Rapunzel Goes Mad
by Elad Haber
Her name was Llewellyn.
An ornamental name for an ornamental girl, strange syllables and random consonants, stretching, hanging, like her useless limbs. A stump ended her right arm in a period, a broken-jointed-knee on her left leg (comma-shaped), and a missing eye, always covered by a patch; her most guarded deformity. She came from a small family with a small farm, hidden in the woods. She lived in the barn, with the horses, and was rarely seen."
Her name was Llewellyn. A pretty name for a pretty lady. Out of loneliness, she grew out her raven hair until it looked like the fluffy tails of the steers. So long they called her Rapunzel. So long it covered her arms and even went far enough down to hide her misshapen knee. She covered her missing eye with a swash of it, like a textured brushstroke on canvas. She practiced her walk until she got it right, wore a tiny brace on her knee, and a girdle to keep her back straight. She brushed her hair a thousand times each day.
At nineteen, she moved to The City. Nineteenth century New York City, rife and alive. She bought a penthouse apartment in the East Village. It was a quaint, tiny place but pretty.
Her parents gave her their savings; glad to be rid of her. Enough to buy lavish dresses and attend upscale Park Ave. parties. She was a rarity: an unescorted women, her hair like a flock of furs around her.
When introducing herself (for men were attracted to the mystery of the long-haired-lady), she said, simply, "Llewellyn." She had no last name. No family, no fortune. Yet, still, they courted her. During a gorgeous (and sometimes dreadful) Indian summer, she was the talk of the town. They waited to hear her secrets, revealed.
But she denied all her suitors. She would never allow anyone (no man nor woman) to see her true nature, to see through the hair to the truth. She took no lovers, no husbands, and no friends.
So, as the cool winds blew into the emptying streets, they stopped talking about her. She was regaled to the easy category of the female outsider, for which there are many names: "witch," "crow," "dyke," "hag," etc. And in keeping with the role, she aged quickly, badly. Cut off from the sun and the rest of the humanity, she lived alone in her high castle.
Maybe she was waiting for a prince. . .
She stopped cutting her hair and so it grew and grew and grew until it filled every inch of her tiny apartment. Walking around was like navigating a thick downpour. She often had to stretch an arm out in front of her or she'd hit a wall, or a chair. She lived a life of utter quiet, surrounded by strands of darkness.
Maybe she was happy. . .
Eventually, Llewellyn woke up from her decades-long-nap. She pushed aside clumps of hair, like coagulated dough, and looked at herself in a mirror. An old woman, half an arm, one leg shorter than the other, one eye missing. She laughed. She laughed at herself.
A wild, animal air about her, she ran out of her apartment, naked, trailing her masses of hair like a thousand-tied-together-wedding-dress-trains. She escaped her building onto moonlit streets, deserted. She roared, with a mixture of tears and uncontrollable laughter, "HERE I AM! THIS IS ME! MY NAME IS LLEWELLYN!"
One witness, recalling the sight the next day, reported seeing a "naked, crazy woman, raving, carrying a dozen quilts behind her." "Most rude," said another, "she woke up half the neighborhood!"
One man, an older gentleman in a top hat and a neat black suit, called this writer over for a hushed conference. He said he recognized the woman, the endless Rapunzel-hair, from a long ago party.
He said, "Her name was Llewellyn."
About the author:
Elad Haber is 25 years old. He grew up in the Bronx, went to college in San Francisco, and now lives a calmer, suburbanite life in South Florida. Another in his series of Angela Carter-inspired fairytale retellings was recently featured in the November 2004 issue of Fortean Bureau.