Fields of Poetry

I don't know how to love him
What to do, how to move him
I've been changed. Yes, really changed
In these past few days when I've seen myself
I seem like someone else . . .

Friday, February 11, 2011

How are Rapunzel's Tears Magical?

Fairy tales are magical and uplifting, warming the hearts of every child who has yet to deduce the world in which they were born. I love fairy tales and I believe they aid parents in raising their children to become prudent individuals because each and every one of them teach essential moral values. While some fairy tales such as Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk are consistent, others can be fluky and arbitrary, which could meander from the main point of the story.

One such fairy tale is Rapunzel.

For many years I've wondered why the wife would allow her husband to commit a crime, stealing from a witch. I've wondered why they could not keep a promise of giving the witch their daughter because they did after all steal from her garden. I was disgusted by Rapunzel's biological parents and found the witch to be the most reasonable and pragmatic character despite her role as the antagonist. As the adopted parent, she did take great length to care for and protect Rapunzel, treating her like a real princess when she's really the daughter of a poor candle stick maker.

Maybe the main theme of the story is responsibility. The biological parents are shown as irresponsible couples who participate in criminal acts and so were punished by having their only child taken away from them. The witch is shown as a responsible figure who cares for and cherishes her child's innocence and understands when she should let her go.

The story reinforces this theme of responsibility towards the end where the prince's blindness is cured by Rapunzel's tears. The restoration of his eye sight is symbolic of the Prince's realization that he has to be responsible for making Rapunzel pregnant! That he has accepted that he is now a father and will cherish Rapunzel forever more.

What I didn't like about the original is that Rapunzel's character never really develops. She's as boring as the tower in which she lives in. Moreover it didn't make sense to me that Rapunzel suddenly had magical tears and that got in the way of me trying to decipher the message that the story is trying to convey. Then along came Disney and simplified the whole story with their recent featured animation, Tangled.

I really enjoyed watching Tangled and I believe that Disney did a great job of simplifying Rapunzel by structuring the story for the characters to make decisions. I suppose this is what make Tangled so different from the original tale of Rapunzel: It's character-driven.


Before I resume, let me inform you that in Tangled, the role of the characters are switched around:
  • Instead of the father acting as the thief, it's the Prince. In the Disney version, he is a notorious thief called Flynn Rider whose dream is to be wealthy beyond his wildest imagination. 
  • Instead of dealing with immoral couple who steals her cabbage/radishes or whatever the version says it is, the witch is selfishly keeping a magical flower for herself. A flower that grew from the tears of the sun (or from a drop of pure sunlight).
  • Instead of the parents being a poor couple who makes a living off of making candles, they are the beloved King and Queen of a beautiful nation full of kind and friendly people. 

In the beginning, a wanted thief called Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) narrates, introducing us to the vain and selfish witch, Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy).  She hoards this magical flower that restores her youth every time she sings a special song to it. 

At that time, he narrates, a beloved Queen is sick with child and needs that flower to restore her back to health otherwise, she and the child could die. The people searches far and wide but because Mother Gothel is hiding the flower, they struggle to find it until she herself knocks  off the cover that hides it from view and is found by the soldiers.

The Queen drinks the soup made of the flower and is restored back to health. Little does she know that the powers of the flower is fused into the baby in her stomach. Rapunzel is born and the people rejoices and so do Mother Gothel! Mother Gothel steals into the castle and tries to take strands of Rapunzel's hair as it has obtained the powers of the flower. She discovers that they wither when they are cut off and so decides to abduct the baby instead. And that is how Rapunzel ends up locked in a high tower: for Mother Gothel to keep her youth and beauty all to herself.

Giving Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) a special ability allows for the heroine to develop her character. I liked that she has this anxiety concerning her hair; that she is torn by guilt due to disobedience and her growing affection towards Flynn. It made a lot of sense that her love for Flynn is not just sexual curiosity as the original story seems to imply.

Also, it becomes satisfactory to watch her save Flynn Rider's life with her tears in the end. With her hair cut off from the tip, as a stem is cut off from the stigma, her tears are the last thing that resonates with the sun. Rapunzel, being innocent and pure resonates with the purity of the sun's tears (or drop of sunlight) and thus contains the power to heal. We as the audience, end up whispering "Ahh . . . yeah. I totally saw that coming!"

Although the theme in the story of Rapunzel changed in Tangled (it's maturity instead of responsibility) , the plot makes a lot more sense than the original and there is only one character who is clearly an antagonist-- Mother Gothel. In the original story, it's a lot more complicated and it's hard to decide who is really bad: the biological parents or the witch? And you even wonder if the Prince has what it takes to be a father, what more as a King?

Flynn Rider, despite his reputation as a thief we learn towards the climax that he has the potential to become a good King if not a great one.

All in all, I do love the tale of Rapunzel be it the original version or the Disney's. I just happen to find Tangled a lot more contrive and delightful because they answered the very question that I've been asking for the longest time: How are Rapunzel's tears magical?

"I see the light"

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