. Servants who are nice to her. A friendly guard who teaches her lasso tricks behind Mother Gothel’s back.
But the mansion is except for servants, the garden is surrounded by a huge wall, and the servants are being paid to be nice to her. And she keeps having strange dreams of a happier time when she was young, with a mother other than Gothel.
But Mother Gothel doesn’t like to hear about Rapunzel’s dreams, or answer questions about the outside world. So one day, on her twelfe birthday, Rapunzel climbs over the wall to find out for herself.
The country outside of the garden is mostly a barren wasteland, filled with slaves who work in Gothel’s mines and people who can’t pay Gothel for her growth magic. Rapunzel’s real mother, Kate, is one of the mine workers, who persuaded her husband to steal her some rapunzel from Mother Gothel’s garden when she was pregnant. For this crime, Gothel took their daughter when she was three years old to raise as her own daughter.
Once she knows the truth, Rapunzel doesn’t want to have anything to do with Gothel or the kingdom she is building, but Gothel is prepared for this, too. She sticks Rapunzel in a prison carved out of a tree. It is nice enough, with a bed and plenty of food, but the only thing to do is read and re-read the three books allowed in the prison, and practice her rope tricks.
Over the four years in the tower, Rapunzel’s hair is ridiculously long, and she uses it as her escape. Since she last saw the outside world, Mother Gothel’s tyrannical rule has extended further, and lawlessness abounds. Rapunzel’s sense of justice has survived the years in the tower, so she teams up with Jack, a thief-turned-vigilante, to rescue her mother and teach Gothel a lesson.
Shannon Hale (one of my favorite fantasy writers), her husband Dean Hale, and (unrelated) illustrator Nathan Hale have created a great retelling of Rapunzel. Set in the Wild West, Rapunzel’s Revenge is a sweet, funny story, which I especially liked because Rapunzel rescues herself (as opposed to waiting for a prince), has a sidekick who had some brushes with the law, and in the end manages to find her own happily-ever-after… Old West style!
The sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge is Calamity Jack, which I can’t wait to read. I’m going to keep my eye on this trio, and I hope they’ll write more retellings soon!