The tale Rapunzel is well known in modern days. Everyone knows the story about the girl with long hair who lived in a tall tower. However, this tale, as suggested by numerous people, has been completely and utterly destroyed by Disney in its film “Tangled”. I beg to differ. While the Disney film certainly goes places the original tale of Rapunzel never did, it still holds the same motifs as the original tale very firmly.
First, let’s look at the simplistic: what about the similarities? Mother Gothel still kidnaps the firstborn of the family. Rapunzel is still locked in a tower. There’s still a love interest and a scene where love wins out and saves the romance. There’s still Mother Gothel tricking the ‘prince’ character with Rapunzel’s hair, and then her harming the ‘prince’ character. Overall, the tale is preserved so far. We still see that Rapunzel is isolated in her tower, keeping up that lack of social interaction. We see that Rapunzel falls in love, just as she did before, and she matures in some sense of the word. In the original tale, she matured by becoming pregnant – in the Disney tale, she matured by claiming her position as the lost princess and standing up to the abusive woman with whom she had spent the last 18 years of her life. If anything, the Disney tale held more depth in this case than the original tale. But that’s just what is similar. What differences were there?
The biggest difference is the comedy of the Disney tale. We’ve got frying pans used as weapons; ruffians who have dreams; ridiculous caricatures of main characters. The list goes on of all of the humorous bits in the Disney movie “Tangled”. Most of these subplots or comedic things never appear in the original tale. However, that does not mean comedy is completely gone from the tales. In the original version of Rapunzel, she asks Mother Gothel why “her clothing is so tight”. For those who don’t get the joke there, it’s because she’s pregnant. Her naivety is almost hilarious. But, yes, for the most part, the Brothers Grimm version has very little comedy – but what does this change, significantly? The tale has gone from something we read over and forget to something we can remember because it made us laugh once. Few of us will remember, in years to come, from the original tale that Rapunzel was actually named after some lettuce in the witch’s garden, or that the prince who saved her didn’t die, but was actually blinded. However, we will easily recall the silly animated horse who chased after Rapunzel and Flynn as they made their way away from her isolation into the real world. In this recall, the fairy tale is kept alive – something that surely would not happen if the original tale was not re-created every few hundred years or so. In particular, people worry most that the comedy ruins the main moral or main motifs behind the tale. By having the ruffians and lanterns and silly pet chameleon, the movie “Tangled” just ruins the tale – but, really, I don’t see how. In the original tale, Rapunzel was isolated. In “Tangled”, she still was. Granted, she had a pet chameleon: an animal that cannot talk, who offers no direct communication, and is not, in fact, even a human. This small comedic sidekick is nothing more than relief from the tense storyline – something I believe the Grimm Brothers themselves would’ve added had their story been extended to a full 100 minute time mark of reading. Everyone needs a break from intense plot lines at some point, which is probably why the tales we knew as children were so terribly short. Drama is a hassle to sustain, and when it is sustained, the audience loses interest.
The other main motif that people worried about was maturation – she still acts like a child in the film, joking with horses that act like dogs and ruffians who have no desire to kill her. All of the intense dangers of the real world no longer exist, leaving her as innocent as she was when she started. This is, frankly, an outdated belief that childlike actions mean childlike immaturity. Yes, a horse acting like a dog is silly. Yes, ruffians who have no desire to kill (but who have, I would like to add, in fact killed people, as shown in the movie, and are incredibly dangerous) seem to be harmless. However, being locked in a tower for 18 years puts a bit of a damper on ones social skills. Despite it all, Rapunzel talked, worked, and made her way through the forest to the castle, where she fit in and kept a smile on her face the entire time. By the end of the movie, she had stood up to an abusive mother – something many people can’t even do in real life – claimed her role as princess, and even managed to find love. I think this shows a level of maturity that very few people in real life even have. What signs of maturity did she have in the original Grimm tale? Oh, that’s right. She got pregnant.
Overall, despite some differences in the Disney movie “Tangled”, the story Rapunzel was actually fairly well represented! Perhaps not through having the same exact plot, but through having similar motifs. Perhaps this contamination from Disney is actually a good thing. After all, who likes to watch the same fairy tale over and over, when you can do something just a little bit different and experience it in a whole new light?