Not a Grimm fairy tale? Disney’s latest animated tale, Tangled, is the story of Rapunzel. Though it may not be the way you remember it.
In the most well known versions of the tale–by the Grimm Brothers, Andrew Lang, et al.–“Once Upon a Time…” begins with a childless couple who live near a witch’s walled garden. The wife had a craving for radishes, which her husband would climb over the wall to steal for her. When the witch caught him one day, she let him go in exchange for his unborn child. The child, Rapunzel, was locked away in a tower and famously let down her hair for the witch to visit her. One day, a prince stumbles upon the tower, hears the witch’s password for gaining entry, and discovers Rapunzel. Naturally, the two fall in love.
Shockingly, in some versions, the witch learns of the prince when Rapunzel declares that her dress “is becoming too tight.” In tamer versions, Rapunzel carelessly wonders why the witch is heavier than the prince when they climb her hair. In either case, the witch cuts Rapunzel’s hair and casts her out. She then waits for the prince. Letting him up to the tower with Rapunzel’s hair, she pushes him out the window. He lands in a bramble bush and is blinded by the thorns.
The prince wanders as a beggar until one day he hears Rapunzel singing. He was initially drawn to the tower by hearing her sing. Rapunzel, overjoyed, embraces the prince and her tears cure his blindness. Having given birth to twins, she and the prince return to his kingdom and live their happily ever after.
This Grimm brothers fairy tale, published in 1812, was preceded in the 1600s by an Italian version (Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone, 1637) and a French version (Charlotte Rose de Caumont de la Force’s Persinette, 1697). However, the origins of the tale are much older and can be traced to a Persian legend, Rudaba, from around 1000 AD. Or as some claims suggest, the tale was inspired by the legend of Saint Barbara from the 3rd century.
Disney’s take is a little different. Rapunzel becomes a princess abducted by “Mother Gothel” because her golden hair, which has healing properties, enables Mother Gothel’s vain attempt to remain forever young. The prince becomes a thief, named Flynn, who has stolen a royal crown. To escape pursuit, Flynn stumbles upon Rapunzel’s tower. Alarmed, Rapunzel knocks him out with a frying pan (a great running gag). Her desire to see the “floating lights” that mysteriously appear only on her birthday leads her to make a deal. She’ll return the crown to Flynn, if he takes her to see the lights. Needless to say he agrees.
The elements of the original fairy tale are here–some more subtle than others, but the telling is fresh and very well-paced. The voice acting is stellar. Comedic lines are delivered with perfect timing. In particular, Flynn, voiced by Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, has some of the best lines. The songs, crafted by Alan Menken, are perhaps not as memorable as his earlier work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, but they are well-suited to the tale. The show-stopping numbers are delightfully reserved for the villianess, voiced by Broadway vet Donna Murphy.
I consider the tale of Rapunzel up there with the likes of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. All four being foremost among the most recognizable fairy tales, in my opinion. I remember reading and re-reading Rapunzel and other tales from a two-volume treasury of fairy tales an aunt gave me. Another obsession.
I’ve long waited for Disney’s interpretation. With the computer animated version, Tangled, my wait is over, and I was not disappointed. I can’t wait to own this one on DVD or Blu-ray! I’m especially looking forward to the deleted scenes, and I know there are some. I’ve seen clips and stills online that just weren’t in the movie.
I really like what they’ve done with the tale, even though it’s not the traditional one. I’ve long toyed with the idea of writing my own versions of my favorite tales, but have yet to do so. I’ve been busy writing–among other things–modern stories inspired by Greek myths. More on that later…
Tangled is a film for all ages. Still in movie theatres, you can watch it in 2D or 3D. Personally, I watched it in 2D.