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For several years I have had a wonderful story idea involving the classic "princess locked away in a dragon-guarded tower" and have decided to finally try writing it. But I've hit a roadblock: why is the princess in the tower?

The set up is very basic, straight-forward, and classic: a princess is locked away in a dragon-guarded tower and can't escape until her true love slays the dragon and gives her true-love's first kiss. The fairy tales always talk about the rescue, but never how she originally got there.

I've thought about her being cursed and locked away for her own good, but that's a bit too Shrek-like. Her only guardian is the dragon, so it's unlikely that she was kidnapped because then the kidnapper would most likely still have contact with her... So I'm at a roadblock. Any ideas?
What's wrong with the kidnapper still having contact with her? Or using the curse? Just because Shrek did it doesn't mean you can't. Just don't make it "she turns into a ____ in the daytime" curse. Or, really, you could still do that, but you seem like you'd be way too set against doing that no matter what I told you, so just don't, I guess.
Well that was... rather unhelpful.

I'm open to the idea of curses, just not the changing curses. Someone once recommended that she has some sort of influence over men, either repulsion or infatuation. And that's something that I'm looking into.

But even that begs the question of how she actually gets to the tower. Do her parents send her, and if so where do they get the idea to do so?
Arkarianscribe
Well that was... rather unhelpful.

I'm open to the idea of curses, just not the changing curses. Someone once recommended that she has some sort of influence over men, either repulsion or infatuation. And that's something that I'm looking into.

But even that begs the question of how she actually gets to the tower. Do her parents send her, and if so where do they get the idea to do so?


I'm setting up to help you, I just had questions first. Don't be a d**k to someone trying to help you. It would help if you answered why she has to not be in contact with anyone ever.

The idea to send someone to such a prison would likely have come from tradition, and it wouldn't matter how the original one was thought of in that case. It's just "how it's done." Alternatively, you could go for it being the only instance of such a thing, and the thought process could be "well, she's our daughter and we can't bear to kill her, but we need to keep her away and out of sight."

If you don't want to do curses, consider having her be the sister of a monarch who feels threatened by her. There are plenty of instances where siblings of monarchs were imprisoned for such reasons (and not executed, because that would be poor form). Feeling threatened could come from her being a more popular figure, at least with a certain portion of the population. Imprisoning her there would keep her out of the way, but alive and so not rousing the anger of the populace.

Frankly, though, this is one of the worst ways to actually imprison someone. If you think too hard into it, you should see that going a different route is the most realistic. I'm not saying that to convince not to do it, but rather to allow more of a handwave of realism.
All Purpose Muling Device
Arkarianscribe
Well that was... rather unhelpful.

I'm open to the idea of curses, just not the changing curses. Someone once recommended that she has some sort of influence over men, either repulsion or infatuation. And that's something that I'm looking into.

But even that begs the question of how she actually gets to the tower. Do her parents send her, and if so where do they get the idea to do so?


I'm setting up to help you, I just had questions first. Don't be a d**k to someone trying to help you. It would help if you answered why she has to not be in contact with anyone ever.

The idea to send someone to such a prison would likely have come from tradition, and it wouldn't matter how the original one was thought of in that case. It's just "how it's done." Alternatively, you could go for it being the only instance of such a thing, and the thought process could be "well, she's our daughter and we can't bear to kill her, but we need to keep her away and out of sight."

If you don't want to do curses, consider having her be the sister of a monarch who feels threatened by her. There are plenty of instances where siblings of monarchs were imprisoned for such reasons (and not executed, because that would be poor form). Feeling threatened could come from her being a more popular figure, at least with a certain portion of the population. Imprisoning her there would keep her out of the way, but alive and so not rousing the anger of the populace.

Frankly, though, this is one of the worst ways to actually imprison someone. If you think too hard into it, you should see that going a different route is the most realistic. I'm not saying that to convince not to do it, but rather to allow more of a handwave of realism.

I don't want there to be contact with a captor because that involves so many more complications, as well as strays from the classic outline, which I'm doing in numerous other ways and would like to avoid another.

I do really like you idea of a threatened monarch. That was something that I had never considered. It could be an evil queen trying to get rid of her or a princess... and perhaps an old witch or something offers to take the princess away and lock her away to where she'll never return... That is a very excellent idea.
Lahrette's avatar

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Smart, inquisitive princess explores old, seemingly abandoned tower...which has a curse on it?

I don't see why the princess always has to be dumb and helpless.
If she was smart, I don't think she'd explore the tower. Or be out alone in the wilderness. Neither of those are things that honestly intelligent people tend to do.

Nothing about "imprisoned in a tower" makes her dumb. Helpless... well, only so far as it's a prison and prisoners are generally helpless to escape. And there's no saying she hasn't tried and nearly succeeded in the past.
Valkyrie Queen's avatar

Tipsy Lunatic

Maybe she imprisoned herself on purpose.

If you're following a more traditional society, it would make sense that they don't value the desires or opinions of their women very highly. Maybe your protagonist doesn't want to go get married to some rich lordling and make babies with him - maybe she'd rather make her own decisions, but in doing so she would need to be far away from her society so that she couldn't be dragged back against her will. A cursed tower guarded by a dragon seems pretty safe, although you'd have to explain how she would get past those things as well.
Just a thought to throw out there. You mentioned that not a lot of fairy tales mention the original imprisonment and thinking on it I have to agree. Maybe you could separate the story into two parts. One detailing the initial imprisonment of the imprisonment and the other following the subsequent rescue. Just an idea that occurred to me when I was reading this. Feel free to ignore it if it goes against your idea.

In regards to why she's there, maybe it could be a suggestion from one of the kings advisors based on something he has come across. Probably a wizard if you intend to involve dragons.
you could have it as a continuation of an old story. Like there was this old grimm fairy tail where the king to protect the princess or something like that put her in a windowless and doorless tower with her maid with 7 years worth of food and water. after the 7 years had pass no one came to let them out. she got our but i dont remember how or why, but that could be a way to get her in the tower. So basically set up her entrapment in the tower using an existing story
Sharassein's avatar

Shadowy Bookworm

Maybe the dragon put her there?

Dragons are known the hoard treasure, so perhaps she is the treasure.
Ultimo Tevio's avatar

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If you're going for that pulp fantasy feel, an evil wizard locked her there. But if you want to be a bit more serious that's too cliched.
DarknessofHeavenandDreams's avatar

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Why slay the dragon? Why not trick it or tame or, hell, jump on top of it to get to the princess?

How will true love's first kiss free her? Will it magically make stairs and a door?
Ysavvryl's avatar

Peaceful Lunatic

One idea that I've seen was that the princess's parents put her in the tower because she was considered unmarriable, and they wanted to get her married anyhow. So they put her in the tower and started rumors about it so that some intrepid hero would come and take her off their hands. Because, you know, if he'd gone to that effort to go rescue her, it'd be bad form for a story tale hero to not marry her.

There's a fair number of these stories out there, some that explain why she's there, sometimes that don't. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try, because it's a lot of fun to play around with those ideas. It would be an interesting twist to have the dragon see her as treasure, and then how someone would feel about being locked away as part of a treasure horde, not as a person.
Sharassein
Maybe the dragon put her there?

Dragons are known the hoard treasure, so perhaps she is the treasure.


This was my original thought. Perhaps your princess is an exquisite specimen and her beauty awed men and women around the world. When word of this eventually spread to the dragon, the dragon would have inferred that that beauty is the ultimate treasure to add to his/her collection. It's something to consider because it also gives your dragon motivation for keeping your princess in the tower.

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