Girl in the Tower
Using stairs to get to her is optional.

Shrek: Go over there and see if you can find any stairs.
Donkey: Stairs? I thought we was lookin' for the Princess.
Shrek: The Princess will be at the top of the stairs in the highest room in the tallest tower.
Donkey: Well, what makes you think she'll be there?
Shrek: I read it in a book once.

The standard place to imprison damsels in distress and overthrown princes: A tower. Preferably the tallest tower, in the biggest castle, on the highest hill, in the most dangerous land in the whole wide world. After all, It's All Upstairs from Here.

May be attached to an Evil Tower of Ominousness or The Alcatraz, although some are freestanding. A Bedsheet Ladder or Rapunzel Hair is an invaluable tool in such cases. Possibly inspired by the Tower of London; originally a royal residence, the Tower later became a prison that was often used to house royal prisoners.

See also Locked Away in a Monastery (used for broadly similar purposes, but without the implication of evil) and Madwoman in the Attic (a darker version where someone considered incapable of venturing out into normal society is kept hidden and confined).


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  • Clarisse in The Castle of Cagliostro.
  • Fai/Yuui and his twin brother in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-.
  • Alice of Pandora Hearts was this to a tee. When she was alive. Jack was her first friend after he discovered her in her lonely prison of a tower. At least, the Will of the Abyss' first friend was Jack. As for the Alice we know, she has been known to get along well with Glen. The both of them. Without realizing that they are her father and uncle respectively.
    • Before her was her mother, Lacie. Though, this Girl in the Tower isn't as easily contained as other examples, constantly slipping out whenever she gets the chance.
  • A male example: Len from the manga adaptation of mothy's "Aku no Meshitsukai" is locked in a tower from birth when it's revealed that he possesses the birthmark that the fortune teller prophesied would lead the country into ruin. His twin sister Rin eventually finds him there and starts visiting him.
  • Diva from Blood+.
  • Princess Shirahoshi from One Piece is a variation: Her Stalker with a Crush, Vander Decken, can literally kill her from miles away because of his powers. This means that she had to stay confined in her room, which is located atop a tower, for ten years. Since she's only sixteen, that means she literally spent most of her life in that tower.
  • In the Frozen Teardrops novel to Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, it's revealed that Relena's great-aunt Sabrina Peacecraft was locked away with only a cat to keep her company.
  • In one of the first arcs of Fairy Tail, Lucy is knocked out and kidnapped by a rival guild. She's placed in one of these overlooking said rival guild's headquarters. It holds her for all of five minutes once she wakes up.

     Comic Books  

  • This Spanish comic based on The Fairly Oddparents has Tootie in this role.
  • Exploited in a Conan the Barbarian story: The princess in question is just a preserved corpse automated to wave once in a while, to lure potential challengers (who have to give up a deposit and sign an indemnity form first.
    • Another Savage Sword of Conan story had Conan rescue a young princess locked away in a tower in the middle of a lost land by her father. Said princess was actually a powerful demon who, upon being freed, destroyed her father's kingdom.
  • Lucifer: Jill Presto becomes a prisoner in the tower of the Basanos.
  • Princeless starts off with this, then the princess gets tired of waiting for a rescue and so frees herself.

     Fairy Tales  

  • "Rapunzel" is a famous case of this, although she nixed the bedsheet in favour of nature's ladder.
  • "The Tinderbox" is another fairy tale with a damsel in distress who must be rescued by the handsome hero.
  • In "The Blue Bird", Florine is imprisoned in a tower by her stepmother so she cannot see her beloved King Charming, who has been turned into a bird.
  • In "An Impossible Enchantment", Graziella is imprisoned in a tower in the middle of the sea.
  • In "The Grateful Beasts," the princess gets locked in the tower for complaining about her father's Impossible Tasks. This means she isn't there when the hero summons all the wolves in the land — and it turns out they are hungry.
  • In the American "Like Meat Loves Salt" instead of turning his daughter out when she says she loves him like salt, he imprisons her in a tower.
  • The Discreet Princess starts with a king who goes on a Crusade and leaves his three daughters locked in a tower. Turns out he was Properly Paranoid.

     Fan Works  

  • In "My Brave Pony: Starfleet Nemesis," due to being ashamed that her wings did not develop fully, Celesto keeps Leilani locked away in a tower.
  • For the first half of "Zastruga," Jack Frost inverts this trope as a male example, though his "tower" stretches down into the ground rather than rising up over it.

     Film, Animated  

     Film, Live Action  


  • The original Man in the Iron Mask was said to have been held in a tower in the Bastille.
  • The overthrown king Peter's imprisonment in the tower called "The Needle," in Stephen King's novel The Eyes of the Dragon.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire;
    • King Baelor the Blessed imprisoned his three sisters to prevent them from tempting him into cardinal sin. They were even known as "The Three Maids in the Tower."
    • Ned thought he was rescuing his sister Lyanna from her kidnapper Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, and found her in a remote tower guarded by three knights... but when he gets to her, there is speculation confirmed by the television series that he finds a dying Lyanna after she has just given birth to her son by Rhaegar, asking Ned for a promise to keep her son safe, and Ned spends the rest of his life to protecting his sister's son as his own. There are also ambiguous implications that Lyanna's disappearance may have been voluntary.
    • Donella Hornwood gets locked in a tower by Ramsay Snow. Sansa Stark was also held in one in Maegor's Holdfast after her father and members of his household were killed. Neither of them were rescued during their stays in their respective towers, though Lady Donella's fate is considerably worse.
    • The fourth book of the series has a chapter called "The Princess in the Tower," about Princess Arianne of Dorne after she has tried and failed to crown Myrcella Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and start a war with the Lannisters.
    • Val, the so-called "wildling princess", is held captive by Stannis Baratheon in one of the towers of Castle Black — and she is even protected by a (sentient and friendly) giant. Ser Patrek's foolish attempt to prove his worth as a suitor, vying for her hand, causes no end of chaos.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian story "The Hour of the Dragon," the Countess Albiona (a supporter of King Conan) is imprisoned in the Iron Tower of Tarantia because she refused to become the consort of a tyrannical puppet king. Conan infiltrates the tower through a hidden door, kills her jailers, and rescues her.
    • Also, in The People of the Black Circle the Devi Yasmina is captured and imprisoned in a tower atop Mount Yimsha. This time, Conan infiltrates the tower with the help of an enchanted girdle that protects him from the magic of the evil wizards within.
  • Done to Bellina in The Elenium because she is a cannibalistic Eldritch Abomination worshipper who needs to be locked away for the good of the surrounding villages.
  • The abducted Princess Eilonwy is found in a tower of her ancestral home, Caer Colur, in the third book of The Chronicles of Prydain.
  • In The Silmarillion, Lúthien is put in a treehouse high enough to be considered a tower. She escaped and went to help her beloved, Beren, finish his Engagement Challenge.
  • In Gene Wolfe's Pandora by Holly Hollander, at the end, Holly decides on Staying with Friends. The friends look her over and conclude that since she's a teenaged girl, obviously she gets the tower room.
  • Spoofed in Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks. The handsome prince turns up to rescue the Damsel in Distress in her tower. She helps him climb most of the way up and then lets go of the rope so he'll fall to his death, as she knows she's in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, the story about Sir Neville is that while possessed by the Green-Eyed Monster, he locked his wife into a tower, where she died.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Zanna Martindale as Rosa.
  • In Charles de Lint's Seven Wild Sisters, the bee fairy queen's daughters all ran off with 'sangmen. She had locked the seventh into a tower to prevent it. It didn't work.
  • The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Mad Scientist Prospero Taligent lives in a tower with his daughter Miranda, designed to be a Gilded Cage she'll never want to leave. He doesn't react well to her running away and taking a lover.
  • Clocks that Don't Tick has Martha. While it occurred before the main events of the novel, she once spent quite a long time alone maintaining the Space Needle.
  • Marcus Didius Falco. The Germanic priestess Veleda lives in an abandoned Roman watchtower and may or may not have spent a night of love with handsome tribune Justinus.
  • Wings of Fire has a male example — Queen Scarlet imprisons her grandson, Cliff, in a crematorium tower since he's said he's too young to be able too fly. Unfortunately for Scarlet, he was lying, and escapes as soon as he's given the chance.

     Live Action TV  

  • Clementina from Carrusel is kept locked away in her own home after her parents are hospitalized and she's in the care of her very overprotective aunts.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Sansa Stark becomes one following her marriage to Ramsay Bolton, as she is kept locked in a bedroom. A particularly nasty example, as he is explicitly raping her every night.
    • The last stages of Robert's Rebellion had Ned having to rescue Lyanna as she's being kept in a tower (dubbed Tower of Joy) at Dorne.
  • The Legend of Dick and Dom episode "Princess Gladys" features the heroes rescuing the Princess though not her sister from the top of a tower in a castle guarded by the Evil Dancing Dolphins of Doom.
  • The Goodies. Spoofed in "Camelot Capers" when Graham goes to rescue Rapunzel from her tower by climbing her hair, only when he puts his weight on it he yanks her out of the tower.
  • Merlin: Gwen in "The Dark Tower," stated explicitly by Gawaine in the episode.
  • Once Upon a Time: Once has used this trope a few times, including the Rapunzel episode, Cruella de Vil back story episode, and season 4 finale, where Emma is rescued by her son and her boyfriend. However in Cruella's case it turns out her mother kept her imprisoned due to Cruella murdering all three of her mother's husbands while a child. When she is released she murders her mother.


  • Chris de Burgh: The Tower
    In the wood was a bower where stood an an old tower
    And he threw her deep inside
  • Rainbow: Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
    It's only been an hour since he locked her in the tower
    The time has come, he must be undone by the morning
  • Blackmore's Knight: Ivory Tower
    I feared not in the Ivory Tower, Imprisonment you'll find
    Lies within your heart your soul, your spirit and your mind

     Religion and Mythology  

  • Princess Philomela of Athens was first raped by her brother-in-law, King Thereus of Thracia, then had her tongue cut out and was thrown into a tower in the middle of the nearby forest so she wouldn't spill the beans. She then sewed a tapestry that represented her Break the Cutie process, then had a caretaker sneak it to her older sister Procne aka Thereus's wife, who then bailed her out. It went From Bad to Worse very quickly.
  • It also happened in the myth of Saint Barbara, locked in a tower by her father Dioscorus so she wouldn't convert to Christianity. She still turned towards the Christian God, and once her dad found out, she was tortured and executed. (And her dad got hit by a Bolt of Divine Retribution for that.)
  • Some versions of the myth of Saint Christina of Bolsena use this trope. In her case, her father Urban of Tyra locked her up in the tower half to escape marriage proposals coming from local nobles, half to get her trained to become a pagan priestess. Like in Barbara's case, Christina still defied her dad's will and became a Christian, and then was tortured and killed.
  • The Lady of Shalott (who may also be Elaine of Astolat), from the Arthurian mythos, spends most of her life in a tower on an island. She can't even look directly at the outside world because of a curse, and spends her time watching Camelot in a mirror and weaving what she sees. Until she sees handsome Sir Lancelot, falls in love with him, and decides to venture into the outside world... She dies in a boat on the river, almost immediately.


  • Happens to Princess Jasmine in the play Sheik, Rattle and Roll, where she insists on finishing her song before allowing herself to be rescued.
  • Rapunzel from Into the Woods.
  • Johanna from Sweeney Todd. Although the edifice in question isn't technically a tower, it is still a high building and Johanna is still, for all intents and purposes, locked away from the outside world.
  • Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

     Video Games  

  • Princess Cassima of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow spends most of the game in a tower. In fact, her musical motif is called "Girl in the Tower."
  • Raz must make his way up Thorney Tower in Psychonauts, to rescue the Girl in the Tower.
  • Dragon Quest IV has Rose, hidden away in a tower because Humans Are Bastards.
  • Ki, the shrine maiden in The Tower of Druaga.
  • ZUN, creator of Touhou, must be fond of this trope:
    • Imperishable Night: In Eientei, Kaguya is safely hidden at the end of a long, long corridor that leads to outer space.
    • Perfect Cherry Blossom: While it's more of an afterlife, the Hakugyokurou where Yuyuko resides is translated as "White Jade Tower". It's located high above the storm clouds.
    • Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: Flandre is hidden in the underground cellar.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village has the daughter of the Baron who owned the eponymous village living in a tower, and the heroes eventually rescue her at the game's ending. This is something of a twist on the trope, however, because she's not imprisoned up there — she can leave the tower whenever she pleases, and in fact is seen doing so (though the heroes don't know who she is at the time). She just can't leave the village.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has Link first meet the imprisoned Zelda in the tallest tower of Hyrule Castle, at which point he's informed that it's not just his home village that's in danger.
  • In the PC game Love Chronicles: The Sword and the Rose, the Prince needs to get into the castle tower to rescue the Princess, who is being held prisoner by a hideous beast. But when he finally gets to the tower, he finds only the beast. The beast is actually the ensorcelled Princess.
  • Princess Briar Rose in the first Dark Parables is asleep in a tower.
  • Princess Sophia, the Sleeping Beauty-ish heroine of the Awakening series of PC games, begins the first game, Dreamless Castle, by waking up from her enchanted sleep in the tower of an almost empty castle. In a refreshing twist, Sophia is a self-rescuing princess who finds her own way out.
  • Princess Peach in the Super Mario Bros. games.
  • Namine in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The twist is that although she was legitimately being held prisoner, she was cooperating with the bad guys by manipulating Sora's memories so that he would want to save her and thus becoming the pawn of Big Bad Marluxia. Her conscience wins out and she turns against her captors.
  • Deirdre of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is a largely voluntary case. She's not physically locked up, but lives in a very secluded community in a forest and she's strictly forbidden from meeting men from the outside. This is because she is a distant descendant of Loputus, and could potentially give birth to someone capable of resurrecting him.
    • Also, Deirdre's mother Cygiun was subjected to the same treatment, for exactly the same reason.
    • The sort-of sequel Thracia 776 reveasls that Manfloy's heiress and granddaughter Sara was also locked away from the world. She is very unhappy about it.
  • Bioshock Infinite has Elizabeth, who lives in a tower shaped like a giant angelic statue of herself, where she's observed in secret by scientists and slowly siphoned to produce the Vigors.
  • Astra in Star Stealing Prince; the game kicks off when Prince Snowe learns of her existence and sets off on his own to rescue her. Within Snowe's dream, Dream Astra is one too. It's not necessary to save her to finish the game, but doing so leads to the Good Ending, while not doing so...

     Visual Novels  

  • This trope is central to the legend of the flower Maiden's Vigil in Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem. The maiden in question, so beautiful that her greedy, jealous father locked her away as a treasure, received the seeds as a gift from a mysterious woman. She planted the seeds outside her tower window and watered them with her tears, and soon enough, the plant grew so large and strong that she was able to climb down the stalk and escape, finally free to determine her own fate. The flower is considered good luck for any young lady with a similarly uncertain future.

     Web Animation  

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  

  • The Sleeping Beauty in the Fractured Fairy Tales version, which is a direct parody of the Disney version. The Prince (who looks like Walt Disney) realizes he can make a fortune off tourists so he turns the castle into SleepingBeautyLand.
  • The opening sequence of the Australian cartoon series Arthur And The Square Knights Of The Round Table has Arthur "rescuing" Guinevere from a tower in Camelot. It was a mere spoof, though, she was getting ready to have dinner with him.
  • Jenny from the pilot of My Life as a Teenage Robot is a variant of sorts. Jenny is kept in her room on the top floor, until the world needs saving. When Tuck claims to have seen a monster up there, Brad climbs up to see what it is.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes features a girl named Ariane held in a tower by Lucius. Jimmy and Beezy spend the entire episode trying to rescue her. When they do, she transforms into a giant bug monster and levels Miseryville. As Lucius put it, "She was in there for a reason."
  • The lady Melissa in the Looney Tunes classic The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
  • An episode of Tales From The Cryptkeeper had a twisted take on this, where the person the Prince Charmless and his put-upon younger brother think is a traditional Sleeping Beauty is actually a vampire.
  • Invoked in one Gummi Bears episode by Cavin; when he and Princess Calla are captured and taken to Drekmore by the ogres, Cavin tells them that royal prisoners go in the tower. The ogres agree, but seperate the two by putting Cavin in the regulare dungeon.

     Real Life  

  • What happened to Princess Gwenllian of Wales and her cousins after Wales was conquered by England. In the newborn Gwenllian's case, it was not just to keep her from marrying and having children when older, but to keep her completely hidden from the world.