Rapunzel, Rapunzel

February 27, 2016 at 5:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

You always hated that story.

You still remember the book in your mother’s hands, the golden braid on the cover pouring down from the turret. She kept trying to show you the pictures, but your scowl was stubborn.

Fucking Rapunzel.


You sat behind Faye Littlemore in French class and never learned to pronounce ‘Je voudrais une pomme’ properly because all you could think about was sliding one of her fat little plaits between the blades of your scissors and hearing the metal groan.

You learned to wear headbands and scarves. You could never get away with a hat. You cut your hair yourself; no-one else was allowed near. You owned bone brushes that hurt your tender scalp, but you deserved it.

Trichotillomania… seven syllables from a sullen mouth, as your fingers snaked upwards.

The compulsive urge to pull one’s hair out.

Rapunzel 1

You read about Rapunzel syndrome, where sufferers actually ate the hair they wrenched free. The strands knotted inside them, plump and dark, deep within their belly like a swallowed secret.

You also read that knots in hair are tied by elves, and when unwoven, bring all manner of black magic to the bearer. You wondered who had climbed into your hair and tied it full of spells, and tried to remember how Rapunzel ended. You vaguely remembered a prince, but all you truly recalled was a patch of thorns that took someone’s eye out. You knew the Brothers Grim filled their forests with shadows.

Rapunzel 2

It’s Medusa who came to your rescue. You sat in the tattooist’s chair and watched the snakes take shape on your skin. You had your hair coiled in a braid, not wanting temptation as the pain gained momentum.

Your back was straight when you climbed down and walked to the mirror five hours later. Medusa stared back from your skin. Your goddess was sure and sensual, hands on hips, head up. You imagined your tresses as alive and serpentine, curling around your face, framing you, protecting you. Your fingers didn’t rise, but for the first time, stayed at your side.

Matt Burke Photography

Matt Burke Photography

Today you stood in front of your class of international students, teaching them animal vocabulary. You wrote the words ‘lion’s mane’ on the board.

“You can also use the word ‘mane’ for a person’s hair, if it’s long and thick,” you explained.

“Like yours?” one asked.

You ran a hand through your hair, falling in deep red waves almost to your waist. You imagined your snakes as they writhed, glowing in the late afternoon sunshine. It’s all you could do not to reach up and pat them.

“Yes,” you told the class. “Like mine.”

(The original version of this story first appeared in Monkeybicycle Literary Magazine, 2012. This edited version is for an upcoming radio show on the topic of ‘obsession’, broadcast dates to be confirmed).



  1. loopsta said,

    This makes me giggle with delight!

    • inkymouth said,

      Thank you, Lou Lou! Love that you pop your lovely head in here to read my ink x

  2. gretchen said,

    I can’t wait to hear this read, and to come see your beautiful face. x

  3. I Am Mai said,

    very poetic!

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