Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rapunzel - Hairy and Loving It

The Girl with the Long, Golden Hair


Everybody knows the story of Rapunzel, the girl with the long, golden hair who was imprisoned in a tower. At long last, she spied her prince, and she let down her hair so that he could climb up and rescue her. It is a beautiful tale, straight out of German folklore like so many other classic fairy tales. While not the most famous of their fairy tales, "Rapunzel" is perhaps their sweetest, with a clear-cut story and moral that translates well to modern readers and viewers, encapsulating every parent's misplaced desire to guard and protect their lovely daughters, and every girl's eventual need to break free, whatever the cost.

Dame Gothel Rapunzel

The story of Rapunzel was neglected for many years while Snow WhiteSleeping Beauty and other princesses got fame, fortune and classic Disney movies. This sad situation was somewhat rectified with the release in 2010 of the Disney movie "Tangled."

German flowers
A candidate for the type of flower the wife wanted

As with all of the traditional folk tales out of Europe, the precise origins of the tale of Rapunzel are lost in the mists of time. Likely, they were stories from the early Renaissance passed down by storytellers over many centuries, gradually gaining a coherent and increasingly elaborate storyline with all of the rough edges smoothed over so that it was punchy, relatively short and pleasing to the listener. The earliest known instance of the tale in printed form is the tale of  "Petrosinella" by Giambattista Basile, set forth for posterity in "Pentamerone" (1634).

Rapunzel's tower

The story continued developing over the centuries, and variants were published by several others. Italo Calvino set forth his version in "Italian Folktales," the story entitled "The Canary Prince," while other versions by others were called  "Puddocky," "Prunella," "Snow-White-Fire-Red" "Anthousa, Xanthousa, Chrisomalousa, and "Golden" by Cameron Dokey. The story continues to be reworked to the present day, with Australian author Kate Forsyth putting forth her own variant in "Bitter Greens."

Rapunzel's tower

The story also has echoes in modern culture outside of the actual story, adapted for modern purposes. For example, in the Cyndi Lauper song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is the lyric:
"Some boys take a beautiful girl / And hide her away from the rest of the world" 
The version that people remember the best, though, is none of those. Rather, is the one printed by the Brothers Grimm in their 1812 collection of traditional fairy tales "Children's and Household Tales," which is the basis for the version set forth below.

Rapunzel's Prince

The Story of Rapunzel

A lonely, childless couple desperately wants a child. They live next to a walled garden belonging to an enchantress, Dame Gothel. The wife finally becomes pregnant, and she experiences cravings. Noticing lovely rapunzel plants growing in the garden, she pleads with her husband to get it for her. he obliges, and each night sneaks over the wall to steal some for her. On the third night, though, Dame Gothel catches him and brands him a thief. She is about to dispense justice using her enchantress ways, but he begs for clemency. She relents only upon the condition that the couple give her the child upon birth.

Rapunzel's tower

When the baby girl is born, Dame Gothel comes to collect. She names the child Rapunzel and raises the girl as if it were her own. Rapunzel grows to become the most beautiful girl in all the land, with long, golden locks   that are the envy of all. Dame Gothel is jealous, though, and fears losing Rapunzel. Upon the girl's twelfth birthday, the enchantress imprisons Rapunzel in an isolated tower in the woods. It has neither stairs nor a door, and only one room and a window. The witch comes to visit, but since there is no other way in, she cries out upon her approach the following:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair."

Rapunzel's tower

Upon hearing these words, Rapunzel would release her golden tresses and allow Dame Gothel to climb her hair up to the window. One day, though, a handsome prince was riding through the forest and heard Rapunzel singing her sweet song. Entranced, he searched for the owner of the enchanting voice and discovered the tower. Unable to enter, he returned often, listening to the sweet sound of the lonely girl locked away from the world.

Rapunzel's tower

On one of his visits, he saw Dame Gothel visit. Watching the enchantress call out and gain entry, the prince got an idea. He imitates Dame Gothel and fools Rapunzel into letting down her hair.

Rapunzel's tower
Rapunzel's Tower, Wales

The prince climbs up and meets Rapunzel, eventually asking her to marry him, to which Rapunzel agrees. Knowing that Dame Gothel will never agree, the prince and Rapunzel must figure out a way to get the beautiful Rapunzel out of the tower. They decide that he will come to visit each night, when Dame Gothel is not there, and bring her silken thread for Rapunzel to weave into a ladder.

Rapunzel's tower

Before she can complete the ladder, though, Rapunzel innocently asks Dame Gothel why it is easier to let up the prince than her. Incensed that Rapunzel has been allowing the prince to visit, Dame Gothel cuts short Rapunzel's hair to prevent future such instances and banishes her to the forest. That night, when the prince comes to visit, Dame Gothel lets down the hair, and when he climbs up, he finds the enchantress instead of his love.

Rapunzel's tower
A real-life Rapunzel's Tower in Dresden, Germany

The enchantress, flush with victory, tells the prince that he never will see Rapunzel again. In despair, he leaps off the tower and becomes blinded by thorns. Wandering thereafter alone in the forest, the blind prince stumbles upon Rapunzel, who now lives with fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) to whom she has given birth. He hears her voice as she is out gathering water, and they are reunited. Embracing, her tears restore his sight, and he then leads her and the children to his castle, and they all live happily ever after.

"Tangled": A Story that Appeals to Girls and Boys

"Tangled" (2010), directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, is Disney Animation's re-working of the classic Brothers Grimm tale about Rapunzel, the girl locked in a tower with long, luscious hair. Computer-generated imagery is used in this 3D animation production, but the studio did its best to make it look like a traditional hand-drawn feature. Technical advancements during the long six years of production made the characters' features much more lifelike than in, say, 2004's The Polar Express (not to pick on that film, which is fun just the way it is). "Tangled" also has an edge to it which may disconcert some viewers, with some violence and blood, but nothing that should disturb a modern viewer. The songs, while not particularly memorable, are performed well primarily by pop star Mandy Moore and help give Rapunzel's character an added dimension.
DVD Tangled 2010
Nobody - nobody - does castles better than Disney

Gothel (Donna Murphy) discovers a flower that has the ability to restore youth. She hides it away for her own selfish use, but eventually the king of a nearby kingdom hears about it and takes it to save his pregnant wife, destroying it in the process. The newborn princess (Mandy Moore) inherits the plant's magical powers, illustrated by her long, luscious golden hair. Gothel, determined to regain the plant's power, kidnaps the baby girl and locks her away in a tower, naming her "Rapunzel." The girl's parents honor her memory every year by releasing floating lanterns on her birthday, and she grows up hidden away, knows nothing of her abduction, and believes that Gothel is her mother.
Faceoff in Rapunzel's tower Tangled 2010
Lots of marriages end up like this

A thief, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), steals the tiara of the lost princess and chances upon Rapunzel's tower. He climbs up to visit her, but she subdues him and locks him up in a wardrobe. Rapunzel tells Gothel that her capture of Flynn means she can handle the outside world and should be allowed out, but Gothel denies her request and keeps her imprisoned. As an alternative reward, Rapunzel sends Gothel on an errant that will take several days to complete. Rapunzel then frees Flynn and tells him she will give him back the tiara if he takes her out into the world to visit the pretty lights she can see from her balcony once a year.
Pascal on Flynn's shoulder Tangled 2010
Pascal the Chameleon causing trouble

Flynn takes her out of the tower, but isn't too pleased at the mission. He stops first at the Snuggly Duckling Inn, which is full of bandits, in hopes of scaring her into just giving him the tiara and going back to her tower. Rapunzel charms everyone there, though, and they all become her friends.
Flynn tied up Tangled 2010
But honey, I'll do the dishes next time!

When Gothel returns, she sees that Rapunzel is gone but finds the tiara. She asks the Stabbington brothers (Ron Perlman) to hunt down Rapunzel, who first is chased out of the Inn with Flynn by the King's guards. They wind up in a dark, flooding cave with no apparent way out, where Flynn, thinking all is lost, confesses to Rapunzel that his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert. Rapunzel likewise reveals that her hair can heal people and glows when she sings. She bursts into song, and the light from her hair guides their way outside to safety. The two bond and start falling in love.
Flynn Tangled 2010
Flynn with his "look"

Gothel then shows up and tries to convince Rapunzel that Flynn doesn't care for her and only is humoring her to get the tiara back. The horse of the Captain of the Guards, Maximus, has been hunting Flynn and shows up now. Rapunzel charms him into helping them rather than taking Flynn to prison. They go to see the lights, and then Rapunzel gives Flynn the tiara. Flynn is prepared to give up the tiara to his old comrades in order to keep Rapunzel, but they knock him out and try to kidnap Rapunzel for her magical hair. Gothel shows up again and rescues her, taking her back to the tower, but Rapunzel has learned too much about her past and now wants only to escape and reclaim her place as princess.
Flynn climbing hair Tangled 2010
Rapunzel let down her hair

Flynn is caught by the guards, but escapes with the help of Maximus. He immediately returns to Rapunzel's tower, but Gothel stabs him. Rapunzel agrees to do whatever Gothel wants if Gothel will let her heal Flynn. Flynn, though, doesn't want Gothel interfering any more and tries to figure out a way to destroy her forever.
Flynn and wanted poster Tangled 2010
I think it's a good likeness

The plot is intricate and confused in places, but also very sweet. The voice actors are all familiar, with Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Tambor, and Richard Kiel ("Jaws" from the James Bond films) all given minor but memorable roles. While this at heart is a story about Rapunzel from the fairy tale, it is made into an adventure with new heroes, a male lead along with the female lead of Rapunzel, and villains. "Tangled" thus becomes a very entertaining feature for all children, whereas a focus on just Rapunzel and her hair inevitably would have turned into a girls-only affair.
Gothel Tangled 2010
The evil Gothel

There are many songs by Alan Menken, but really, they are not all that spectacular. The real draw of the film is that it has a nice mix of action, adventure, comedy and romance. Unfortunately, though, with all the elements jumbled together, the film is a bit uneven. It is funny, then somebody gets stabbed, or Mandy starts singing, or Flynn gets thrown into jail. There is no unified structure that identifies this as a musical, or a comedy, or a romance. It is nice that there is variety, but a common theme would be nice as well.
Maximus and Flynn Tangled 2010
Those are some big ol' buck teeth!

Flynn reminds me a great deal of the Bruce Campbell character of the thief "Autolycus" from Kevin Sorbo's television series "Hercules: The Legendary Adventures." He wears the same style of green tunic and displays a similar wise-cracking, knowing style. Most of all, he realizes the power of being a charmer. Rapunzel's ability to crack his facade and force him to reveal his true nature is the part most fans of this film will enjoy the most.
Rapunzel swinging from hair Tangled 2010
Swing, swing, swing all day long!

Disney really can't please anyone in these days of political critiques of everything it does, and this film is a classic example of that. Either it emphasizes Rapunzel too much and loses its young male audience, or it broadens its sweep to include a male hero and invites gratuitous swipes from some critics. While not an epic instant classic like "Beauty and the Beast" or "The Little Mermaid," "Tangled" is a delightful new princess adventure that should satisfy most small children, though not every adult with a warped political agenda for them. Kids seem to like it, and the film was a stunning success at the box office, becoming Disney Animation Studio's second highest-grossing film worldwide, trailing only the internationally focused "The Lion King."
The tower Tangled 2010
Rapunzel's tower

Probably the best part about this film, and the reason it is so successful, is that it features a princess who overcomes her problems and falls in love. That is the kind of story that makes peoples' hearts melt. The raw reality is that normal people, the kind that flock to see pictures like this, still want to see a girl fall in love and live happily ever after.
DVD case front and back Tangled 2010
They may have tweaked "Tangled" for boys, but the DVD cover sure is girlish

It is such a pleasure when Disney gets it right by reaching back to its roots for the kinds of things that make classics such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Sleeping Beauty" such an enduring part of the culture. Disney understands what people want and gives it to them. They did a very good job of managing that with "Tangled."
Maximus, Flynn, Rapunzel Tangled 2010
Watch out for that frying pan!

Perhaps the best way to sum this film up is to say that it is Disney updating a classic tale for modern sensibilities, with sitcom gags and a touch of violence, but keeping the essentials intact. Nothing wrong with that, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for the song "I See the Light," which won a Grammy. This is a fun tale, about a lot more than a girl with long hair, and isn't just a film for girls only.
Rapunzel Tangled 2010
Rapunzel with a great look

A short 6-minute sequel, "Tangled Ever After," was released in early 2012 and continues the adventures of Flynn and Rapunzel. The trailer for "Tangled" is provided below for your viewing pleasure, and after it is an introduction to Rapunzel's pet chameleon Pascal.

Below is the trailer for "Tangled."


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