Legend says that a witch stole the princess of Corona and locked her away in a tower, hoarding her magical hair for years.
This much we know, thanks to Flynn Rider’s opening monologue. But what’s the deal with the witch? Flynn told us that she was important, and Disney Publishing’s newly released book Mother Knows Best by Serena Valentino reveals the other half of the story that has been untold for centuries. Read this exclusive excerpt to delve into the tale of how Mother Gothel came to be:
Tucked snugly away deep within the dead forest lived a family of witches. Their gray cobblestone mansion was perched on the tallest hill, which looked down on a vast landscape of lifeless trees with brittle and twisted branches that resembled long, grasping hands.
Around this forest was an impenetrable thicket of rosebushes with tiny, beautifully preserved rosebuds still clinging to them, even though they had been dead longer than anyone still living could properly recollect. This was the boundary between the land of the living and the forest of the dead, and the witches who lived in the woods rarely crossed the boundary to do harm to those living on the other side. They asked for only one thing in return: their dead.
The witches’ forest wasn’t merely filled with lifeless trees. It was where the dead rested—or so the neighboring villagers liked to tell themselves. They chose to think of the woods as a cemetery they weren’t permitted to visit, and the witches as its caretakers, though deep within their hearts they knew their deceased loved ones were given very little peace in what should have been their eternal resting place.
But we won’t concern ourselves with that part of the tale at the moment. Right now, our story centers on three sister witches—Hazel, Gothel, and Primrose—and their mother, Manea, the dreaded queen of the dead, one of the greatest and most feared witches of any age.
Manea always let it be known that her daughters were a disappointment to her, pointing out that even though the three of them were born on the same day, they were not identical. It was widely accepted in the magical realms that having identical witch daughters was a great honor. They were highly favored among the gods, because they possessed greater power and magical ability than the average witch. Though Gothel and her sisters were, by definition, triplets, they couldn’t possibly have been more different from each other.
Let’s start with Gothel, the youngest sister by a mere handful of hours. She possessed raven hair and dark features, with large expressive gray eyes. Her hair was thick, wild, and unruly, often filled with little bits of twigs or dried leaves from her following her sisters around in the dead woods and romping through the landscape of cemeteries within its boundaries. When Gothel chose to look up from one of her precious books long enough to notice her surroundings, she had a very large personality, demanding the attention of everyone in the room. She was a thoughtful, pragmatic young woman, rarely ruled by her emotions and singularly focused on eventually taking her mother’s place in the forest of the dead. There was only one thing more important to her.
Hazel, the eldest sister, was lanky and shy, with large light blue eyes. Her hair was a brilliant shade of silver, and cascaded over her shoulders like a shroud. She moved silently like a wraithlike goddess, which was fitting, really, considering where she and her sisters lived. Hazel was a soft-spoken and exceedingly empathetic young lady, always willing to listen to her sisters’ problems and lend her support.
That leaves us with Primrose. Now, she was a striking redhead, with sparkling green eyes, a peaches-and-cream complexion, and a light smattering of freckles across her nose. She was lighthearted and fun, always ready for adventure, and doomed to be entirely driven by her emotions, which some- times vexed her sisters, causing the three to quarrel.
The sisters spent much of their time in the dead woods, exploring the mausoleums and reading the names off the headstones in what felt like to the sisters a small city of the dead. They spent hours walking the various pathways of beautiful and ornate tombstones, statues, and crypts, sometimes saying the dead’s names aloud as they passed them, reciting the names off the tombstones, singing them almost like a song.
Best. Book. Ever. The magical golden flower may be the beginning of Rapunzel’s happily ever after, but there’s a lot more where that came from. Now that the book is available, we're definitely ordering a copy of Mother Knows Best to learn the rest of Mother Gothel’s history!