Thursday, 24 October 2013


Johnny Gruelle's Rapunzel
A maiden called Gruelle once lived in the attic. Aged 13, her papa locked her in when she contracted diphtheria. She was unconcerned when she heard the key turn for this was her space; her favourite place to be alone, and when she was younger, where she had found her beloved rag doll. Ever since then, Raggedy Ann had been her constant companion, and now through her, she felt connected to her papa, as he had chosen her doll's name and drawn her face. Her papa built walls around the attic so high, nobody could climb them, but once a week he stood outside and bade Gruelle to open the window.
Gruelle, Gruelle, let down your rope, so I may tie the supplies.” He would call, and when he had done, she would hoist the rope up to find out what goods he had brought. There was usually a loaf of rye or pumpernickel bread, porridge, fruit, and a jar of jam, and sometimes he would include a new storybook or a copy of his latest drawing. These surprises she delighted in: she read the stories aloud with a husky throat and pinned the drawings to her cell walls. When she was well, her morning routine was to cook porridge on her stove, make her cot bed, sweep the floor, and wash the window, and in the afternoons she read from her collection of fairytales. Her favourite was Rapunzel, and often at night she dreamt that instead of the rope she let down long, golden hair. But this she knew would never come true for her hair was dirty blonde and as short as a boy's, and with her skin turning blue, she knew she would never have a beautiful hue, but she did have a prince: her papa.
In Silvermine, she was not known as The Maiden In The Tower, but as the contagious girl in the attic. Already her Christian name, Marcella, had been forgot; even her dear papa did not call for her by this. She was Gruelle: the poisoned one. Poisoned with disease: chills, fever, and fatigue, which she could spread just by breathing. And since she could now only comfortably eat gruel her surname as a first name was fitting. But being a spirited child, this new way of life did not defeat her, although she knew there would come a time when this disease eventually would. With her mind, she travelled all over. She visited friends and her papa in his hillside studio, as well as lands she had read about, but never seen. As the illness progressed, Gruelle grew ever more peaceful.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly
She slept more in her cot with Raggedy Ann by her side or with her eyes wandered in her papa's pictures. The day came when she could no longer heed her papa's call, although it was painful to hear his distraught cries through the ajar window. That night, her heart beat its last and she slipped away, but to her astonishment, she did not die: she transformed into a graceful butterfly. A purple-black with a yellow border and iridescent blue spots. The next day when her papa stood and called outside the attic walls, she fluttered her new God-given wings and flew through the open window. In her cloaked form, she alighted on her papa's shoulder, and he being a wise man recognised this was his Marcella. He knew this was goodbye and that all dying souls depart as butterflies.