- “The world is dark, selfish, and cruel. If it finds the slightest ray of sunshine, it destroys it.”
- ―Mother Gothel to Rapunzel
Mother Gothel is the main antagonist of Disney's 2010 animated feature film, Tangled. She is also one the villains imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost. She teaches Selfishness 101 at Dragon Hall. She is also the mother of Ginny Gothel.
Before the Isle of the Lost
- “This woman, Mother Gothel, hoarded the flower's healing power and used it to keep herself young for hundreds of years! And all she had to do, was sing a special song.”
- ―Flynn Rider's narration during the prologue
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. She is determined to keep this secret from the rest of the world and hides the flower to keep herself beautiful and young forever. Hundreds of years pass, and in that time, a kingdom prospers nearby. Sadly, the young queen falls deathly ill while pregnant, and the entire kingdom searches for a cure: the magic flower.
A guard manages to find the flower and Mother Gothel is powerless to stop him. After drinking a broth made from the flower, the queen is cured and the flower's abilities are given to her unborn child, a girl named 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. The king and queen awaken as 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 world and raises her as her own daughter. Mother Gothel refuses to let Rapunzel go outside, telling her the world is a dangerous place where selfish people would try to hurt her and use her gift for themselves.
Gothel presents herself with a theatrical flair, often flaunting her beauty and curvaceous appearance with much enthusiasm and dramatics. This ties into the fact that she is a phenomenal actress, dangerous manipulator, and very intelligent. Aside from the magic golden flower, Gothel selfishly uses to prolong her life, and her life alone, she lacks magical attributes, relying solely on her intellect to achieve her ambitions. She is also very possessive and selfish, which can easily be seen through the fact that she had been hoarding the magical flower for hundreds of years, which could have, instead, been a gift to share with an ailing world.
Throughout the story, Gothel's goal is to keep Rapunzel in a hidden tower in order to take advantage of the healing powers within the lost princess' hair. To do so, she cleverly poses as a kind, yet overprotective mother figure, bent on keeping her daughter away from the outside word, as it is "dark, selfish, and cruel", filled with people who would abuse Rapunzel's power. However, Gothel's true, emotionally abusive nature is ultimately too strong to remain hidden beneath her facade, as she is seen constantly insulting Rapunzel and lowering her self-esteem, avoiding familial contact with the princess, and going to great lengths to keep her within her tower, including scaring her with warnings of exaggerated dangers she could run into if she'd ever leave. She is also known to victimize herself, blaming Rapunzel for any sort of conflict or unfortunate event that befalls their lives and relationship, be it an argument or even someone's death.
Despite all of this, Gothel continuously concocts ways to further Rapunzel's dependence and loyalty to her, by regularly tending to her as a loving mother; making her favorite meals, gifting her with paint and other luxuries to keep her occupied within the tower, as well as posing as a protector in the overly dangerous world she poisoned the princess into believing the latter lived in, though all for a deeply selfish reason, and at the expense of Rapunzel's happiness and dreams of seeing the outside world.
Gothel's burning desire to retain her youth for all eternity has notably driven the woman to complete madness, to the point where she was more than willing to force Rapunzel to live with her for the rest of her years, as opposed to taking the role of Rapunzel's mother, which would avoid conflict for the most part. Not only that, she was also driven to a murderous state, evidenced by her immediate decision to kill Flynn Rider, upon deducting he somehow led to Rapunzel's eventual leave from the tower.
She seems to be a misanthrope and has a true hate for people because they took away the magic flower she wanted all to herself. She even advises Rapunzel to hate people, saying: "The world is dark, and selfish, and cruel. If it finds even the tiniest bit of sunlight... It destroys it."
Without the healing and age-reversing power of the Golden Flower, Mother Gothel is a very elderly woman. Her sagging skin is covered in multiple wrinkles and marks, noticeably on her hands, arms and face, and she bears many signs of old age. Her thinning hair, while still possessing curls, is dull and has lost its volume, a combination of white and pale gray. Her veins are especially prominent in her hands and wrists, like most elderly people, and she has several bumps and other marks on her face. Her nails are thin and look far from healthy-looking, and her face and body overall do not look full, like a younger person. In her very first scene, she wore a black dress, probably because black is a more suitable color for an older woman.
With the flower's power in effect, Mother Gothel reverts to her youthful appearance. Her skin is flawless, smooth, and a shade of very pale ivory, lacking freckles. She is rather voluptuous with a curvaceous figure, and she is a tall and slender woman. She has large, gray eyes, and her eyelids have brown eye shadow. Her cheeks are dusted with blush, probably to warm up her pale skin tone. Her curly black hair falls past her shoulders, and is rather thick and glossy, with three curls hanging over her forehead.
While Mother Gothel appears to be a young woman, she (possibly) does carry one sign of her true age: the color of her nails. Her nails are a dark, brownish-gray, (although in one scene they appear red) which could be a sign of her age, since nail polish hadn't been invented in the time of when the film is set; although, human nails don't typically darken with age. She wears diamond-shaped golden earrings, and a flattering, Renaissance-era crimson dress, with sleeves that reach her elbows. The dress has a faintly dappled pattern with a gold trim and reaches her feet. It has a matching sash with a gold buckle, and she wears brown, buckled shoes. Whenever she leaves the tower, she brings a hooded black cloak.
The effects of the magic that keeps Mother Gothel young soon wears off - she needs to replenish it very often, otherwise, her aging will return, shown when her hair starts turning gray and she forms dark eye bags and wrinkles. The aging returns daily, it appears - she left the tower on Rapunzel's birthday, with the magic in full effect, based on her entirely youthful look. However, less than a day later, in the "Mother Knows Best", her black hair already possesses gray streaks, and her skin isn't as smooth as before.
Raising the Lost Princess
- “You know why we stay up in this tower? That's right! To keep you safe and sound, dear.”
- ―Gothel to Rapunzel
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. Over the years, her fascination with the "floating lights" have reached new heights, and on the wake of her eighteenth birthday, works up the courage to finally ask Mother Gothel permission to see the lights in person, as a birthday gift. Feeling a slight loss of control over her flower, Mother Gothel constantly uses subtle jabs, over-the-top guilt trips, and refrains of "Mother Knows Best" to keep Rapunzel from leaving the tower, 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, the 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 world). However, before she is given the chance, Mother Gothel finally snaps and cruelly barks, "You are not leaving this tower, EVER!". Rejected, Rapunzel changes the subject to focus on her oncoming birthday and asks Mother Gothel for paint for her room 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.
The Search for Rapunzel
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 back passageway to barge her way inside and begins a search throughout the palace interior. Unfortunately for her, Rapunzel is nowhere to be found. A panicked Mother Gothel takes a moment to catch her breath before noticing a glimmer of light coming from the staircase. She finds a satchel, and inside lies Rapunzel's childhood crown from the kingdom. The sight is enough to bring a rush of 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 possession—blade in hand.
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 Shorty the 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 betraying 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, she manages to find Rapunzel and reveals herself while Flynn is out getting firewood. She goes for a direct approach in trying to bring her back to the tower, but Rapunzel refuses, wanting to continue her journey and admitting she has some affection for 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, 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.
Gothel Takes Charge
- “You want me to be the bad guy? Fine... Now I'm the bad guy!”
- ―Mother Gothel to Rapunzel
Mother Gothel's plan is put into action while Flynn and Rapunzel are watching 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 it. 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 betrays them so it appears she's rescuing her. She leads the heartbroken Rapunzel home and Flynn, who was knocked out and tied to the mast of the boat, is caught by the guards, who prepare to hang him the next morning.
Back at home, Mother Gothel reminds Rapunzel 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's glimmers of optimism. After she leaves Rapunzel's bedroom to fix dinner, she overhears assorted commotion coming from the room and visits her daughter to investigate. Before she can enter, she is confronted by Rapunzel, who has apparently managed to somehow uncover the truth behind her upbringing, confidently announcing her realization that she's the lost princess. Stunned, she nervously makes an attempt to suppress these claims, only to be physically denied by the princess. With her patience wearing thin, she claims her actions were out of love, but her manipulation no longer has an affect on Rapunzel, who frustratingly expresses her feelings of betrayal and anger, before proclaiming Mother Gothel will never again be allowed to use the magic of her hair from that moment forward. With her mind made, Rapunzel starts to make her leave from the tower, but a now openly-sinister Mother Gothel retaliates.
Meanwhile, Flynn manages to escape the palace and journeys to rescue Rapunzel. When he arrives at the tower, Mother Gothel throws a portion of Rapunzel's hair for the former thief to climb. When he arrives inside, however, Flynn finds Rapunzel distressed, tied, and gagged, before being fatally stabbed in the stomach by Mother Gothel. As the thief slowly starts to die due to blood loss, Gothel forcefully begins dragging Rapunzel out of the tower, planning to find a new hidden home while forcing her into slavery. However, she promises Mother Gothel that she will go with her quietly and never resist her again if she is allowed to heal Flynn. Knowing she never breaks a promise, Mother Gothel agrees to this but underestimates the thief's affection for Rapunzel. Choosing death over allowing Rapunzel to be trapped forever, Flynn cuts off all her hair with a shard of glass from the broken mirror before she can heal him. The healing power is gone, and a horrified Mother Gothel panics as time and death, angry at her defiance and unnaturally long life, start to claim her with her true age. Her beautiful, curvy body beings to shrivel and wither away, her hair turns snow white and her fingernails become broken and chipped. Rushing over to the broken mirror, she catches sight of her reflection and recoils. As she writhes around in panic and tries to hide her aging beneath her cloak, Pascal pulls the length of the cut hair and she trips over it, falling out of the tower window. When she hits the ground, she has turned to dust and only her cloak remains, enforcing the fact that she has died from old age.
Mother Gothel is one of the villains brought back to life only to be imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost. She now serves as a teacher at Dragon Hall and has a daughter named Ginny Gothel.