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Mother Gothel
Tangled character
Mother Gothel as she appears in Disney's Tangled.
First appearance Tangled (2010)
Created by Nathan Greno
Byron Howard
Portrayed by Katie Whetsell
(Tangled: The Musical)
Voiced by Donna Murphy
Based on Dame Gothel from the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale
Occupation Rapunzel's guardian
Affiliation Disney villains
Children Cassandra (daughter)
Rapunzel (foster daughter)
Ginny Gothel (daughter in Descendants)

Mother Gothel is a fictional character who appears in Walt Disney Pictures' 50th animated feature film Tangled (2010). The character is voiced by actress and singer Donna Murphy in her voice acting debut; Murphy auditioned for the role spontaneously upon learning from her agent that Disney was auditioning actresses for the film's villainous role. Loosely based on Dame Gothel in the German fairy tale "Rapunzel", Mother Gothel is a vain old woman who hoards the supremely strong healing powers of a magical gold flower to live for many, many years and remain perpetually young and beautiful. When the flower is harvested to heal the kingdom's ailing queen, its powers are inherited by the king and the queen's daughter Rapunzel, removing Gothel's access. With her life suddenly endangered, Gothel kidnaps the infant, imprisoning the princess in an isolated tower for eighteen years while posing as her mother to exploit her powers.

Inspired by Disney villainesses such as the Evil Queen and Lady Tremaine from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950), respectively, Gothel was developed by directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard into a more original, complex villain than the witch upon whom she is based because the character is forced to rely solely on her wit, charisma and intelligence as opposed to sorcery to survive. The film's most difficult character to develop, Gothel's exotic appearance, whose beauty, dark curly hair and voluptuous figure were deliberately designed to serve as a foil to Rapunzel's, was inspired by the appearance of Murphy herself and American singer Cher.

Mother Gothel has been mostly well received by film critics, who enjoyed the character's humor, complexity, charisma and showmanship, dubbing her a scene stealer, while praising Murphy's performance enthusiastically. However, some critics argued that Gothel was too passive, dismissing her as a weaker, less intimidating Disney villainess than Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961).



Mother Gothel appears in Tangled (2010). For hundreds of years, Gothel, a vain old crone, hoarded the rejuvenation powers of a magical golden flower to remain young and beautiful, while selfishly keeping the flower's existence a secret from the rest of the world. However, when the pregnant Queen of Corona falls fatally ill, the flower is desperately retrieved and fed to her, healing her and in turn inadvertently stripping Gothel of her access to what is essentially the only thing that is keeping her alive. Meanwhile, the King and Queen's newborn daughter Rapunzel is gifted with the flower's abilities, which manifest via her long, golden hair when a special song is sung so long as it remains uncut. Desperate to stay alive, Gothel kidnaps the baby princess from the palace and imprisons her in a secluded tower for eighteen years, posing as Rapunzel's "loving and protective" mother and prohibiting her from leaving, telling her that the outside world is full of dangers and people which would take advantage of Rapunzel's hair but really she just wants to keep the power of the hair to herself.

As her eighteenth birthday approaches, Rapunzel continues to grow eager to leave the tower to view the mysterious "floating lights" secretly – lanterns released annually by the King and Queen in remembrance of their lost daughter – in person. While Gothel, reprimanding Rapunzel when she asks, forbids this, she agrees to Rapunzel's request to take a three-day-long journey to retrieve art supplies for Rapunzel, giving her just enough time to escape the tower, aided by a wanted thief named Flynn Rider. However, not too far from the castle, Gothel is soon tipped off by Maximus, a guard horse who is searching for Flynn, that Rapunzel has gone missing. With her life endangered and her age rapidly increasing, Gothel desperately pursues Rapunzel and Flynn.

Enlisting the help of the Stabbington brothers, a duo of thieves who were once betrayed by Flynn, Gothel offers them both revenge on Flynn Rider and Rapunzel's gift once they agree to help her find them, not intending to keep the latter half of her promise as she only wants Rapunzel for herself. When her initial attempt to convince Rapunzel to return home with her fails, Gothel, upon a second encounter, tricks the Stabbington Brothers into immobilizing Flynn, later knocking them unconscious when they attempt to kidnap Rapunzel, appearing as she was rescuing her. Convincing Rapunzel that Flynn has betrayed her, they return to the tower. While Flynn escapes from the dungeon, Rapunzel suddenly realizes her true identity and rebels against Gothel, only to be chained and gagged. Gothel stabs Flynn upon his arrival to rescue Rapunzel, but agrees to free Rapunzel long enough to heal him on the condition that she remain with her forever. However, Flynn unexpectedly cuts Rapunzel's hair, causing it to lose its magic. It turns brown, and a horrified Gothel (failing to salvage Rapunzel's hair) ages rapidly, falling out of the tower's window but disintegrating into dust before she hits the ground, essentially dying of old age leaving her clothes behind. Flynn succumbs to his wound and dies in Rapunzel's arms, but is miraculously returned to life by Rapunzel's tears, and she is finally reunited with her biological parents.

Tangled: Before Ever After

Having aged into dust six months earlier, Mother Gothel appears in the 2D Tangled: Before Ever After only as a painting in Rapunzel's mural on her bedchamber walls. Eugene (Flynn Rider) had described how she had hoarded the mystical healing powers of the golden Sundrop Flower to sustain her youth and how she had stolen the infant princess and kept her locked up in a tower for eighteen long years. She is last mentioned when Eugene had saved Rapunzel from her wrath, which had resulted in him being stabbed to death by her silver knife.

A few days later, when the coronation ceremony was interrupted by the arrival of the notorious criminal Lady Cain had told Rapunzel that she had no idea who she was dealing with, to which Rapunzel replied that she has "dealt with much worse" as a reference to the woman who had abducted her as an infant and raised her as her own daughter for the past eighteen years.

Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure

She appears in a nightmare Princess Rapunzel had, in "What the Hair!?" after her seventy-feet long magical blonde hair had mysteriously returned nearly a week ago. She had bragged about how Rapunzel thought that she was "gone forever" and had expressed her wicked delight in seeing that her "daughter's" golden hair and its mystical properties had returned. She then comfortingly told Rapunzel that she came back to bring her back to her tower, where she would be "safe and secure." It was then that the black rock spikes, which resulted in the regrowth of Rapunzel's 70-feet golden hair, appear all around her.

In "The Quest for Varian", a smug Eugene had shown Maximus the window of the tower was "where Mother Gothel fell to her doom."

In "The Alchemist Returns", Princess Rapunzel says to her father King Fredric that he is not the first person to lie to her and say that she is not ready for the real world, as a reference to her adopted mother.

In the second season's episode "Rapunzel: Day One", Gothel is referenced by an amnesic Rapunzel who, having lost her memories, naturally thinks that Gothel is her mother. She excitedly pointed out to Cassandra that she should "try the special spice Mother makes".

She reappeared in "Rapunzeltopia" in a nightmare created by the evil magic of Tromus the Eternal, one of the ghostly disciples of the dark sorcerer Zhan Tiri. In "Lost and Found", a flashback of Lord Demantius' implies that Gothel was formerly one of his three disciples who had double-crossed him to his longtime archenemy Zhan Tiri.

In the first half of the final season premiere "Rapunzel's Return", Cassandra encountered a child-like spirit later revealed to be Zhan Tiri. Zhan Tiri reveals to Cassandra that she is Gothel's biological daughter, showing her the events following the newborn Rapunzel's abduction where Gothel abandoned her four-year old Cassandra when the Captain of Royal Guard stumbled across her cottage with him adopting the girl. Zhan Tiri exploits that resentment to turn Cassandra on her friends, lashing out at her adopted father in "Islands Apart" for hiding the truth of her mother from her. She also lashes at Rapunzel in the 2-part episode "Cassandra's Revenge", sarcastically stating to Rapunzel that they should "have a chat" about her mother choosing Rapunzel over her own flesh and blood. Rapunzel tried to explain that Gothel had abducted her and held her against her will, that it was not her decision. Still incensed, Cassandra asked if it was her decision to push her out a window.

In "A Tale of Two Sisters", it is said that Gothel's restless spirit now haunts the cottage where she had lived with a young Cassandra before deserting her. A curious Cassandra and Rapunzel go to investigate these rumors, but it is actually a ruse by the Enchanted Girl (Zhan Tiri) to further push the human hosts of the Sundrop Flower and Moonstone Opal apart. By further exploring, the two women find out that Gothel had a diary of sorts in the form of magic mirrors, that displayed her overly narcissistic self and disdain for her young daughter Cassandra. A painting of her is seen above the fireplace before it was burned by green fire. A missing broken hand mirror then showed a seemingly loving memory of Gothel expressing her motherly affection toward Cassandra but was, in truth, hiding the fact that she had only said such sweet words to keep Cassandra out of her hair for awhile, as she always considered her own child a "lousy, little pest."

In other media


In addition to the popular Mother Gothel Classic Doll and appearing alongside Rapunzel, Flynn, Pascal and Maximus in the Rapunzel Tangled Figure Play Set, the character's likeness has since been adapted and modified by Disney into a much more glamorous doll for sale alongside several re-imagined Disney villainesses as part of the company's Disney Villains Designer Collection, released in 2012. Costumed in a long burgundy gown made of satin, Gothel wears her thick black hair in "a theatrical up-do."

Once Upon a Time

Further information: Gothel (Once Upon a Time)

Mother Gothel appears on the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, portrayed by actress Emma Booth. She débuts in the seventh season and is one of the main antagonists. This version is a dryad who inherits the title of Mother Nature from the previous Queen of the Dryads named Mother Flora (portrayed by Gabrielle Miller) following a massacre on the dryads. She is the mother of Alice with the Captain Hook of the Wish Realm and became a powerful witch who is the leader of the Coven of the Eight. In Hyperion Heights, she is an accomplice of Drizella and is known as Eloise Gardener.

Kingdom Hearts

Mother Gothel made her debut appearance in the Kingdom Hearts series in Kingdom Hearts III, with Murphy reprising her role in the English version. Her role plays out as in the film, but here, she strikes an alliance with the True Organization XIII in exchange for bringing Rapunzel back to the tower. But after she restrains Rapunzel and attacks Eugene, they conclude that her extreme darkness could destroy her world and turn her into a Heartless called the Grim Guardianess to use in the Second Keyblade War, but she is quickly vanquished by Sora.

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