“The World is Cruel, My Daughter” by Cory Skerry
She must protect her daughter at all costs. Even if it means locking her up in this strange tower. The world is just too cruel for her precious girl. Her perfect purplish forget-me-not eyes and golden hair make her so perfect and innocent. No one would ever get the chance to taint her perfection. When the boys from town get too close to her daughter, they all end up missing. A twist on a favorite classic, we finally get to see what really happened to Rapunzel in this tantalizing short tale by Skerry.
About the Author
Writes impossible things and paints what he shouldn’t. When this meatsuit fails, he’d like science to put his brain into a giant killer octopus body, with which he promises to be responsible and not even slightly shipwrecky. Pinky swear.
She loved her daughter more than anything. She was even willing to kill for her daughter in order to keep her innocent. She was a beautiful girl with purplish eyes the color of forget-me-nots, and had long golden hair that reached down to her ankles. Her daughter lived her entire life in the tower her mother had built her. Every year on her birthday, she is allowed to discover a different room in the house. Some of the rooms were filled with books, others with musical instruments, and another full of colorful windows that shone brilliantly when the sun struck them.
The main character is not given a name. We just know she is the mother of a beautiful girl. We don’t get the daughters name until the end of the story. The mother is physically disfigured. She’s described to have a bald head, with burn scars and deep gashes. Her hands are also scarred with talon-like nails. She is brutal. She kills in cold blood and gouges out eyes. She’s obsessed with her daughter and doesn’t want anyone to even look at her.
She had a piano man come to assemble a piano together for her daughter. Once he completed his task, she killed him and buried his body where no one would find out. She did the same with the glasiers that installed the beautiful stained-glass windows in the tower. When a boy follows the mother home and attempts to talk to the daughter, the mother kills him and hides his body. A second boy snuck passed her. She caught him talking to the daughter, although she lied and said she was not talking to anyone. The mother did not believe her, she finds him and kills him.
The mother comes to realize that she has been falling asleep more so than usual. She also came to realize, that her daughter made her tea and she would always fall asleep right after. One day she switched their tea. When the daughter fell asleep, a young boy came climbing up the daughter’s window, telling her the many plans of how they would leave and go live in a house that the boy’s father was to build for them. When the boy finally realizes that he is in fact talking to the mother and not the daughter, it was too late to turn back. She had him. She kills him, gouges his eyes, and hides his body. When the daughter wakes, she finds that her date never came. She blames it on the fact that she had fallen asleep. Maybe he would come back. He never comes back and never attempts to reach her.
The daughter is devastated. She used to sing happy love songs, full of romance. Now she sings sad songs of unrequited love. The daughter mopes around the house for a few weeks, when the boy does not return. One day, she has a sudden need to clean the tower from top to bottom. She cleans and cleans, and finally reaches the kitchen. As she cleans, she comes across jars full of eyes. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes…
She sees the eyes of the boy she loves. She screams and starts to yell. It dawns on her what exactly her mother truly was. At this moment the daughter realizes that her mother was a witch. She goes back to her room and locks herself in. We learn that this is in fact Rapunzel. The wicked witch had stolen her and kept her hostage. Rapunzel is so heartbroken she takes her own life. She hangs herself by her own hair.
The wicked witch had stolen Rapunzel, killed her parents, and buried them beneath the tower where she kept Rapunzel all her life. She buried her body with her parents, but kept her bones as a necklace around her neck. The witch also makes a scarf out of Rapunzel’s hair and wears it with the necklace.
Skerry shows real discipline and craft as he chronicles a loving mother recounting the early life of her daughter with only beauty and adoration. But as she grows older and the questions come, the mother recalls close calls of her daughter connecting with the world that has scarred her for life both physically and emotionally, and the extent of her gruesome need to protect her, no matter the cost or transgression. By denying her daughter access to the world the mother’s own murky history slowly bobs to the surface as her daughter’s is stunted and eventually squelched. As the bodies pile up, both past and present, the mother breaks her daughter’s heart in a way that is unrepairable, and in the end, the world continues to scar the shell of a mother that has now become the cruelest of wardens. Throughout the story Skerry pushes us to ask questions that the reader will never know, which doubles down on the horrific events that transpire. Is she really a witch? Why did she choose to kidnap her? Was it selfishness, did she recognize something in her parents that was part of the cruel world that scarred her, or was it a need to have something beautiful to occlude her tainted vision of the outside world? These are only a few of the questions we are forced to ponder.