Episode 18 – Reimagining Rapunzel


Anarchy Episode 6: Rapunzel

Introductions: Austin, Alex, Michael


Michael: Barbie animated dvd : 2002

I chose to analyze the retelling of Rapunzel called Barbie as Rapunzel because my daughters told me I had to. This is a direct to dvd computer animated fairytale made in 2002 by Mainframe and Mattel entertainment. It is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm Fairy tale Rapunzel. It starts out with Barbie telling her sister Chelsea the story of Rapunzel to inspire Chelsea to be a better painter. In the story Rapunzel is trapped in the tower of a mansion behind a magical barrier created by the sorceress Gothel. Rapunzel has a friend talking rabbit named Hobie with her as well as a friend talking dragon named Sophie. Sophie’s dad is a huge talking dragon named Hugo who Gothel rides around and puts to work protecting her Mansion. One day Rapunzel and her two friends happen to find a magical hairbrush that had been given to Rapunzel as a gift when she was one year old. Rapunzel figures out that Gothel has been lying to her by saying that her parents abandoned her when she was a newborn. After finding the brush Rapunzel wanders into the nearby village where she saves a princess and meets the princess’s Brother Prince Stefan but never gets around to asking his name. Gothel has a pet Otter named Otto who tells Gothel where Rapunzel went and Gothel confronts Rapunzel calling her a liar when Rapunzel can’t remember Stefan’s name. Stefan looks everywhere for Rapunzel but can’t find her. Then the magic hairbrush turns into a paintbrush which can transport Rapunzel to the place she paints with it. Rapunzel meets Stefan again and they try to find her parents but there is a feud between Stefan’s family and the family of the neighboring king Wilhelm which gets in the way. Just then Sophie asks Rapunzel to return to Gothel or Gothel will kill her dad Hugo. When Rapunzel returns Gothel puts a spell on the tower preventing anyone with a lying heart from leaving. She also takes Rapunzel’s hair as a disguise to get at Stefan’s family. Rapunzel escapes with the help of Hugo and Sophie to confront Gothel. That’s when we learn that Gothel stole Rapunzel from King Wilhelm in order to start the feud between the two kingdoms as revenge for king Wilhelm breaking her heart a looooong time ago. So Rapunzel tricks Gothel into going back to the tower where Gothel is trapped in her own spell for lying to Rapunzel. Rapunzel marries Stefan thus breaking the feud and saving both kingdoms. This story helps Chelsea to find inspiration to start painting again.

Alex: Disney’s Tangled – 2010

For my retelling I decided to do the Disney movie Tangled. The movie was released in 2010 and is about a magic flower that was used to keep Mother Gothel young. In the retelling, the flower is stolen from Mother Gothel in order to heal a queen who is about to give birth in a nearby kingdom. While trying to retrieve the flower, Gothel comes to find that there are traces of the flower left in the queen’s newborn daughter’s hair and if the hair were to be cut, it would lose the power of the flower. Gothel steals the baby, who is named Rapunzel, and raises her in an isolated tower so she can use the Rapunzel’s hair to stay young. On the night of Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, she requests to leave the tower and explore but Gothel refuses, telling Rapunzel that outside the tower is not safe. Meanwhile, a man named Flynn Rider steals Rapunzel’s meant-to-be crown from the kingdom and comes across Rapunzel’s tower when trying to get away. Rapunzel captures Flynn and finds out that he has the crown but she doesn’t realize its significance because she has been locked away since she can remember. Rapunzel has to hide Flynn so she tells Gothel to get her paint that would take three days to retrieve and Gothel accepts. Rapunzel tells Flynn that if he gets her out of the tower she will give him back the crown. Throughout the story Rapunzel uses her hair to get her and Flynn out of trouble and soon they start to fall in love. Flynn tells Rapunzel that his real name is Eugene and they both return to the kingdom where Eugene gets captured for stealing the crown but Rapunzel arranges a truce in honor of her 18th birthday. Next, Gothel comes and steal Rapunzel back and returns her to the tower. Rapunzel begins to realize that she is the long-lost princess and confront Gothel about it. Meanwhile, Eugene is being sentenced to death but is then saved by his friends he knows from a pub he is a regular at. Eugene then goes to try to save Rapunzel from the tower. Eugene climbs up the tower using Rapunzel’s hair just to find that she is tied up. Gothel stabs Eugene and attempts to run away with Rapunzel, but Rapunzel comes up with a plan to save Eugene. She agrees to lifelong captivity if she is allowed to heal Eugene with her hair. As Eugene is dying, he slices off a piece of Rapunzel’s hair which made Gothel start to age rapidly causing her to fall out the window of the tower to her death. As Rapunzel cries over dying Eugene, one of her tears which still contains the power of the flower, lands on Eugene’s cheek and heals him. The two return to the kingdom and Rapunzel is reunited with her parents and Eugene is pardoned for his crimes.

Austin: Anne Sexton’s poem, Rapunzel – 1971

My Retelling is a poem called “Rapunzel” by Anne Sexton, which was published in the year 1971. This poem starts off with two women who are in love with each other and she goes into great detail of how the two women are intimate with one another, they do not hide their feelings for one another, and convince each other to lock themselves away from all boys and to play with each other. When the Rapunzel retelling actually begins halfway through the poem, Rapunzel’s parents are in desperate need of healing the mother from illness when they stumble across an enchanted garden cursed and locked away by the evil sorceress, Gothel. When the father sees the flower, he hops the fence to retrieve the medicine for the mother to eat, when the mother finishes eating the flower, the witch confronts them and demands a trade for her newborn daughter to spare their lives. Gothel named the daughter Rapunzel and locks her way in a stone cold tower to keep away from boys and people that could take Rapunzel away from her. Rapuzel’s hair is very strong and long and golden that can stretch all the way from the top to the bottom of the tower. Gothel would yell Rapunzel, “hold me my young dear, hold me,” as Rapunzel would use her hair to carry Gothel to the top of the tower to play “mother-me-doo”. One day, a prince from the nearby village hears Rapunzel’s beautiful singing and calls for her to bring down her hair. Rapunzel listens to the prince and her and the prince now see each other every night, every time the prince is underneath the tower. One day, Gothel finds out that Rapunzel has been seeing this prince and banishes her from the tower and is to wander in the woods for the rest of her life to repent for her sins against Gothel who pretends to be her mother. Gothel cuts off Rapuzel’s hair to the ears and not only ruins the garden but ruins the health of Gothel allowing her to age. The prince comes to the tower the next day only to meet Gothel and hear the news of her banishment. As he jumps out of the tower he lands in a pile of thorns and is pricked in the eyes eternally blinding him from eyesight for the rest of his life. He wanders in the woods blind for years and ultimately runs into Rapunzel from hearing her sing. They are reunited and live happily ever after, while Gothel is aging back in the garden and her heart has shrunk to the size of a pin.


Discussion of source story archetypes:

Brothers Grimm: Rapunzel- 1857


The source Rapunzel story is tale-type 310 in the Aarne-Thompson index and has recurring themes of purity and chastity as represented by the high tower that Rapunzel is always locked away in. This is also represented by the golden color of Rapunzel’s hair and light color of her skin. Every Rapunzel story has to involve Rapunzel’s really long hair which sometimes can weigh her down while at other times can be used as a tool like when she uses it to bring guests into the high tower. Her story also always involves an evil croon or sorceress. Gothel is the one that puts Rapunzel up in the tower after stealing her from her parents. This represents a disconnect from the people around Rapunzel. Then the Gothel character passes judgement on Rapunzel for losing her purity. Another recurring character is the prince that breaks through Rapunzel’s isolation but also comes to remove her from her puritan state of being. The story also has some magic use usually by Gothel since she is after all a sorceress but also by Rapunzel because in the end she heals the prince with her tears in the original version. A smaller symbol would be the flowers that give Rapunzel her name but also probably give her the magic for healing since in the original Grimm Version they come from Gothel’s magical garden. The prince getting hurt and wandering around a lot is also an important theme since only the love from Rapunzel and her tears can heal him, but until she does he has a lot of pain and suffering.


Individual Analyses:


In both of the Rapunzel stories I read, there are many archetypes that are passed from the original Brothers Grimm version of Rapunzel to Disney’s Tangled version. I think the most important being the tower. In both of the stories the tower is used as a barrier; blocking Rapunzel from the outside world. In the retelling Tangled, the tower is also used as a place where Gothel can hide her most valuable possession: the hair that makes her stay young. Disney started changing the retelling by first making the mother of Rapunzel into the Princess of a kingdom not far from Gothel’s. I think this adds more of a plot and also helps the movie appeal to children watching. Disney also cleaned up the story by having Rapunzel stolen from the parents instead of traded. Although they did keep the part about Rapunzel’s mother being sick. Disney gave purpose to the flower. They made it a magical flower that made Rapunzel’s hair heal people who touch it. Another thing Disney changed to help the plot is they turned the Prince from the Brother’s Grimm version into Flynn Rider, a mischievous guy who just happens to stumble upon her tower. Disney adds emotion to the story by having Rapunzel and Flynn, or Eugene, fall in love at the end and have Rapunzel ultimately save his life using the powers she got from the flower. I think Flynn rider stealing the crown from Rapunzel is a way Disney could portray the part about the knight taking Rapunzel’s purity in a cleaner way and less racy. Disney also added floating lanterns in the sky that Rapunzel would view from her tower every year on her birthday. The lanterns represented her dreams and aspirations of leaving the tower and having a normal life.



Anne Sexton’s Poem, Rapunzel, is very similar to the final form of the Brother’s Grimm, Rapunzel. Although the retelling between the two poems are very similar in terms of the story, there are major differences that separate the meanings of both fairytale stories. Both authors of these fairytales have darker styles of writing causing one type of audience to fine their stories fascinating, and others to be in complete shock and in an uncomfortable state. Anne Sexton starts off her poem with two woman sharing their love and sexualities with one another, ultimately incorporating her style of writing into the retelling of the Brother’s Grimm, Rapunzel. Anne Sexton is well known for retelling and mocking famous fairytales from authors such as the Brothers Grimm. She uses the style of writing a dark and twisted fairytale and made her version of Rapunzel darker than the original Brothers Grimm Rapunzel released in 1857. Some similarities in both stories is that the flower is involved which exemplifies life and youth for Gothel. The flowers keep the garden that Gothel lives in enchanted and beautiful, that is an irony to the type of person Gothel really is because she is evil and is only looking for a child to take care of and not feel lonely. The flower is also a symbol for healing for Rapunzel’s mother, who is ill and carrying a child ready to be born. Another similarity is how the prince shows up for the first time to be with Rapunzel. In both stories, he cries the same thing in both stories for Rapuzel to bring down her hair so that he could be with her. In this scene, Rapunzel’s hair is what causes her to be with the prince and ultimately lose her purity, which is what Gothel did not want to happen. This is ironic because Gothel locks Rapunzel away from anyone to contact her, but with her long hair, that is able to reach the bottom of the tower, there is no stopping anyone from entering the tower by traveling on Rapunzel’s strong, golden hair. The tower is supposed to be a barrier or a wall separating Rapuzel from the real world, love, companionship, and adulthood. Gothel wanted Rapunzel to stay with her forever and feel like the mother she never was to Rapunzel for the rest of her life. Some major differences in the two stories are certain parts that depict and change the outcome of the story. One example is that in the Brothers Grimm version, Rapunzel is open and tells Gothel that she has been seeing the prince and is most likely pregnant with him. This shows a sense of independence and that Rapunzel isn’t afraid of her “mother”. She wants to leave and spend the rest of her life with the husband and is done being locked in a tower. In Sexton’s poem, Gothel finds out about the affair and Rapunzel has been hiding her relationship with the prince the entire time. Both of these stories express a different character trait found in Rapunzel and how she is described. She is strong and independent and not afraid in the Brothers Grimm version, and is soft spoken and closer to Gothel in Sexton’s poem.   Another example, in the Brothers Grimm version, when the prince finds Rapunzel, he is cured by her tears and could see again after getting blinded by the thorns in the garden. He later finds out that she gave birth to twins and she is living a hard, sufferable life in the woods with her two newborns. In Anne Sexton’s poem, he is reunited with her and lives happily ever after, but is still blind. The tears from Rapunzel that she sheds for the prince symbolizes joy of being reunited, represents love, and compassion towards the father of their family. It is a situation that involves two lovers that can still love and be with each other no matter what obstacle or circumstances are thrown at them, whether it’s a witch, tower, or a cursed garden. Both of these versions of Rapunzel have differences that ultimately draw back to the main idea that you can’t hide your children or adopted children from the real world and adulthood. They will eventually find their way into the real world and figure out their own identity that not even a sorceress can stop. Loneliness will eventually turn into happiness and love once encountering another human being that brings joy into your life.



Barbie as Rapunzel gets rid of the Rapunzel flowers narrative of Rapunzel’s origins and replaces it with the origin story of Rapunzel being a princess who is taken from King Wilhelm as a toddler. I think this gives the story more purpose and much needed elaboration. Barbie however keeps the purity theme going and turns it into a righteous heart aspect when Gothel keeps Asking Rapunzel for Stefan’s name. Rapunzel tells her the truth even though Gothel doesn’t buy it. Because Rapunzel escapes Gothel’s final spell by continuing to be truthful Rapunzel seems to still be pure of heart. This whole story smells of a “the Truth Will Set You Free” theme. Barbie as Rapunzel also lets Rapunzel take down the evil sorceress and save the kingdoms. This is how many of the Barbie fairy tale movies seem to empower the female characters and reinforce the strong woman point of view. Barbie herself has had over 100 occupations and is always the heroine in her movies which sends out a message to young ladies which says “you can do anything you set your heart to do.” This is really the message that Barbie is trying to give to Chelsea from the story.  One interesting change is that In this version Rapunzel’s hair is not used to bring people into her tower except in a dream after she meets Stefan. Her hair becomes more connected with Rapunzel’s identity especially, when Stefan invites Rapunzel to a masked ball and says that he will be able to recognize Rapunzel by her extremely long hair. This backfires though when Gothel cuts Rapunzel’s hair and uses it to steal her identity at the ball. All of the emphasis of Rapunzel’s long hair goes into it being a major part of how Rapunzel is identified instead of her being identified by her character. The lesson is to not judge a person without speaking with them which is echoed in the feud angle of this story. King Wilhelm and Stefan’s family feud for 17 years because they don’t talk to each other about their differences. As it turns out Gothel was the one that started it and kept it going by attacking both sides for years. A new theme is introduced in the form of the magical brush which Rapunzel uses to travel to and from her tower. This brush represents the love of Rapunzel’s parents even though they are separated. This gives a nicer feeling to the story of Rapunzel being ripped away from the family that loves her. Finally this version of Rapunzel gives the modern happy ending that children nowadays have come to expect from our fairy tale retellings. Rapunzel marries the prince and makes everything good. This is a much more child friendly version than when Rapunzel gets pregnant by the prince lets him get pushed out a window. Barbie as Rapunzel gives a modern feeling to the classic story be throwing in a few new lessons while maintaining the theme of Rapunzel being a young woman who is locked away with a heart of gold. It emphasizes that if you stay honest and true to your heart everything will work out in the end.



This concludes our Anarchy podcast, Im Michael, Im Alex, and I’m Austin. Thank you for watching.


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