The kingdom awoke on a bright, warm morning, to the sound of the bells, ringing out their song from the chapel. The citizens of the kingdom set about their daily lives, fishing, baking, making their living any way they could. One citizen in particular, a gypsy named Clopin, was an entertainer and now held a puppet show for the children of the kingdom.
"Ah, listen," he said as the bells rang through the air. "They're beautiful, no? So many colors of sound, so many changing moods… Because you know… they don't ring by themselves…"
"They don't?" Clopin's puppet asked, his squeaky voice even higher with surprise.
"No, silly boy," Clopin told his puppet, as the children tittered. "Up there, high, high in the bell tower lives the mysterious bell ringer. Who is this creature?"
"Who?" The puppet echoed.
"What is he?"
"How did he come to be there?"
The children laughed again and Clopin smiled, continuing. "His story, dear children, is one of two. Two stories, intertwined, which changed our kingdom forever. This is the tale of a princess and a monster…"
Zachary Day Presents…
Our story begins with the sun. One day, long, long ago, a single drop of sunlight fell to earth. And from that drop of sunlight a flower grew… a flower with incredible power. This flower was discovered by a woman known only as Mother Gothel, who found the flower granted her youth when she sang a simple song.
"Flower gleam and glow. Let your power shine. Make the clock reverse; bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt. Change the fate's design. Save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine, what once was mine…"
For centuries she kept the flower hidden away, keeping herself forever young. But one day, in the nearby kingdom, the young queen fell ill. The king loved his wife dearly, and was desperate to save her and their unborn child from death. And so, the entire kingdom began to search for the fabled flower. Finally they found it, in spite of Gothel's attempts to hide it, and from the flower an elixir was made, and given to the ailing queen.
To the kingdom's relief, the queen's health returned and she gave birth to a beautiful daughter with hair the color of the sun. To celebrate the birth of the princess a festival was held, and bright lanterns were released into the air. Never before had the kingdom been so full of joy and laughter.
But it would not last…
Gothel, desperate to regain her youth, had heard of the princess with the golden hair. One night, as the kingdom slept, she snuck into the castle, creeping silently into the royal bedchamber where the princess slept in her crib.
Gothel stood over the sleeping child, staring intently at the golden locks as she began to sing, very softly, "Flower gleam and glow… let your power shine…" Just as she hoped, the hair began to glow with the flower's magic, and she reached a hand down to take a lock between her fingers. Already her hand became young and beautiful again, and she smiled as she took her scissors to the hair. "Make the clock reverse… bring back what once was…" She gasped. For when she cut the hair away its power faded, and it turned from golden yellow to brown in her hand. When she looked at the sleeping child she saw the hair where she had cut it turn brown and powerless as well, right down to the scalp. Thankfully the rest of her hair remained the same, but Gothel knew there was only one way to get her youth back now and she snatched the child from her crib.
The baby began to cry, waking her parents just as Gothel ran to the window. She cast the king and queen a glare before she escaped, keeping to the shadows as the king sounded the alarm. Guards frantically began to search for the kidnapper, but it was too late. Gothel had made it out of the palace and snuck away into the woods.
The order was made immediately for the princess and her abductor to be found, and for days guards scoured the kingdom. It was at this time that a group of gypsies attempted to leave the kingdom. Their people, more than anyone, had come under suspicion after the princess vanished, and they were all but persecuted by the guards who saw them as nothing but thieves. Three gypsies--two men and one woman--snuck silently to the docks one night, in hopes of escaping suspicion for a crime they did not commit. The young woman carried her son with her, trying in vain to silence his crying. "Shut it up, will you?!" One of the men hissed.
The woman spoke quietly to her child, "hush little one," as they approached a man on the dock who would ferry them out of the kingdom. But before they could even set foot in the boat, they became surrounded by guards. The guards alone, with their swords drawn, were intimidating enough, but the figure the gypsies saw ride toward them on a tall, black horse, was by far more frightening than any guard. "Judge Claude Frollo," one of the men gasped.
Frollo, the kingdom's minister of justice, was a hard, intimidating man, obsessed with purging the world of vice and sin. It was he, in the king and queen's state of grief, who had ensured the gypsies were persecuted for the princess' disappearance.
"Bring these Gypsy vermin to the palace of justice," Frollo ordered. He saw the woman and saw she was carrying a baby. "No doubt these are the kidnappers attempting to escape," he said. "Take the child from her."
Two guards stepped forward to carry out the order, but the woman ducked away from them and ran as fast as she could, clutching her son to her chest. Frollo scowled angrily at the fleeing gypsy and spurred his horse forward to pursue her himself.
The frightened woman, desperate to protect her child, ran to the cathedral's large, wooden doors. She pounded on them, screaming out, "sanctuary! Please, give us sanctuary!"
But it was too late. Frollo was upon her, and he grabbed at the blanket the child was wrapped in. The mother tried her hardest to hold onto the crying baby, but Frollo mercilessly kicked her away. She fell backwards on the steps, bashing her head against the cold, hard stone.
Frollo sneered down at the lifeless body of the gypsy woman. Her death meant nothing to him, just one less sinful criminal to taint his kingdom. The kidnapper had brought it upon herself, anyway. Yes, Frollo was convinced he would be greatly rewarded for finding the princess at last, and he smiled proudly as he unwrapped the child in his arms. But he was shocked to find not the golden haired princess in his arms but a red-haired boy… No, not a boy. Surely, Frollo thought, this was a monster! For the child was terribly deformed. He was hunchbacked, with the most frightful, twisted face he had ever seen.
This must be the result of some unholy demon, Frollo thought. Surely the gypsy was a witch, and this child her demonic offspring. Such a creature could not be allowed to live…
That was when he saw a well nearby…
Frollo turned his horse toward the well and held the deformed creature above it, determined to drop the monster into its black depths. He would have let go at that moment, but a voice called out, "stop!" And Frollo turned to see the archdeacon rushing out from the doors of the cathedral.
"This is an unholy demon," Frollo explained. "I am sending it back to hell where it belongs."
"Do you see the innocent blood you have spilled?" The Archdeacon asked Frollo as he knelt by the gypsy woman's lifeless body, cradling her head gently. "You have committed a terrible sin, Frollo!"
"She was a criminal," Frollo explained. "She ran, I pursued. My conscience is clear!"
"And now you would add this child's blood to your guilt?" The Archdeacon asked. "You can lie to yourself, to your minions, even to the people of this kingdom… But God's eyes have seen what you have done. You cannot lie to him!"
Frollo sneered. The old man was a fool. And yet, suddenly… Frollo felt eyes upon him. The eyes of the many statues around him. The angels, the disciples of Christ, the Virgin Mary, all seemed to look upon him now, glaring, accusing… It was as if all of Heaven was casting its gaze upon him, whispering "you are guilty…"
For the first time in his life, Frollo felt fear for his immortal soul. "What must I do?" he asked the archdeacon.
The kindly old man covered the young woman's face and gently picked her up. "Care for the child," he told Frollo. "Raise him as your own."
"What?" Frollo scowled at the hideous child in his arms. "I am to be saddled with this misshapen…?" suddenly, a change came over Frollo's features. He no longer scowled, but rather looked upon the child, as if pondering a thought. The thing was ugly, yes, but perhaps not a demon. Perhaps it might even be taught… "Very well," he said at last. "But let him live here, with you."
"Live here?" The Archdeacon asked. "Where?"
"The bell tower perhaps. Where he's kept locked away, and no one can see him. And who knows? Our lord works in mysterious ways." Frollo smiled to himself." "This foul creature may someday be of use to me…"
The archdeacon agreed, and the child was given a home high in the bell tower.
Meanwhile, the search for the princess continued. But to no avail. Gothel had escaped to the woods outside the castle, where she found a tall, hidden tower. There she hid the princess, raising her as her own and keeping herself young with her magical hair.
The years passed by, and both children grew up knowing nothing of the world outside their towers. The princess, raised as Gothel's daughter, was given the name Rapunzel, while the boy received the cruel name of Quasimodo by Frollo.
Every year, on Rapunzel's birthday, the people of the kingdom would hold a festival, just as they had to celebrate her birth, and after sunset they released thousands of lanterns into the air in hopes that one day their lost princess would one day return.
It was these lanterns that both Rapunzel and Quasimodo watched from their towers every year, gazing in wonder at the beautiful lights in the sky as they dreamed of the day their lives would truly begin…