Rapunzel was not my favorite fairy tales as a girl, The Sleeping Beauty was . But when Walt Disney made the Rapunzel movie, well, I was all in and it had soon become my favorite. I also love retellings so here we are!
The story is The Witch’s Tower (Twisted Ever After #1) by Tamara Grantham, out today in the Fantasy, Young Adult genre.
Gothel is a witch. Punished for the actions of her mother, her choice is simple: either she stands guard over Princess Rapunzel—or she dies. But just because a choice is easy doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Protecting Rapunzel means watching as the princess lays trapped in a tower, bedridden by hair that is so long and heavy it’s slowly driving her insane. Gothel’s life has become one of imprisonment and solitude as well—until a prince and his handsome squire appear at the tower.
Only one object can cut Rapunzel’s hair and end the curse: a pair of magical shears. But the shears are guarded by the most terrifying witches in the land, who also happen to be Gothel’s aunts. As Gothel and the prince’s squire, Raj Talmund, work to form a plan, she finds herself more and more drawn to the mysterious young man from the Outerlands. Unfortunately, his destiny is far more dangerous than she wants to admit: to save a princess, he must kill the witch who’s been forced to guard her.
THE WITCH’S TOWER is the first in an inspired new series of fairy-tale retellings from award-winning fantasy author Tamara Grantham.
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I adjusted the pack’s straps on my shoulders. “Now, let’s get up there before Rapunzel…” I stopped myself. “Let’s get up there.”
With the pack strapped to my back, I turned to the tower. Wind rushed past, battering my hair against my cheeks, as I prepared to speak the spell.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” My words carried on the wind, echoing through the forest.
I waited, nervousness making my hands grow clammy as I held to the pack’s straps, but why did I feel so uneasy? Was it because Raj was with me?
I turned to him. He stood with haunting dark eyes as he watched a coil of ropy, matted hair drop from the tower’s only window high above us. I stepped to the length of hair and grabbed it, holding my breath against the scent of unwashed scalp. I never got used to that smell.
“Should I follow you?” Raj asked.
“Yes. But let me enter first.” Gripping the hair tightly, I started the climb. I made my way toward the window at the top of the tower. Halfway up, my muscles burned, and I focused on breathing to make it the rest of the way. This part was always the hardest, and the sack of supplies weighing me down wasn’t helping. Why did Varlocke have to put his daughter into such an impossibly tall tower?
When I reached the window, I grabbed the ledge. The worn stones felt smooth under my palms as I climbed over, then landed inside. As I straightened, I pulled off the pack and left it on the floor, then focused on the room. Moonlight illuminated the bare stones walls, the well sitting at the room’s center, the wooden chairs, roughly-hewn tables, huge bookcases cluttered with dusty spell journals and vials, and the bed where Rapunzel lay.
I stepped over the matted coils of hair. Pieces of rat and bird bones lay trapped in the knotted strands, seeming to glow white against the dark hair. The sound of gnawing stopped me.
“Rapunzel,” I said quietly. “What are you doing?”
The gnawing continued. I approached her on quiet feet, afraid of what I might find. Behind me, Raj scrambled inside the room.
Please don’t let it be the prince.
When I reached her side, her pale, skeleton-white skin glowed in the moonlight. She held a rat.
I exhaled, grateful it was only a rodent and not something—someone—else. A crust of bread and a handful of wild beets sat on the bedside table, but they were untouched.
Raj’s footsteps echoed, and I turned to face him. His tall, lean frame looked so out of place. Only the high sorcerer ever visited, and to have an Outlander squire inside my home unnerved me.
“Is she eating something?” he asked. “What is that?”
“Sorry. It’s the cat’s fault. He catches them and leaves them on her lap. He thinks he’s giving her a prize or something. Rapunzel does that with them sometimes—with the rats—eats them, I mean.” I stumbled over my words, feeling immeasurably mortified that Raj had to see it. But it could’ve been worse.
I approached her. She looked up, as if only seeing me now, and she hissed. With her red-rimmed eyes, it looked as if she hadn’t been sleeping, and her collarbones seemed to be protruding more than I remembered. Her white gown hung off her meatless frame, but at least it was the clean one I’d left for her. She’d managed to change clothes—at least there was that.
“Where is the prince?” Raj asked.
“I don’t know.” I scanned the room. With the large piles of hair covering the floor, he could’ve been hidden, but we should’ve seen some clue he was here—his feet or a hand poking out. Something. “You’re certain he came up here?”
I studied the tower more thoroughly but didn’t see anything that resembled the prince. Odd. Where was he?
Chatting with the Author
Tamara Grantham is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books and novellas, including the Olive Kennedy: Fairy World MD series and the Shine novellas. Dreamthief, the first book of her Fairy World MD series, won first place for fantasy in INDIEFAB’S Book of the Year Awards, a RONE award for best New Adult Romance of 2016, and is a #1 bestseller on Amazon with over 200 five-star reviews.
Tamara holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University. She has been a featured speaker at multiple writing conferences, and she has been a panelist at Comic Con Wizard World speaking on the topic of female leads. For her first published project, she collaborated with New York-Times bestselling author, William Bernhardt, in writing the Shine series.
Born and raised in Texas, Tamara now lives with her husband and five children in Wichita, Kansas. She rarely has any free time, but when the stars align and she gets a moment to relax, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, taking nature walks–which fuel her inspiration for creating fantastical worlds–and watching every Star Wars or Star Trek movie ever made. You can find her online at www.TamaraGrantham.com.
A Glimpse Behind the Making of The Witch’s Tower by Tamara Grantham
The first book I ever wrote was called, Thumbelina: Starring Carrie Fisher.
It was heavily plagiarized.
It came from Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theater. I don’t remember much about the show; I must’ve been three or four at the time, old enough to copy the title of my favorite movie onto the top of a stack of stapled papers.
I may not remember the plotline, but I do remember the feeling I had while watching it: enchanted.
To me, the story of a girl the size of a thumb, making her bed in a matchbox, was fascinating, and that’s when my love of fairy tales was born.
Thumbelina wasn’t my only favorite.
As children, my mom and dad, Jane and John, each owned a copy of the same fairy tale book—a book simply called Fairy Tales (retold by Katherine Gibson, illustrated by Isobel Read, Whitman Publishing, 1950.) They didn’t realize they’d both grown up reading the same book until after their marriage. Dad’s copy was in better shape than Mom’s, and that’s the one I grew up reading. Not only were the stories imaginative, but the artwork fascinated me. I would sit for hours turning the pages and being enthralled by the stories told in those images.
Ones like this one, of Rapunzel’s mother brushing her hair.
From that book, I developed a love for a wide variety of fairy tales, including Rumpelstiltskin, Swan Lake, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, and my favorite—Rapunzel.
Although I adored the story of Rapunzel, I was upset by the ending, when the witch chops off Rapunzel’s hair, and I was never satisfied by the witch’s motivations. How could she be so evil when she’d spent her life caring for Rapunzel? Those were situations that never settled well with me, for all Rapunzel’s lovely golden hair to be stripped away by the one person she called Mother—a malevolent, evil witch. I suppose those worries stayed with me, because as I grew up, I began to ponder new ways to resolve the story of Rapunzel.
It also dawned on me, while watching a popular reincarnation of the fairy tale with my own children, that to have so much hair—thirty feet—would be horrible. It wouldn’t at all be like the fairy tale. In fact, it would be constantly tangled, heavy enough to keep you bedridden, and impossible to wash.
It would be a curse.
In The Witch’s Tower, it is.
I plotted the book to reflect a little more reality, and to display the intricacies of human emotion. The witch, Gothel, isn’t evil. She’s a young girl who comes from a bad situation. Her mother cared for her but made decisions based on emotion and revenge. In an act of vengeance toward the king, who has stolen her magical radishes, Gothel’s mother places a curse on the king’s only daughter, Rapunzel, to grow hair so long, it makes her bedridden.
The king is also a man driven by selfishness. He forces Gothel to become his daughter’s caretaker and locks them both in a tower.
In writing The Witch’s Tower, I learned a lot about myself, and my own view of reality. It’s been said, “Write what you know.” In this case, I wrote what I felt. Love and friendship are the enemies of loneliness was a theme I hoped to convey.
In the course of the book, Gothel meets a prince and his squire, who agree to help her find the magical shears that will cut Rapunzel’s hair and break the curse. I won’t tell you how the story ends, but I hope you’ll find it rewarding.
After all, Rapunzel is a story of understanding each other a little better.
Not all witches are evil.
Princesses aren’t always the heroines.
Everyone deserves a chance at happily ever after.
Live long and dream on!
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