Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rapunzel - Grimm versus Disney

A Comparison

The Elements

plant - the source of the plot
  • Grimm : Rapunzel plant kept in the garden of the witch, in a first version forbidden of access, in a later edition, surrounded by a wall
  • Disney : a magic golden flower that originates from the sun (in Disney, light becomes quite an important character)

the witch
  • Grimm : a Fairy in the first version, an Enchantress, Witch in the later versions.
  • Disney : Mother Gothel, a witch who knows how to use the full power of the magic flower to keep herself young through centuries - she is given the motherly figure and even has some credibility in that role. Mother Gothel is a generic German name who designates a woman which serves as a god mother - usually a fairy god mother, in this case the evil one.
the parents
  • Grimm : poor peasants living in the land, country, kingdom
  • Disney : King and Queen of the said kingdom who prospered a few miles away from where Mother Gothel originally lives
the child
  • Grimm : the child was promised to the Witch, in exchange of the plant, when the Witch discovers the husband stealing at night. In the earlier version, the Witch actually gives her the name of Rapunzel
  • Disney : she is stolen by Mother Gothel from her crib from the castle, at night
the prince
  • Grimm : the prince who owns the lands surrounding the tower - in some earlier versions, he is a young king
  • Disney : a commoner, orphan and wanted thief - Flynn Ryder
The actions - the Facts

The pregnant woman craves the plant
  • Grimm : the pregnant wife sees the plant and craves for it
  • Disney : the pregnant queen falls ill and their only hope is a magic plant
The Husband gets the plant
  • Grimm : the loving husband goes into the forbidden yard to steal the rapunzel plant at night for her wife
  • Disney : the King sends his army and I suspect the people volunteered (to make it a lovey dovey aspect and fairy tale type care for the queen) go seek the magic flower.
Husband gets the plant
  • Grimm : the husband steals the plant from the forbidden yard 3 times. He is caught the third time by the witch - and has to promise his unborn child in order to save his life and get the plant back to his wife
  • Disney : the King's men find the plant, after Mother Gothel who accidentally reveals it by pushing back the cage which is hiding it. There is no interaction between the King and the Witch
The pregnant woman eats the plant/gives birth
  • Grimm : the woman eats the plant - feels her craving satisfied and gives birth to her child
  • Disney : the ill Queen drinks a beverage made with the golden flower, heals and gives birth to a healthy baby girl
The Witch claims her prize
  • Grimm : the witch comes back and reminds the husband his promise. The pour couple has no choice and the witch names and takes the child to be raised like her own in a remote and inaccessible tower
  • Disney : Mother Gothel comes to the castle and first actually tries to only take what she wants - the hair, in which she knows the magic lies - but once the hair is cut, the magic is no longer in it - it's faded - so she steals the child. (The child must be alive, her hair must grow and never be cut for the magic to operate)
Rapunzel's teenage years
  • Grimm : in the original tale, Rapunzel is only locked in the tower after she turns twelve years old - just before teenage hood. So we presume she lived in the house of the fairy before that - having her natural parents as neighbors!
  • Disney : the child is stolen one night and lives from that moment on in the tower, under the care of Mother Gothel
The Tower - Rapunzel's imprisonment
  • Grimm : Rapunzel is locked in a "high tower that had neither a door nor a stairway, but only a tiny little window at the very top."
  • Disney : Now here the team behind the story got a good step ahead and logical too. They actually respected everything, even the hook above the window - which is also mentioned in the original tale, but they did include a hidden door and a stairway, because against all common logic - how can the witch come and go feed the child when she is so young and is physically too weak to pull up her mother with her hair ? Of course, as a fairy tale, you'd expect the witch to fly or just "appear" but since Disney gave Mother Gothel a more human than witch aspect - they had to respect that - and it gives her more credibility. You can imagine that she used the stairway and the secret door when Rapunzel was a child, strengthening the forbidden aspect of going out, scaring the child with the outside world, and with time developed the window and the used the full potential of the length of the hair.
Rapunzel's hair
  • Grimm : "Rapunzel had splendid hair, as fine as spun gold." In classic fairy tales, golden hair is a sign of royalty and fairness, princesses usually have golden like the sun hair.
  • Disney : she has golden hair that glows when the song unlocking the magic is sang - usually by her god mother who uses the magic to keep herself young. She uses it to guide herself and Flynn out of a cave full of water and to heal a wound in his left hand.
Let down your hair
  • Grimm : "Rapunzel, Rapunzel!
    Let down your hair to me."
  • Disney : "Rapunzel!
    Let down your hair!" and Disney script people were clever enough to play on humor and add lines such as "Rapunzel, I'm not getting any younger down here." to emphasize about her worry, impatience, to joke about her age - because that is the reason why she has stolen and keeps Rapunzel prisoner - to keep herself young (in appearance).
Up the tower - the trick
  • Grimm : "When the fairy called out, she untied it, wound it around a window hook, let it fall twenty yards to the ground, and the fairy climbed up it."
  • Disney : In the movie, she loops her hair in that little hook above the window, lets down the length of the hair, Gothel folds it, put a foot in and Rapunzel does the pulling act.
In Comes the prince
  • Grimm : the Prince comes around randomly one day on his horse, and hears Rapunzel sing and enchanted by the beauty of her voice and music, falls in instantly in love
  • Disney : Flynn Ryder has just stolen the princess' crown from a guarded room in the castle and ran away with two thieve brothers. He escapes the royal guards and finds the tower, climbs to be in safety and out of sight.
First meeting of the protagonists
  • Grimm : in the tale, the prince hears Rapunzel but has no clue how to get inside the tower. He actually even falls into a despair because he is in love, but her aim is out of reach. He comes every day in the forest to listen and one day he discovers how the witch is getting access to the girl in the tower.
  • Disney : Flynn climbs the tower aided by two arrows that were originally shot at him by the royal guards, and first thing he does is take out the crown from his satchel to admire his prize. The light is dim, Rapunzel comes from behind and K.O.'s him from behind with her frying pan.
Relationship between the protagonists
  • Grimm : At first, Rapunzel is frightened but soon comes to like the young man. In the tale, they meet every night and with time, he even asks her to be his wife. Since in the tale, she also gets pregnant and has children, and since it cannot be out of wedlock, the wedding between the two is primordial importance.
  • Disney : She is scared - she has never seen a man before - but she takes hold of herself, checks him up - accordingly to what her mother used to scared her off with ( men with pointy teeth ) and reassured, closes him up in the closet. There is no love story in the air yet!
Mother Gothel discovers the young man's existence
  • Grimm : Rapunzel does get pregnant and innocently asks her god mother why all of a sudden her clothes are too tight for her. In later versions, she lets out the secret by asking the witch, why she is so much heavier than the young prince
  • Disney : There is no such thing as the ... future "in laws" meeting or let alone know the existence of each other. Rapunzel does not tell Flynn about her life in the tower - he only gets bits and pieces when she goes through emotional breakdown once out and free. She is delighted with her freedom in one moment, and tortured with agony of what could happen to her mother in the next one. She feels guilty of the heart break that her escape and running away would cause her mother - which she still loves dearly. The mother and the tower are in fact taboo subjects which Flynn is not invited to openly discuss with the girl just yet.
Gothel discovers the betrayal of Rapunzel
  • Grimm : The witch is scandalized and outraged that Rapunzel is pregnant - she is deceived in the sense of a treason. She wanted to keep Rapunzel for herself only and the sharing of the girl with a man, and worse, letting her go live happily with another person, is unthinkable of.
  • Disney : Gothel comes home after a fight with Rapunzel - a classic mother and daughter fight about a permission to go out, see an event - in the movie, the lanterns which are lifted in the skies on the night of her birthday. Gothel doesn't want Rapunzel to go out of the tower at any cost because she might never come back, thus her access to the golden magic flower is threatened and so is her "eternal youth". But with the coming of Flynn, Rapunzel escapes to fulfill her dream of seeing the lanterns. The stolen crown is lit by a little ray of sunlight and Gothel wrongly believes that Rapunzel has discovered that she is lost princess.
A good big sequence and plot only belongs to Disney between the discover of the betrayal and the cutting of the hair, but that is part of the magic of Disney and give a character to Rapunzel. She is not a passive princess like the first few ones (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty). Rapunzel is one of the best new type of princesses taking part of the action, conquering her fears and winning her freedom. (In this category we can also count Ariel the Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, and somewhat Belle from Beauty and the Beast from the classical tales - who also take a good part in the plot and tackle adventure to get what they want. They all more or less defy parental authority and actively take part in the conquering of their respective prince.)

Rapunzel's hair is cut
  • Grimm : out of rage and vengeance, the witch cuts Rapunzel's hair to craft a trap for the prince.
  • Disney : Flynn, who was stabbed by Gothel, cuts Rapunzel's hair with a piece of broken mirror at his hand's reach, to put an end to the girl's imprisonment - having understood that the magic lies in the hair and if cut, the magic is gone. Rapunzel had explained to Flynn how, once the hair is cut, it turns brown - and her magic hair is the reason of herself being kept in the tower by Gothel
The ending plot
  • Grimm : "Then she sent Rapunzel into a wilderness where she suffered greatly and where, after a time, she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl." Remember, she gets pregnant by the young prince. The witch also ties the cut hair to the hook, lets it down when the prince calls out for Rapunzel. He falls into the trap and in despair falls from the tower. He miraculously lives but looses his eyesight. In later versions, it's explained that he fell in a bush of thorns which pierced his eyes out. He also is sent in an errand for many years before he finds Rapunzel, some years later and recognizing her voice, walks to her. "Two of her tears fell into his eyes, and they became clear once again, and he could see as well as before."
  • Disney : Flynn is wounded by Gothel who stabbed his side (we imagine a deep wound in the back, or side - touching a vital organ, most probably the liver). He is about to die and Rapunzel makes a deal with Gothel: she promises to go away with her and stay with her for ever if in counter part, Gothel lets her heal Flynn. Flynn takes that occasion to take Rapunzel's face in his hand, to mimic a kiss but uses his other hand to cut off her hair, thus, freeing her. Gothel panics, freaks, but it's too late. Flynn sighs his last breath and dies. Rapunzel, who is sincerely afflicted cries over him and one tear - which held the last drop of magic from the golden flower is absorbed into his cheek and brings him back to life.
The End
  • Grimm : the tale finishes when the prince stumbles on Rapunzel and her two children, who live miserably in the woods.
  • Disney : being a classical Disney movie, the tale ends with all things good and fairy tale-ish. Rapunzel is returned to her parents, the King and Queen and the movie ends with celebration - we are also let known that the couple formed by Rapunzel and Flynn do get married and Flynn quits thieving and goes back to his original and true self, with this real name.

The cute little German rooted things you might have skipped in the movie.

Rapunzel obviously is German word for the plant which gave the girl

Gesundheit. Flynn greets a "god bless you" when Rapunzel tells him her name, he jokes that it sounds like a sneeze

Mother Gothel is the original German name for god mother

Helping Sources :

The two earliest versions of the tale - 1812 and 1857

Disney Movie Script

Disney Tangled preview on youtube *

* you may have some earlier versions of the movie from which the disclosed scenes were actually cut from the final edition - don't be surprised if you don't see such classic scenes as Flynn calling Rapunzel to let down her hair missing in the final movie.