produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios
directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Disney's story brought to life many feminine characters and immortalized them in the minds of most people, especially so in the modern digital era where nursery rhymes and fairy tales gave way to more violent prone medias and entertainment. Most of my friends are familiar with Snow White, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, but the tale of Rapunzel is not as well known to them.

The Original Rapunzel

The original story was part of the German Brothers Grimm's collection of fairy tale published in 1812, and in turn was adapted from Persinette, published by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force in 1698. It told the story of a girl with long hair, who was shut off in a room on the top of a tower by an enchantress and not allowed to leave. The only way to access the room was by climbing up the tower through the her magical hair, which could not be cut short, which Rapunzel let down.

Of course there was a prince. There always was a prince. And so the story continues with Rapunzel and the prince, and tragedy happened when the enchantress found out, and something magical happened, and they lived happily ever after. Let's just say that the current generation is not as gullible as I was when I was enchanted by Beauty and the Beast, or when my parents were enchanted by Snow White.

In an era where Transformers, Harry Potter and Twillight reign, it is quite difficult to portray a classic tale in its original light, as the latest audience, adult and adolescence alike, is used to the sophisticated and more realistic plot. And so born a new Rapunzel, capturing the gist of the original story but included more elements of reality which the audience could relate with their life.

Image taken from HD Wallpapers.
The Tangled Rapunzel

Rapunzel is still the protagonist, but she is now a princess, as was the case for most of the previous famous heroine, instead of a common girl in the original story. She was born with magical golden hair after her mother the Queen drank a concoction from a magical flower which healed her ailment. 

Unfortunately, the flower was also the only means of keeping a certain evil witch, Gothel, from succumbing to the unavoidable claws of aging. With the flower now plucked, the only means of getting the magical properties of the flower was through the hairs of Rapunzel, which will shine bright with the color of the sun when sung a certain song and takes away the ailments of the holder of her hair, including old age. The catch? Her hair will lose its magic where it was cut, leaving only her original brown hair. And so her hair was allowed to grow and never to be cut.

Image taken from HD Wallpapers.

The little princess with the hair of golden sunshine was snatched from her cradle and hidden in a secluded tower with no other access save for a window to the room high above (actually there a was hidden access). The only means to the window from the floor was to climb up the long hair which Rapunzel hung down from the window, which she did for the witch mistaken for her mother. So there she was, kept by the witch, being told of how dangerous the world was and the only safe haven was the tower, until the day of her 18th birthday came.

No prince charming came through, although a certain thief did stumble across her tower and climbed into her room to shake off pursuit. The scoundrel that was Flynn Rider had no choice but to take Rapunzel out for a journey in order to get back the crown he stole, which was now in the possession of the lady with golden hair. And so the adventure began.

Image taken from Cinema Wallpapers.

The Shackles of a Girl

Much as the story was about Rapunzel's adventure, it was in truth a portrayal of the coming of age of an adolescent. Her first step out of the tower, her joy of leaving her home and becoming truly independent for the first time, her acquaintance with a bad influence which was Flynn - all these are the situations which most adolescents would have faced on their first tentative step into an unknown society full of danger.

As was the case of most good Disney stories, one could simply watch it for the fun which it brought, or one could delve deeper for the symbolism behind certain scenes and portrayals of the characters. The most obvious and recurring theme was the tower, as well as how the characters' stories revolved around it.

To have a tower in a story which hinted its timeline to be medieval, is nothing unusual. But a tower with a lady who could leave anytime she wanted, but never did, is. The tower represented the home and shackles of a child, which although he longed to step out, will always hesitate at that moment, just as what Rapunzel did. The outside world, as was usually told by parents, is dangerous.

Image taken from HD Wallpapers.

But overprotective parents shared no more difference than the evil Gothel, for keeping their child at the tower that is their home will be just hoarding them for selfish reasons. Gothel did so for the magical properties of Rapunzel's hair, parents may do so for the fear of losing their child or his love.

And it never was easy on the first step out for a growing adolescent. Rapunzel was happy for really stepping out, but was at the same time distraught over the fact that Gothel will be heartbroken. Her first friend beyond the tower happened to be Flynn, and for the sake of the story, he turned out to be a good guy. But then again, what are the chances in reality that if the first friend an adolescent met is bad influence, that he will not be pulling the latter down with him? Such are the hard truth of society.

What I found to be particularly symbolic was the move by Flynn to cut off Rapunzel's hair in the end to prevent her enslavement to Gothel. The cutting away of the long flowing hair with healing properties could be related to an adolescent's casting away of the protection and charm which comes with youth and enters society as an adult.

Image taken from Cinema Wallpapers.

The Indestructible Hair

Of particular interest to me was that despite this being a fairy tale with many highly improbable action scenes, the scenes involving the hair being a weapon and tool may have a strong basis in reality. The human hair is extremely strong and resilient, and could really grow to unimaginable lengths if left untrimmed since birth.

Using the hair to lift a person up is not impossible, although it may be quite painful to the owner. Fortunately, clever Rapunzel (or maybe it was Gothel's idea) utilized her hair through a pulley system, thus the load lies on the hair bundle as hair as the muscles on her arms. Do pardon this engineer for his assessment even during a fairy tale meant to be enjoyed as such...

Image taken from HD Wallpapers.

Of course, leaving hair untrimmed is not uncommon in medieval societies, when not everyone had access to sharp tools for cutting hair. Some traditions which survived to modern times even encouraged leaving the hair to grow without cutting it, such as the Sikhs.

And they understood the difficulties when travelling around with such long hair, which was what Rapunzel faced when first entering the city, with people steeping on her flowing hair constantly. So these same traditions created artistic way to keep the hair bundled on their heads, such as braiding the hair. The ingenuity behind braiding is that the length of hair is shortened through the winding, keeping the full total length within a shorter length of the bundle.

In A Tangled Nutshell

Is Tangled worth watching? Totally. With so little fairy tales being told and too many violent action movies (which I liked anyway), this story is one of those which a family should not missed watching together. Spread throughout the movie are symbolic parallels to our reality, especially to the journey of an adolescent to adulthood. It would do much good to the parents to understand what the young people in their family are facing, and to remember that they themselves too, were once adolescents.


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