In their earliest version of Rapunzel, the Grimm Brothers tell us of trysts in the tower. The Prince’s visits lead to a pregnancy. (In a later edition created for children, they removed that part of the story.)
Rapunzel naively wonders why her clothes have grown so tight. Furious at the betrayal, the witch chops off Rapunzel’s hair and exiles her. The very night of Rapunzel’s banishment, the prince calls once again. Mother Gothel lowers the long braid. He climbs up and is shocked to see the crone.
“Rapunzel is lost to you forever,” she hisses. In grief and despair, he jumps from the tower, falls into a bramble patch, and is blinded by the thorns.
For years, the blind prince wanders the woods.
This is the part of the story that first resonated with me. In it, the thorns of tribulation pierce through the gossamer veil of fairytale. Like Rapunzel and the prince, Dick and I fell in love. We married. Our love stayed true. Then my husband fell ill, and it felt as if we’d fallen from grace—cast out from our idyll by dementia. Like the blind prince, Dick strayed in a pathless place as dementia shuttered his memories and dimmed his mind.
Featured image: Harry Dodge. Hawthorne: Despair, 1981. Author’s collection
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