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The Golden Braid

The Golden Braid

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The Golden Braid

4/5 (9 évaluations)
368 pages
4 heures
Nov 17, 2015


From New York Times bestselling author comes The Golden Braid, a Rapunzel retelling that proves the one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.

Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.

The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?

As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery is about to be revealed after seventeen years of lies. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

The Golden Braid is a delightful, page-turning retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Dickerson brings this familiar fairy tale to life with a fresh and unique plot that is full of complex characters, a sweet romance, and danger at every turn. Rapunzel’s search to understand her place in the medieval world is a timeless identity struggle that modern readers will relate to. Her growing courage and faith are inspirational and will have readers cheering her on and sad to see the story come to an end.” —Jody Hedlund, bestselling author of An Uncertain Choice

Nov 17, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Melanie Dickerson is a New York Times bestselling author and a Christy Award winner. Her first book, The Healer’s Apprentice, won the National Readers’ Choice Award for Best First Book in 2010, and The Merchant’s Daughter won the 2012 Carol Award. Melanie spends her time daydreaming, researching the most fascinating historical time periods, and writing stories at her home near Huntsville, Alabama, where she gathers dandelion greens for her two adorable guinea pigs between writing and editing her happily ever afters. Visit her online at MelanieDickerson.com; Facebook: MelanieDickersonBooks; Twitter: @MelanieAuthor.  

Aperçu du livre

The Golden Braid - Melanie Dickerson

Chapter One

Late winter, 1413, the village of Ottelfelt, Southwest of Hagenheim, the Holy Roman Empire

Rapunzel, I wish to marry you."

At that moment, Mother revealed herself from behind the well in the center of the village, her lips pressed tightly together.

The look Mother fixed on Wendel Gotekens was the one that always made Rapunzel’s stomach churn.

Rapunzel shuffled backward on the rutted dirt road, I am afraid I cannot marry you.

Why not? He leaned toward her, his wavy hair unusually tame and looking suspiciously like he rubbed it with grease. I have as much land as the other villagers. I even have two goats and five chickens. Not many people in Ottelfelt have both goats and chickens.

She silently repeated the words an old woman had once told her. The truth is kinder than a lie.

I do not wish to marry you, Wendel. She had once seen him unleash his ill temper on one of his goats when it ran away from him. That alone would have been enough to make her lose interest in him, if she had ever felt any.

He opened his mouth as if to protest further, but he became aware of Mother’s presence and turned toward her.

"Frau Gothel, I—"

I shall speak to you in a moment. Her mother’s voice was icy. Rapunzel, go home.

Rapunzel hesitated, but the look in Mother’s eyes was so fierce, she turned and hurried down the dirt path toward their little house on the edge of the woods.

Aside from asking her to marry him, Wendel’s biggest blunder had been letting Mother overhear him.

Rapunzel made it to their little wattle-and-daub structure and sat down, placing her head in her hands, muffling her voice. Father God, please don’t let Mother’s sharp tongue flay Wendel too brutally.

Mother came through the door only a minute or two later. She looked around their one-room home, then began mumbling under her breath.

There is nothing to be upset about, Mother, Rapunzel said. I will not marry him, and I told him I wouldn’t.

Her mother had that frantic look in her eyes and didn’t seem to be listening. Unpleasant things often happened when Mother got that look. But she simply snatched her broom and went about sweeping the room, muttering unintelligibly.

Rapunzel was the oldest unmarried maiden she knew, except for the poor half-witted girl in the village where they’d lived several years ago. That poor girl drooled and could barely speak a dozen words. The girl’s mother had insisted her daughter was a fairy changeling and would someday be an angel who would come back to earth to punish anyone who mistreated her.

Mother suddenly put down her broom. Tomorrow is a market day in Keiterhafen. Perhaps I can sell some healing herbs. She began searching through her dried herbs on the shelf attached to the wall. If I take this feverfew and yarrow root to sell, I won’t have any left over, she mumbled.

If you let me stay home, I can gather more for you.

Her mother stopped what she was doing and stared at her. Are you sure you will be safe without me? That Wendel Gotekens—

Of course, Mother. I have my knife.

Very well.

The next morning Mother left before the sun was up to make the two-hour walk to Keiterhafen. Rapunzel arose a bit later and went to pick some feverfew and yarrow root in the forest around their little village of Ottelfelt. After several hours of gathering and exploring the small stream in the woods, she had filled two leather bags, which she hung from the belt around her waist. This should put Mother in a better mood.

Just as Rapunzel reentered the village on her way back home, three boys were standing beside the lord’s stable.

Rapunzel! Come over here!

The boys were all a few years younger than she was.

What do you want? Rapunzel yelled back.

Show us that knife trick again.

It’s not a trick. She started toward them. It is a skill, and you will never learn it if you do not practice.

Rapunzel pulled her knife out of her kirtle pocket as she reached them. The boys stood back as she took her stance, lifted the knife, and threw it at the wooden building. The knife point struck the wood and held fast, the handle sticking out perfectly horizontal.

One boy gasped while another whistled.

Practice, boys.

Rapunzel yanked her knife out of the wall and continued down the dusty path. She had learned the skill of knife throwing in one of the villages where she and Mother had lived.

Boys and old people were quick to accept her, an outsider, better than girls her own age, and she tried to learn whatever she could from them. An old woman once taught her to mix brightly colored paints using things easily found in the forest, which Rapunzel then used to paint flowers and vines and butterflies on the houses where she and Mother lived. An older man taught her how to tie several types of knots for different tasks. But the one skill she wanted to learn the most had been the hardest to find a teacher for.

She walked past the stone manor house, with the lord’s larger house just behind it and the courtyard in front of it. On the other side of the road were the mill, the bakery, and the butcher’s shop. And surrounding everything was the thick forest that grew everywhere man had not purposely cleared.

Endlein, one of the village girls, was drawing water from the well several feet away. She glanced up and waved Rapunzel over.

Rapunzel and her mother were still considered strangers in Ottelfelt as they had only been there since Michaelmas, about half a year. She hesitated before walking over.

Endlein fixed her eyes on Rapunzel as she drew near. So, Rapunzel. Do you have something to tell me? Some news of great import? She waggled her brows with a smug grin, pushing a strand of brown hair out of her eyes.

No. I have no news.

Surely you have something you want to say about Wendel Gotekens.

I don’t know what you mean.

Endlein lifted one corner of her mouth. Perhaps you do not know.

Know what?

That your mother has told Wendel he cannot ever marry you because the two of you are going away from Ottelfelt.

Rapunzel’s stomach turned a somersault like the contortionists she had seen at the Keiterhafen fair.

She should have guessed Mother would decide to leave now that a young man had not only shown interest in her but had declared his wish to marry her. The same thing happened in the last two villages where they had lived.

Rapunzel turned toward home.

Leaving without saying fare well? Endlein called after her.

I am not entirely sure we are leaving, Rapunzel called back. Perhaps Mother will change her mind and we shall stay.

She hurried down the road, not even turning her head to greet anyone, even though the baker’s wife stopped to stare and so did the alewife. She continued to the little wattle-and-daub cottage that was half hidden from the road by thick trees and bushes. The front door was closed, even though it was a warm day for late winter.

Rapunzel caught sight of the colorful vines and flowers she had only just finished painting on the white plaster walls and sighed. Oh well. She could simply paint more on their next house.

Pushing the door open, Rapunzel stopped. Her mother was placing their folded coverlet into the trunk.

So it is true? We are leaving again?

Why do you say ‘again’? We’ve never left here before. She had that airy tone she used when she couldn’t look Rapunzel in the eye.

But why? Only because Wendel said he wanted to marry me? I told you I would not marry him even if you approved of him.

You don’t know what you would do if he should say the right thing to you. Her tone had turned peevish as she began to place their two cups, two bowls, pot, and pan into the trunk.


I know you, Rapunzel. You are quick to feel sorry for anyone and everyone. She straightened and waved her hand about, staring at the wall as though she were talking to it. What if Wendel cried and begged? You might tell him you would marry him. He might beg you to show him your love. You might . . . you might do something you would later regret.

I would not. Rapunzel’s breath was coming fast now, her face hot. It wasn’t the first time Mother had accused her of such a thing.

You don’t want to marry a poor, wretched farmer like that Wendel, do you? Who will always be dirty and have to scratch out his existence from the ground? Someone as beautiful as you? Men notice you, as well they might. But none of them are worthy of you . . . none of them. It was as if she had forgotten she was speaking to Rapunzel and was carrying on to herself.

Mother, you don’t have to worry that I will marry someone unworthy. Rapunzel could hardly imagine marrying anyone. One had to be allowed to talk to a man before she could marry him, and talking to men was something her mother had always discouraged. Vehemently.

Mother did not respond, so Rapunzel went to fold her clothes and pack her few belongings.

As she gathered her things, she felt no great sadness at the prospect of leaving Ottelfelt. She always had trouble making friends with girls near her own age, and here she had never lost her status as an outsider. But the real reason she felt no regret was because of what she wanted so very badly, and it was not something she could get in tiny Ottelfelt.

Rapunzel was at least nineteen years old, and she could stay in Ottelfelt without her mother if she wanted to. However, it would be difficult and dangerous—unheard of—unless she was married, since she had no other family. But if they went to a large town, there would certainly be many people who knew how to read and might be willing to teach her.

Mother, you promised someday you would find someone who could teach me to read. Might we go to a large town where there is a proper priest who knows Latin, a place where there might dwell someone who can teach me to read and write? She held her breath, watching her mother, whose back was turned as she wrapped her fragile dried herbs in cloths.

Finally, her mother answered softly, I saw someone in Keiterhafen this morning, someone who . . . needs my help with . . . something.

Rapunzel stopped in the middle of folding her clothes, waiting for Mother to clarify the strange comment.

And now we will be going to meet him in Hagenheim.

Her heart leapt. Hagenheim was a great town, the largest around.

She tried not to sound eager as she asked, Isn’t that where you lived a long time ago, when Great-Grandmother was still alive?

Yes, my darling. Your great-grandmother was the most renowned midwife in the town of Hagenheim—in the entire region. She paused. Someone I once knew will soon be back in Hagenheim after a long stay in England.

I don’t remember you saying you knew anyone who went to England. Is it a family member?

Her mother turned to Rapunzel with a brittle smile. No, not a family member. And I have never mentioned this person before. I do not wish to talk about it now.

The look on Mother’s face kept Rapunzel from asking any more questions. Mother had never had friends, and she had never shown any interest in marrying. Although she could marry if she wished. She was still slim and beautiful, with her long, dark hair, which had very little gray.

Later, as Rapunzel finished getting her things ready to tie onto their ox in the morning, she hummed a little song she’d made up. Mother enjoyed hearing her songs, but only when no one else was around.

When night fell, Rapunzel sang her song as Mother finished braiding Rapunzel’s long blond hair. Mother smiled in her slow, secretive way. My precious, talented girl.

Rapunzel embraced her and crawled under the coverlet of their little straw bed.

The next day Rapunzel trudged beside her mother down the road, which was nothing more than two ruts that the ox carts had worn deep in the mud that had then dried and become as hard as stone. She led their ox, Moll, down the center between the ruts, careful to avoid stepping in the horse and ox dung. Their laying hens clucked nervously from the baskets that were strapped to Moll’s back.

Night began to fall. Rapunzel lifted her hand to her face and rubbed the scar on her palm against her cheek absentmindedly. She’d had the scar, which ran from the base of her thumb to the other side of her hand, for as long as she could remember. The skin over it was smooth and pale, like a long crescent moon.

How much farther to Hagenheim, Mother?

At least two more days.

Rapunzel didn’t mention what she was thinking: that a band of robbers could easily be hiding in the trees at the side of the road. It was not safe for two women to be traveling alone, although they had never been attacked in all the times they had moved from one village to the next.

They had also never traveled so far. They normally only journeyed a few hours.

When the moon was up and shining brightly, and they had not encountered any other travelers for at least an hour, Mother said, We will stop here for the night.

Rapunzel guided the ox off the road and among the dark trees.

They made a small fire and prepared a dinner of toasted bread, cheese, and fried eggs.

After making sure the ox and hens had food, and after putting out their fire, Rapunzel and Mother lay close together, wrapped in their blankets. Rapunzel sang softly until Mother began to snore.

The next day was uneventful and the unusually warm weather continued. The sun shone down on Rapunzel’s head and shoulders as she plodded along at the speed of the ox and to the sound of the chickens’ clucking and squawking. Occasionally she amused herself and Mother with her songs, but she always stopped singing when someone came within listening distance. Her mother had warned her not to let strangers hear her beautiful voice or see her golden, ankle-length hair, which Rapunzel kept covered with a scarf and sometimes a stiff wimple. But Mother had never explained why. Perhaps she just didn’t want Rapunzel attracting attention to herself for the same reason she didn’t want her singing or speaking to men, young, old, or in-between.

On the second day of their journey, two travelers caught up with them, leading two donkeys that pulled a cart loaded and covered by burlap, with one of the men riding on the tallest lump on the back of the cart. As they passed by to Rapunzel’s right, the man leading the donkeys smiled. Pardon me, but would you know how close we are to Hagenheim town?

We should reach it by tomorrow night. Rapunzel noticed a big scar on the side of his face. You may reach it sooner since you are moving faster.

Thank you, kind maiden. He nodded.

Mother turned to stare hard at something just behind them. The second man stared pointedly at their bundles and baskets tied to Moll’s back. When the man’s eyes darted to hers, the hair on the back of her neck stood up at the look in his eyes and the strange smile on his face.

A good day to you. He spoke politely, and they moved ahead until they rounded a shady bend in the road and disappeared.

She sighed in relief, until her mother said in her irritable tone, Don’t speak to strangers, Rapunzel. You know it is dangerous.

He only asked a simple question. Besides, he didn’t look dangerous.

Dangerous men are the ones who take care not to look dangerous.

Clouds encroached on the sun, sending a shadow creeping over her shoulder. As they entered the double shadow of the trees that hung over the curve in the road, the cart that had passed them a few moments before sat idle several feet ahead. Its two owners were nowhere in sight.

Rapunzel felt a sensation like bugs crawling over her skin. She put her hand on her belt, where she usually kept her knife, but it was not there. She must have left it in their food bag when she put everything away after their midday meal. Should she stop? Or speed up?

Before she could decide, she heard footsteps running up behind her. She spun around just as the man who had smiled at her earlier reached his hands toward her. And he was still smiling.

Chapter Two

Mother screamed. The scarred man clamped his hand over Mother’s face.

Get away! Rapunzel yelled. While her head was turned, the smiling man closed the gap between them and grabbed her hands. She screamed, and the man with the scar on his face yelled, Shut her up!

He grabbed her face, his fingers biting into her cheek, smothering her screams.

She had to get free, had to help her mother. She yanked a hand up and slammed her fist into the grinning man’s throat. Next she brought her knee up and struck him between his legs.

He released her, let out a strangled cry, and sank to the ground.

She ran to her mother. The scarred man was choking her. No! Rapunzel screamed.

He looked down at his partner, who lay on the ground, coughing weakly and moaning.

Rapunzel stepped forward and slammed her fist into the scarred man’s throat. She tried to knee him between the legs, but he shifted Mother in front of him.

Rapunzel clawed at his hands with her fingernails. But instead of letting Mother go, he grabbed Rapunzel’s wrist with one hand and squeezed so hard she cried out.

She used her other hand to claw at the hand that held Mother’s throat. Mother was struggling against him, but her lips were turning blue and her movements were slow and weak.

The scarred man was breathing out curses and threats, but Rapunzel renewed her efforts, slamming her fist into his face until he finally let go.

Mother coughed and sputtered, leaning forward as she gasped for breath.

The scarred man grabbed both Rapunzel’s hands and twisted her arms behind her. He hissed in her ear, I will kill you.

The smiling man got to his feet and caught hold of her mother. Rapunzel yelled and lunged at him, but the scarred man held her fast.

The smiling man continued to grin. You put up quite a fight. What have you got on that ox besides those chickens? Any gold or silver?

Mother rasped out, I’ve a Saracen charm that will cause your extremities to turn black and shrivel up. She began chanting as though in a foreign tongue.

Shut up, old woman. The scarred man behind her jerked Rapunzel’s arms, making her shoulders burn more. Get some rope and tie her up, he growled.

O Father God, send your angels, Rapunzel whispered under her breath. Send your archangel with his flaming sword. Her heart pounded. What would these men do to her and her mother? Would they steal their chickens and few household belongings and then leave them alone? Would they do something even more dastardly than robbing them of their possessions once they realized they had no gold or silver?

The smiley one was still breathing strangely after her attack, and the scarred one had bloody scratches on his hands from her fingernails, a sight that sent a thrill of satisfaction through her.

A sound broke through her consciousness. Horse’s hooves!

Help! Rapunzel yelled until the scarred man covered her mouth again.

The two men exchanged a look.

Suddenly, he let go of her, then shoved her so the ground rushed up to meet her.

Rapunzel hit the dirt so fast she didn’t have time to get her hands underneath her. She landed on her left shoulder and the side of her head. A sharp pain pulsed through her eye, then everything went dark.

Gerek urged his horse into a full gallop in the direction of the scream. Another scream, this time louder, sent a chill through him. Donner, always ready for a full-out gallop, seemed to revel in the wind whipping through his mane as his hooves flew over the ground, eating up the road with his powerful legs.

When they rounded a bend, two women were lying in the dirt. He pulled back on the reins. Whoa!

Donner slowed before halting beside them. The older woman sat between the ruts holding the head and shoulders of a young woman in her lap.

What has happened here? Gerek dismounted and came toward them.

His breath stuck in his throat at how beautiful the young woman was. Her eyes were closed. Dirt and a small trickle of blood marred her temple, but he couldn’t imagine she was dead, as her cheek glowed with color and her lips were unusually pink.

What happened? He knelt beside her.

She struck her head on the ground, the older woman said. You have frightened away our attackers, but if you hurry, you might catch them. The older woman hooked her thumb over her shoulder to the north, the direction of Hagenheim.

There was nothing he could do for the girl, so he leapt onto Donner’s back and gave the horse his head again.

After racing around another slight curve in the road, he caught a glimpse of a cart before it disappeared into the trees.

Gerek guided his horse off the road, drawing his sword as he entered the woods.

Two men ambushed him with knives. Their eyes flicked to his drawn sword and they halted. One man turned and ran left, the other right.

The first one looked the most dangerous, so Gerek went after him. Donner had to wind around trees and step over bushes and limbs, while Gerek kept his head low to prevent being knocked off his horse’s back.

Had he lost the man? He halted his horse and listened. He heard heavy breathing but was uncertain of the direction from which it came. He guided Donner forward and found the man hiding behind a tree trunk.

In the name of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim, I order you to give yourself up to me.

The man’s shrewd eyes trained themselves on Gerek as he dismounted.

I have done nothing wrong.

You and your companion attacked those two women in the road.

The man was silent. His expression was quite strange, as if he couldn’t stop smiling.

Down on your knees, lout, or I shall knock you unconscious the way you did that poor maiden.

The man complied.

Now put your hands on your head. Gerek quickly grabbed the rope in his saddlebag and tied the man’s wrists together. Then he tethered him to Donner’s saddle.

The man’s eyes were defiant and sullen, but he was smiling.

Gerek remounted his horse and made his way back to the road where he had left the two women, his prisoner forced to follow behind on foot.

He found the women where he had left them. The pretty one was sitting up and her eyes were open.

Even with dirt on her face and dress, she took his breath away. Her eyes were a dark blue, her hair a golden blond, although it was tightly braided and mostly covered by a cloth that had fallen askew.

The older woman was dabbing at the blood and dirt on the girl’s forehead. Cover your hair, she hissed.

The maiden started stuffing her braid back inside her head covering. She looked up and her gaze immediately fell on the man whose hands were tied to the back of Gerek’s saddle. She drew back.

Gerek dismounted and bowed before the two women. My name is Sir Gerek. I am a knight in the service of Duke Wilhelm of Hagenheim. Can you tell me if this man is one of your attackers?

Yes, the young one said. The one who shoved me has a scar on his face, like this. She drew a line down her cheek.

I am sorry I was not able to capture both of them, Gerek said, but I shall warn the other knights and guards in Hagenheim to be looking for a man with a scar. Did he have any other distinguishing marks?

She bit her lower lip. He had a gap between his front teeth. Mother, do you remember what he looked like?

He looked like a fiend. They grabbed us and choked us and talked of stealing our chickens and doing us harm. Look what they did to my daughter!

The beauty said, He had brown hair and was only a little taller than me, but his scar was very evident.

He was ugly, the woman added.

Please allow me to thank you, the young one said, for saving us from those two evil men. If you had not come when you did, they surely would have stolen everything we have.

Gerek nodded. It is my duty, as a knight pledged to Duke Wilhelm, to protect all the people of the region of Hagenheim. I shall take this cur to see justice done. He stepped closer to her. May I help you up?

Her mother quickly moved between him and the girl. No. She doesn’t need your help. And she proceeded to haul the young woman to her feet.

Gerek took a step back at her rudeness. Most mothers, when they discovered he was one of Duke Wilhelm’s knights, smiled and simpered and nearly threw their daughters at his feet.

The woman began brushing the dust from the girl’s clothing. The girl swayed.

Are you well? Gerek tried to get a better look at the girl’s eyes. Sometimes one could see by a person’s eyes if the head injury was serious or not.

I am well. She didn’t look at him, but she placed a hand on her mother’s shoulder to steady herself.

He could not leave them until he made sure the maiden would not fall over as soon as she started to walk. Where do you live? Were you traveling someplace?

We are on our way to Hagenheim, the girl supplied, as the mother was quite tight-lipped. How much farther is it?

It is at least another day’s walk, and you do not look able to walk. He sensed her mother would never allow her to ride on Donner’s back with him.

We do not need your help, the mother barked. We wish to travel at our own pace.

The two robbers left a cart and two donkeys near the side of the road when I was chasing them. The donkeys and cart might still be there. Your daughter could ride in the cart the rest of the way to Hagenheim.

My daughter is not your concern.

He stared at her with his mouth open. "Are you not concerned for her? She has suffered an attack and a blow to the head and should not be

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