Mother Gothel is the central antagonist of Disney's Tangled franchise, serving as the main antagonist of Disney's 2010 computer-animated feature film Tangled, the posthumous overarching antagonist of Tangled: Before Ever After, a posthumous antagonist in Tangled: The Series and it's comic series.
A bit more about her origins and grim attitude is explored in Mother Knows Best: A Tale of the Old Witch.
She was eventually proven to have been the biological mother of Cassandra, whom she abandoned for the powerful healing magics in the newborn princess's hair to sustain her youth and beauty for centuries on end.
Esther in the show has appeared as her both her old and young selves. In her young form, she looks middle-aged. She has long, wavy dark black hair with gray highlights and frizzes which Cassandra, being her only biological daughter, inherited. She wears the same clothes as in the movie as well. She wears her red dress and cloak.
As her older self, Gothel hunched over and concealed most of her physical features with her black cloak. Her hair was much more gray and her skin, as expected, is much more wrinkled and pale.
As an elderly woman near the end of her life, Mother Gothel is the single witness of a drop of pure sunlight falling to the ground, creating a magical flower with healing abilities. When she sings to it and strokes its petals, she becomes younger and beautiful. Determined to keep herself beautiful and young forever, Gothel selfishly hoards the flower's power while keeping its gift a secret from the rest of the world. Centuries pass, and in that time, a kingdom prospers nearby. Its queen falls deathly ill while pregnant, and the entire kingdom searches for a cure: the fabled magic flower. Upon finding it, the king's guards uproot the plant and use it to create a tea that cures the queen, much to Gothel's dismay. The flower's abilities, meanwhile, are passed onto the Queen's child, Rapunzel. In the dead of night, Mother Gothel breaks into the castle and uses Rapunzel's long golden hair to replenish herself. When she tries to cut some of the hair for herself, however, it turns brown and the healing powers are destroyed. Desperate, Mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel and disappears into the night. She isolates the princess in a tower hidden in a forest far away from the rest of the kingdom, and raises her as her own daughter and taughts her the healing incantation. To ensure she keeps her new magic flower hidden, Mother Gothel refuses to let Rapunzel go outside, lying and telling her the world is a dangerous place where selfish people would try to hurt her and steal her hair to use her gift for themselves, while ironically, using her for her desperate need to stay young.
Eighteen years after Rapunzel's abduction, Mother Gothel is still as manipulative and "overprotective" as ever. Since childhood, Rapunzel has witnessed "floating lights" covering the sky every year on her birthday (really floating lanterns the king and queen set free to remember their lost daughter) and wants to find out what they are. On the wake of her eighteenth birthday, she works up the courage to finally ask Mother Gothel permission to see the lights in person. Fearing that she may be losing control over her flower, Mother Gothel uses subtle jabs, over-the-top guilt trips, and refrains of "Mother Knows Best" to keep Rapunzel from leaving, before firmly, and darkly ordering Rapunzel to never ask to leave the tower, again. Heartbroken, Rapunzel accepts. Subsequently, Mother Gothel leaves the tower once more, and during her absence, their home is invaded by an "on-the-run thief", who Rapunzel manages to knock unconscious and hide in the closet. When Mother Gothel returns, Rapunzel pushes her with requests to leave the tower (hoping to use the unconscious Flynn as proof that she can handle herself in the outside world). Before she is given the chance, however, Mother Gothel angrily yells, "You are not leaving this tower, EVER!". Rejected, Rapunzel changes the subject to focus on her oncoming birthday and asks Mother Gothel for paint made from white seashells as a birthday gift, which will require a three-day journey. Confident that Rapunzel is safe, an initially hesitant Mother Gothel agrees.
While on her way, Mother Gothel is encountered by a palace horse, though without a rider. Upon realizing this, she fearfully assumes the royal guards may have found the whereabouts of Rapunzel and rushes back to the tower. There, she frantically calls for Rapunzel to let down her hair, but no response is given. Mother Gothel quickly uses the secret back passageway to barge her way inside and begins a search throughout the tower. Unfortunately for her, Rapunzel is nowhere to be found. She instead finds a satchel and inside lies Rapunzel's crown from the kingdom. The sight brings a rush of a shock to Mother Gothel before a further investigation reveals a wanted poster with an illustration of the thief Flynn Rider. Mother Gothel deduces Flynn had some involvement with Rapunzel's disappearance, and leaves the tower to kill him, and reclaim her flower—dagger in hand and filled with bloodlust. When Mother Gothel comes across the Snuggly Duckling tavern, however, she overhears Rapunzel singing how happy she is now that she has left the tower. She spies Rapunzel and Flynn escaping through a hidden tunnel when the royal guards arrive and flirts with a Pub Thug before threatening him to find out where it leads.
After following Shorty's instructions to the end of the tunnel, Mother Gothel soon comes across the Stabbington Brothers, who are out to get back at Flynn for deceiving them. Using this to her advantage, Gothel gives them the crown but tells them she can offer them an even greater treasure, along with revenge on Flynn. The offer entices them, and they officially join Mother Gothel's side as her accomplices. That night, Gothel finds Rapunzel and reveals herself while Flynn is out getting firewood. She goes for a direct approach in trying to bring Rapunzel back to the tower, but Rapunzel refuses, wanting to continue her journey and admitting she has some affection toward Flynn, believing them to be reciprocated. Mother Gothel insists that Rapunzel is being naïve and the only reason why Flynn is with her is to get the crown back, which she thrusts into Rapunzel's hands and orders her to give it to him as a test of his loyalty to her before vanishing. Though Rapunzel stands her ground, Mother Gothel's words are enough to bring doubt into her mind, successfully sparking her plot.
Mother Gothel's plan is put into action while Flynn and Rapunzel watch the lanterns the next evening. Rapunzel gives Flynn his satchel to show that she trusts him. But before they kiss, Flynn spies the Stabbington Brothers on the opposite shore and tells Rapunzel to wait as he goes to talk to them. Flynn tries to apologize and return the crown to them, but they reveal that they now know about Rapunzel's powers. They find Rapunzel and tell her Flynn left with it and told them about her healing powers. She refuses to believe them until they point out Flynn sailing away on a boat, ignoring her screams. Before they can kidnap Rapunzel, Mother Gothel deceive them to appear she's rescuing her. She leads the heartbroken Rapunzel home, and Flynn, who was knocked out and tied to the boat's mast, is caught by the guards, who prepare to hang him the next morning.
Back at home, Mother Gothel undoes Rapunzel's braid and reminds her that the world is intolerant of joy and happiness and will destroy any ray of sunshine it finds as the finishing touch of destroying the princess' glimmers of optimism. After she leaves Rapunzel's bedroom to fix dinner, she overhears assorted commotion coming from the room and heads up to check on Rapunzel. Before she can enter, she is confronted by Rapunzel, who has managed to somehow uncover the truth behind her upbringing, confidently announcing her realization that she's the lost princess and that Gothel isn't her real mother. Stunned, she nervously tries to suppress these revelations, but Rapunzel denies her words. With her patience wearing thin, Gothel desperately claims her actions were out of love, but her manipulations no longer affect Rapunzel. Angered Gothel has lied and imprisoned Rapunzel her whole life for her own gain, Rapunzel physically denies the abuse and proclaims Gothel will never again be allowed to use her hair's magic from that moment forward, just as Gothel breaks free only to shatter the mirror. With her mind made, Rapunzel starts to make her leave from the tower, but a now openly sinister Mother Gothel retaliates. Off-screen, Gothel chains Rapunzel to the wall and puts a gag on her face.
Meanwhile, Flynn manages to escape the palace and journeys to rescue Rapunzel. When he arrives at the tower, he is fatally stabbed in the stomach by Mother Gothel. As Flynn starts to die from blood loss, Gothel begins to forcefully drag a shackled Rapunzel out of the tower, with intent on finding a new hideaway where Rapunzel will be forced into slavery. Desperate to save Flynn, Rapunzel vows that she will never keep trying to break free of her and is no longer going to listen, but promises to go with Mother Gothel quietly if she is allowed to heal him. Knowing Rapunzel never breaks a promise, Mother Gothel agrees. However, Flynn uses the opportunity to cut off most of Rapunzel's hair with a shard of glass before she can heal him, causing the hair to turn brown and lose its magic, allowing Rapunzel her freedom and Mother Gothel with no more power. With the source of her healing powers gone, a horrified Mother Gothel tries to salvage Rapunzel's hair and rapidly begins to age when doing so. In the midst of her hysteria, she fails to see Pascal pulling the length of Rapunzel's cut hair, which trips Gothel to fall out of the tower window. By the time Gothel's cloak finally hits the ground, only dust remains of her.
Gothel makes a cameo appearance in one of Rapunzel's paintings during the prologue scene. She is mentioned because Eugene is currently speeding through a quick summary of the events of Tangled. This prologue parallels the one in the feature film.
Other than her brief cameo, Gothel is also alluded to a few times.
During the movie's climax during Rapunzel's coronation, the antagonistic Lady Caine warns Rapunzel that "she has no idea who she's dealing with." Rapunzel retorts, "Believe me, I've dealt with much worse," referring back to Gothel's treatment half a year ago.
In the episode "What the Hair?!," Gothel appears in a nightmare to Rapunzel. After sadistically bragging about her supposed return, Gothel summons the thorn-like rocks that appeared on the night Rapunzel's hair mysteriously returned.
Gothel takes notice of the hair and suggests that she and Rapunzel return to the tower where the latter will be "safe". Rapunzel abruptly wakes from the nightmare, though it prompts her to learn more about her revived hair.
During the latter half of the first season (specifically in "The Alchemist Returns" and "Secret of the Sun Drop") Eugene bursts out at King Frederic for his treatment of his own daughter. To Eugene, Frederic is treating Rapunzel no better than how Gothel acted towards her. Frederic, like Gothel, has lied and suppressed Rapunzel's free spirit. The most eerily similar act to Gothel's is when King Frederic locks Rapunzel in the tallest tower of the castle for her "safety." Rapunzel would eventually come to discover the difference between the two, however, as Frederic's actions were out of love, whereas Gothel's were out of selfishness.
She is seen in another dream-turned-nightmare made by another of Zhan Tiri's ghostly disciples in "Rapunzeltopia".
Having witnessed the hard truth of her lonely girlhood, that her biological mother was none other than the deceased Gothel all along, Cassandra was shocked enough to take the ancient Moonstone for herself, allowing its evil magic to gradually consume her and bestow supreme power onto her. This revelation of her true heritage had prompted the tough lady-in-waiting to believe that Rapunzel's destiny was truly hers all along. She then told a shocked Rapunzel that she had had enough of always being cast aside for Rapunzel.
Many months later, after building up her fury and newfound strength with assistance from the mysterious ghostly Enchanted Girl who persistently guided and mentored her, Cassandra sarcastically said to Princess Rapunzel that they can "have another chat" about how Gothel had chosen the Princess over her own flesh and blood; the very source of her motivation for achieving true power all on her own. Princess Rapunzel reminded her that she had had no choice in the matter, as Gothel had taken her as an infant. Still incensed, Cassandra asked whether it was Rapunzel's' decision to push Gothel out a window to her death.
- What the Hair?! (nightmare)
- Rapunzel's Return (flashback)
- A Tale of Two Sisters (mirror diary & portrait)
- Once a Handmaiden... (final appearance; mirror diary)
- Gothel is the only person to have seen the creation of the mystical Sundrop Flower and unlocked its healing incantation.
- She also kept a diary of sorts, in the form of magic mirrors which were in a secret lab of hers, while she further researched the Sundrop Flower's magic of healing and longevity.
- In "Lost and Found" it is implied that she once was a pupil of Lord Demanitus, but eventually double-crossed him to his archenemy, Zhan Tiri.
- She is referenced in the movie premiere, "The Alchemist Returns" and "Rapunzel: Day One" by Princess Rapunzel.
- A popular fan-theory considered her to be the biological mother of Cassandra; this turned out to be correct.
Two Decades Ago
- "Good morning, beautiful."
- "Well, don't you look lovely today? Smoky eyes definitely work for you."
- "Today I received several compliments on my way into town. The bookseller couldn't believe how young I looked. Someone told me I was breathtaking. Can you believe it?"
- "I was paid the nicest compliment today. There I was picking out through – Cassandra, would you be a dear and sweep a little quieter?"
- "Cassandra, what are you doing in here? I thought I told you to make us dinner."
- "Here. Let me show you, sweetheart. Turn the key like this. So whenever you hear this tune, you'll think of your dear, sweet mother and the love I have for you."
- "Hopefully that'll keep her out of my hair for a while. Lousy little pest."
- "Not now, darling. Mummy's in a hurry."
- "Absolutely not! Cassandra, you know your place is here, stop with the pouting. It's very unbecoming. Now Mother needs to rush over just a teeny, tiny bit. I won't be gone long and this cottage isn't going to clean itself, you know."
- "Must I do everything?"
- "Yes, Dear."
- "Hush, child."
- "Hello, Rapunzel. Did you think I was gone forever? What's the matter, dear? Aren't you happy to see your mommy? And look! Your hair has returned! Isn't it wonderful? Come now, dear. Let's get back to your tower, where you will be safe. RAPUNZEL!"
- "Hello, Rapunzel. Oh, I've missed you, my precious flower. When will you realize I will always get the better of you? Whether you're trapped in a tower or trapped in your own mind?"
- "How many times must you realize that Mother knows best–"
- "I've dealt with much worse!"
- "This is where Mother Gothel fell to her doom."
- "You are not the first person to lie to me and tell me I am not ready for the real world."
- "Mother did say people would try and use my hair!"
- "Mother was right!"
- "You should really try the special spice Mother makes."
- "She wasn't exactly the nurturing type. When she was around, that is."
- "Honey, she was never around for me. I wonder why?"
- "It's not like I asked to be taken from my parents by a madwoman – and all Gothel ever wanted from me was my hair. She didn't love me. She didn't love either of us."
- "The only good thing Gothel ever did was bring us together."
- "Do you really think that woman cared about anyone but herself?"
- "Just like your mother- failed by your own ego."
|— Characters —|
|Main characters||Rapunzel • Eugene Fitzherbert • Cassandra • Pascal • Maximus|
|Other characters||King Frederic • Queen Arianna • Varian • Quirin • Angry and Red • Lance Strongbow • Fidella • Nigel • Hook Foot • Ulf • Xavier • Weasel • Ruddiger • Monty • Mrs. Sugarby • Old Lady Crowley • Owl • Ruthless Ruth • The Stabbington Brothers • Friedborg • Feldspar • Four Sisters • Attila • Axel • Lady Caine • Willow • Captain of the Guards • Andrew • Uumlaut • Shorty • Pete and Stan • Fernanda Pizazzo • Separatists of Saporia • The Collector • The Baron • King Herz Der Sonne • King Trevor • King Edmund • General Shampanier|