Rachel Steiger-Meister

Rapunzel Bird

Rapunzel looks out her window. Far below her trees sway in the breeze. Back and forth, back and forth. They are free. She is not.

Rapunzel was brought to this tower long ago. By a fairy, a greedy evil fairy. Greedy for everything, roots, beets, radishes, babies. Everything new and fresh from the earth and fresh from a womb. The fairy was half ogress and the ogress side of her liked to eat. Liked to eat juicy, plump babies. She licked her lips when she saw chubby baby arms and legs.

Rapunzel was strange. The ogress did not want to eat her. Look, the ogress fairy cooed, a pretty baby, what a beautiful baby, what sort of monster would think of devouring such a charming baby? Baby of bright dark eyes, pink lips, fair skin. Coo, coo, of course I will not eat you.

Rapunzel is trapped in the tower. So high up, her face can touch the clouds. When she leans outside the window. Takes deep breaths of air.

The evil fairy kept her, didn’t let her ogress side eat her, for entertainment. Oh, what a marvel, a girl all her own. Who cares if her mother sobs buckets of tears, if her father curses himself for being ruined because of a woman’s desires. The woman, his wife, means everything to him. What would he not have done for her? Radishes, cabbages, beets seemed such meager things. He did not know the value of his daughter’s life would be measured out, equated to, baskets of vegetables.

Who knew.

Marvels wear off, thrills die.

Ew, this shrieking, pissing, pooping thing, cried the fairy ogress. I don’t want her. But now she is mine. And she is too old to eat. She is no longer tender enough cuisine for my delicate palate, my sensitive belly.

Some people think Rapunzel and the old witch woman who captured her became the best of friends. Others think they were lovers. They were neither. Rapunzel was her trash that was not easily thrown away.

So the fairy forgot about her. Left her in the tower. She was still greedy, the fairy ogress. Who cares if I don’t want to pet her or eat her, she is still mine. Greed is an ugly thing. Especially on pouchy green ogress fairy faces.

Magic comes in handy. Everyday, like clockwork, a fairy-in-training hovers by Rapunzel’s window with a day’s worth of food. Then Rapunzel is stuck there, high up, alone again.

What to do to fill the time of days and days, months and months, years and years?

Rapunzel could not speak. No one had taught her. What is a language? She did not know. One day, somehow by accident, a deep breath in, a cry from her soul out, she sang. She jumped. What was that noise? She breathed in and let out again. Oh, what a miracle!

(Who knew it would become a curse.)

Rapunzel sang. She sang from the very depth of her belly, from the bottom of a soul trapped and yearning to break free. No words. Just music. Music that floated out over the blue sky and clouds. Passion, freedom, fear.

One day a prince was galloping through the woods. What is that sound? That beautiful music? He came to the tower. He looked up. Woman. A woman was inside at the very top.

Ho there, he cried. Lady, ho, can you hear me? Rapunzel was humming to herself.
She did not hear.

Lady, lady, what are you doing all the way up there?

WAIT, Rapunzel.

Startled, she turns around. She walks across her narrow room and looks out.

Gasp. What is that thing? It has more hair than her in strange places. Its voice is gruff, not soft.

All Rapunzel can do is sing.

Lady, your voice. Your voice is more beautiful than a choir of angels. Who are you? What is your name?

All Rapunzel can do is sing.

Lady, I would take you home with me. Even from here, I can see your face is fair, your feet must be tiny. Such a lovely lady would only be proportioned in all the right ways.

No one has ever cut Rapunzel’s hair. Her hair is magic and it is long. So long that it could reach all the way down the tower to the ground if she heaved it out the open window.

But WHY would Rapunzel do that?

All Rapunzel can do is sing.

The prince comes back a few days later. He brings a legion of soldiers and the castle technician with him.

Get me that woman, he says.

Heave, ho, heave, ho. Down comes the tower tumbling, rocks tumbling here and there. Roll away through the forest. Roll away rocks, escape. Rapunzel cannot roll away. She is trapped again. Even tighter than before.

Scared. Rapunzel is scared. Scared to death, but not quite. She lives.

Who are all these creatures? Smelly, with low voices. Why does no one sound like her? Sing like her?

Coo, coo, look at you, says the prince. You are mine, all mine, what a marvel you are. You’ve never seen a man. Well, I’m all man and more. Tonight I will show you.

OW! Rapunzel would say. She would say ‘OW’ if she could. Rapunzel does not know language. Or even exclamations. Her insides are pierced with a sword. She bleeds.

Mute. Trapped. Silence all around her in the morning.

Tears glide down her cheeks. What is this water?

Coo, coo, Rapunzel bird. What new cage is this?

The sword comes too often, its metal cold, merciless.

Coo, coo, look at you. My sweet bird, says the prince.

Rachel Steiger-Meister is a PhD student in Creative Writing-Fiction at the University of Cincinnati, where she also studies folklore and Irish language and teaches creative writing and LGBTQ literature.