- “You want me to be the bad guy? Fine. Now I'm the bad guy.”
- ―Mother Gothel
Mother Gothel is the main antagonist of Disney's 50th animated feature film, Tangled.
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 Gothel is a phenomenal actress, dangerous manipulator, and riddled with intelligence. Aside from the magic golden flower she selfishly uses to prolong her life, and her life alone, Gothel 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, her goal is to keep Rapunzel in a hidden tower in order to take advantage of the healing powers within the lost princes' hair. To do so, Gothel 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'd 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 scarring her with warnings of exaggerated dangers she could run into should she 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 devilishly force Rapunzel into slavery 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 Rapuzel's eventual leave from the tower.
She seems to be a misanthrope and has 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, noticeably on her hands, arms and face, and she bears many signs of old age. Her thin hair, while still having the curling locks of her youth, is dull, a combination of white and pale gray. Gothel's 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's. In her very first scene, the elderly Gothel wore a black dress, probably because black is a more suitable color for an older woman.
With the power of the Golden Flower, Mother Gothel reverts to her youthful appearance. Her skin is flawless, smooth, and a shade of very pale ivory, lacking freckles 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 black hair falls past her shoulders, and is very thick, curly and shiny with three curls hanging over her forehead. While 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, which could be a sign of her age, since nail polish hadn't been invented in the time of when Tangled is set. She wears diamond-shaped golden earrings, and a flattering crimson-red dress, which has a faint dappled pattern with a gold trim. It has matching sash with gold buckle, and she wears brown shoes. Whenever Gothel leaves the tower, she brings a hooded black cloak.
The effects of the magic that keeps Gothel young soon wears off - she needs to replenish it very often, otherwise her aging will return, shown when her hair shows graying and she forms dark eyebags and wrinkles. The aging returns daily, it appears - Gothel 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 (Reprise)", Gothel's black hair already possesses gray streaks, and her skin isn't as smooth as before.
- “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, Gothel is the single witness of a drop of pure sunlight falling to the ground, creating a magical flower with healing abilities. When Gothel sings to the flower 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 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, 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 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. 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. Rapunzel, however, sees some special floating lights 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.
Raising the Lost Princess
- “Rapunzel! Let down your hair!”
- ―Gothel's greetings upon returning to the tower
Eighteen years later, Mother Gothel is still as manipulative and "overprotective" as ever. By this time, Rapunzel's fascination with the "floating lights" have reached new heights, and on the wake of her eighteenth birthday, works up the courage to finally ask Gothel permission to see the lights in person, as a birthday gift. Feeling a slight loss of control over her flower, 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, 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 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, 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 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 Gothel agrees.
The Search for Rapunzel
- “Oh, it was easy, really; I just listened to the sound of complete and utter betrayal and followed that.”
- ―Gothel to Rapunzel; explaining how she found the princess
While on her way, Gothel is encountered by a palace horse, though without a rider. Upon realizing this, Gothel fearfully assumes the royal guards may have found the whereabouts of Rapunzel and rushes back to the tower. There, she frantically calls for the lost princess to let down her hair, but no response is given. 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 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 Gothel, before further investigation reveals a "Wanted" poster with an illustration of the thief, Flynn Rider. 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 she 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, 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 the brothers, and the two officially join Gothel's side as her accomplices. That night, Gothel manages to find Rapunzel, and reveals hersel 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. 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, Gothel's words are enough to bring doubt into her mind, successfully sparking her plot.
Gothel Takes Charge
- “You were right, mother! You were right about everything!”
- ―A successfully manipulated Rapunzel, sobbing in Gothel's arms as they return home
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 Rapunzel's gift. The brothers find Rapunzel and tell her Flynn left with the crown and told them about her healing powers. Rapunzel refuses to believe them until they point out Flynn sailing away on a boat, ignoring Rapunzel's screams. Before the brothers can kidnap Rapunzel, 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.
The Final Confrontation
- “You want me to be the bad guy? Fine... Now I'm the bad guy”
- ―Gothel to Rapunzel
Back at home, 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' glimmers of optimism. After she leaves Rapunzel's bedroom to fix dinner, Gothel's overhears assorted commotion coming from the room, and visits her daughter to investigate. Before she can enter, Gothel 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, Gothel nervously makes an attempt to suppress these claims, only to be physically denied by the princess. With her patience wearing thin, Gothel claims her actions were out of love, but her manipulation no longer has affect on Rapunzel, who frustratingly expresses her feelings of betrayal and anger, before proclaiming 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 Gothel retaliates.
Meanwhile, Flynn manages to escape the palace and journeys to rescue Rapunzel. When he arrives at the tower, 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 back by 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 Rapunzel into slavery. However, Rapunzel promises Gothel that she will go with her quietly and never resist her again if she is allowed to heal Flynn. Knowing Rapunzel never breaks a promise, 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 forever, and a horrified Gothel panics as time and death, angry at her defiance and unnaturally long life, start to claim her with her true age. 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.
Gothel is alluded to in the episode, The Curse of Princess Ivy; being compared to the titular villain by Rapunzel. Though her name was not mentioned, Rapunzel referred to her as an "evil woman pretending to be her mother".
Ghost of Christmas Past
Gothel appeared in illustrated flashbacks in the Christmas-centered story taking place after the events of the film.
In the story, it's revealed Gothel spent every Christmas season telling scary stories and using the holiday as a way of keeping Rapunzel from the world outside the tower. According to Rapunzel, Mother Gothel would sing and chant eerie "Christmas tunes" nonstop and told tales of Nicholas; a mythical man who (as the tale goes) would creep into the rooms of children on Christmas Eve to kidnap them.
The traumatic stories would continue through Rapunzel's teenage years, and stayed with the princess even after leaving the tower, as the story focuses on Eugene attempting to subdue Rapunzel's hatred for the holiday by showing her a real Christmas.
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.
While not appearing in any of the Disney theme parks around the world, Mother Gothel makes her only live appearance to date in the Disney On Ice show Dare to Dream, playing the same role from the original film.
Gothel also appears in the live Tangled musical stage show aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship, marking her first appearance as a character within the Disney vacation chain (which includes theme parks and cruise lines).
- According to the makers of Tangled, Gothel's dress is from the Renaissance, which is 400 years before the time period of when the film takes place in 1780s. This was in an effort to emphasize how Gothel and Rapunzel don't match up and how long Gothel had been living.
- The directors of the film stated that Mother Gothel's wardrobe style is 500 years older than Rapunzel's wardrobe style, and Gothel is designed to be the opposite of Rapunzel, thus explaining her curly black hair (opposite of Rapunzel's straight blonde hair).
- Mother Gothel's voice was originally going to be done by Grey DeLisle.
- Mother Gothel is the second Disney villain to possess gray eyes, after Ursula.
- Mother Gothel's clothes at the beginning of the movie when she first finds the magic flower is a black dress and red cloak, the reverse of the clothes she wears for the rest of the film: a red dress and black cloak.
- Apart from the opening narration, Gothel is never referred to or addressed by her name in the movie.
- She is a very unique villain, demonstrating what appear to be some feelings for Rapunzel, making Rapunzel her favorite dinner, agreeing to go on a long trip to get seashells for a paint Rapunzel said she wanted for her birthday, and other things that made Rapunzel genuinely love her. But in the long run, she only cares about herself.
- Although she doesn't always look like it, Mother Gothel is the second oldest female Disney Villain (the first likely being Maleficent who possesses true immortality).
- Mother Gothel is the fifth female Disney villain of a Disney Princess movie, first being the Evil Queen from Disney's first feature (and first Princess movie) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, second the cruel stepmother Lady Tremaine of Cinderella, third the evil fairy Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty, and fourth Ursula the sea witch of Disney's The Little Mermaid.
- Mother Gothel has dark gray nails possibly the only sign of her true age as they did not have nail polish back then.
- She acts rather immature for how old she looks, let alone her actual age.
- Disney revealed she did not fall to her death, but died of old age, the first Disney villain to do so.
- It is unknown if she gave Rapunzel her name or if it was given by the king and queen.
- When Disney premiered Tangled on Disney Channel, Mother Gothel's cleavage was censored.
- Mother Gothel, in a sense, is essentially the complete opposite of Flynn Ryder. While Flynn Ryder is a thief like Gothel when she kidnapped Rapunzel, he truly cares for Rapunzel, not for her hair but herself, and thus is willing to sacrifice himself so she can be free. This shows that his love for Rapunzel is pure and selfless. Mother Gothel, on the other hand, only cared about Rapunzel for her hair, and as such she'll do anything to keep Rapunzel with her, even if it means psychologically destroying her life. This shows that Gothel's love for Rapunzel is corrupted, selfish, and twisted.
- Mother Gothel's motivation for her villainy is not power or revenge unlike most Disney villains. At the beginning of the film, she was willing to take only a lock of Rapunzel's hair in order to achieve her goals; the only reason she stole Rapunzel herself was because the magical hair lost its power once it was cut off. Gothel's wish to remain young is caused by her own vanity and fear of death.