As we’ve previously discussed here, the practice of locking women up in towers of one sort of another was not exactly unknown in the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. In some cases, the women entered willingly, interested in pursuing a religious life—out of either genuine religious devotion, or interest in the opportunities offered by cloisters, which included education, culture and the opportunity to avoid the risks of childbirth. In other cases, the women did not enter willingly at all, but found themselves forced into prison and death. Some for crimes they committed; some for purely political reasons; and at least two because if you’re going to marry six women but not do that all at once you have got to hurry up the process by imprisoning and then executing them in towers.
Not at all surprisingly, this historical reality bled into fairy tales. Rapunzel and its variants are probably the best known, especially after a certain recent movie, but equally interesting is a story of a maiden imprisoned not by a witch, but by her own father: Maid Maleen.