RAPUNZEL: OH WHAT A “TANGLED” WEB WE HAIR WEAVE…

By Dr. Craig D. Reid

We’re not talking extensions here folks but Rapunzel’s real long hair that weaves and wraps around those that practice to decieve. Of course that would be the evil pseudo-mother that spider webs her deception until it arachno-bites her in the butt to reveal the true red-lantern walking shadow of the poor black widow that struts and frets her hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a German fairy tale told by two brothers in 1812 full of sound and today 3-D visuals, signifying more than nothing. On, on everlasting stary candle lanterns, bring light to the shadows of despair for the sole mates to become soul mates to the last syllable of recorded time.

Tangled, which marks Walt Disney Pictures’ 50th full-length animated feature, is not a Shakespeare tragedy with a grim ending but an animated Disney epic with a Grimm ending that is as hair-raising as it is hairlarius. The galloping ponytale steals the film and when we compare Tangled from the original fairy tale, there is no bun in Rapunzel’s oven, as things cook up in typical Disney fashion with the right blend of cutesy dough and well kneaded humor that doesn’t come across as half-baked but successfully rises to fulfill everyone’s dreams…which is essentially the point of the film. Thus with weaved hair and Rapunzel’s desire to make dreams come true, she is the dream weaver that can help eveyone get through the night.

The original story of “Rapunzel” that was written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm”, which in 1812 was part of a collection published under the moniker of Children’s and Household Tales (aka Grimm’s Fairy Tales) that also included “Snow White” and “Hansel and Gretel” was adapated from Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force’s 1698 published fairy tale “Persinette.”

In “Rapunzel” when the wife of a long time childless couple finally became pregnant, she had a uncontrollable yen for a rapunzel plant growing in enchantress Dame Gothel’s fairy tale garden in Ludwigsburg, Germany. When the husband was caught stealing it, Gothel granted leniency in return that the couple surrender their un-born child to her at birth. When Rapunzel reached age 12, Gothel locked her away in a secluded stairless and doorless tower in the middle of the woods. When Gothel visited Rapunzel, she’d yell the now pop culture words, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.”  Rapunzel would wrap her long, blonde hair aound a hook by the window and lower it down to Gothel upon which the witch would climb up the hair into the tower.

Then one day, while riding through the forest, a prince heard Rapunzel’s angelic voice singing from the tower. By learning how Gothel got up the tower, when she was gone he bade Rapunzel to let down her golden hair. After proposing marriage they planned their escape only to have the witch discover their affair by Rapunzel’s bulging belly (i.e. bun in her oven). Gothel cut Rapunzel’s hair and sent her off into the woods to die. When the unaware prince arrived and climbed up the severed braids that Gothel lowered, he was so distraught to see Gothel’s evil that he leapt from the tower and was blinded when he landed on the thorns below, making sure that he would truly never-ever see her again. But in the Grimms’ world of magic, a tear of sadness could become a seed of light in the dark world of Rapunzel and the prince, as ultimately they would live happily ever after.

So what happens in the reel world of Rapunzel and Tangled? When the kingdom’s most charming and most wanted thief Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) hides out in a mysterious tower, he’s taken hostage by the trickily trapped maiden Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore), a beautiful and feisty tower-bound teen with 70 feet of magical, golden hair.  Flynn’s never-before-seen-a-young-man curious captor, who’s looking for her own tricky ticket out of the tower where she’s been locked away for years, strikes a deal with the becoming bandit and the boisterous bunch sets off on an action-packed escapade, complete with a harrying wonder horse, a custodial camouflaged chameleon and a gruff gang of Norseman pub thugs that drink and stink, and sing and stab, that all together will make Flynn and Rapunzel’s lives rad, mad and glad.

It is refreshing that over the years Disney created teen/young women characters have incredible teen angst and are aware that they exist within a world of uncertainty and stress as compared to the make-believe, jaded and clouded reality that was common in past films. We can thank Ariel for that one, as she was the beginning of reality for even the most privileged of maidens.  But of course in Disney’s Rapunzle there is no teen pregnancy. 

So although Rapunzel on the surface feigns the happiness of being alone, the deeper emotional issues are in plane sight as ultimately she has dreams that can only be fulfilled outside of her current lonely life. And as is common with fairy tales, at the end of the day, the name of the game is unrequited love even if it means one sacrificing them selves for the other to live.

So with a dabbling of déjà vu…yet in the Grimms’ world of magic, a tear of sadness could become a seed of light in the dark world of Rapunzel and Flynn, as ultimately living happily ever after is their dream. Will it happen? The adventure begins the day before Thanksgiving, 2010. 

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