This one is even shorter! Also, take note: the film is no longer called “Rapunzel Unbraided.” But! This super short clip does give us a glimpse of….the hair! Click here to watch it. This site also has the Squirrel O’Magic clip that we previously posted.
So you’re all thinking: Dae, why are you so obsessed with Rapunzel? I mean jeepers, it’s only a Disney movie! You hate Disney! What gives, woman?
Well, kiddies, I shall enlighten you.
You see, Rapunzel is all about *lust.* That’s right! Lust. And all the different forms it takes. Sexual desire is the most obvious, but we also lust after food. We lust after possessions, too. When we feel lust, we want to internalize things. And all those characters in Rapunzel are fillllled with lust.
1. Rapunzel’s Mummy. Mummy dearest wakes up preggers. Huzzah! But she has a craving for Rapunzel which will kill her if she doesn’t satisfy it. Let’s see here…greed, lust, sexual desire, pregnancy, coveting, gluttony…look at all those associations. (I’ll examine these in a second).
2. Mother Gothel. Mummy Gothel catches Mummy dearest’s husband in her Rapunzel, and makes him promise to give her the child, once it is born. She covets this child so much that she can’t bear the idea of sharing her with the outside world, so she shuts her up in a tower (right about when puberty strikes). Let’s see here…greed, coveting, lack of children, spinster woman, power-hungry…
3. The Prince. He’s a pretty simple one. Ah look! A girl in a tower! I loooooove you…let’s have sex outside of wedlock. Sexual desire.
Now comes the interesting bit. Rapunzel is an innocent little gal, is she not? I mean, right? She’s a sweet, pretty thing. Mother Gothel is very nice to her (so it would seem). And she’s spent her life up in that tower, busy being pure, untouched by men. Until of course the Prince comes by, “marries” her, and gets her pregnant.
What is implied by this? Well, one way of interpreting the tale (which will be this week’s installment of Fairy Tale Fridays) is that Rapunzel has been “tainted” by her mother. The mother craved rapunzel while Rapunzel was in the womb. That greed, that lust, that sensuality was passed on to her child. Mother Gothel tries to protect her from her carnality by shutting her up in a giant tower. But the reader knows that Rapunzel’s underlying sensuality remains because of her long hair. All throughout history, long hair has been associated with feminine sexuality. I am thinking of the woodcuttings of Hans Baldung Grien (see them sexy witches?), or – if you want to be more contemporary – Jo from Little Women. Remember when she sold her hair, and what a tragedy it was, and how it was “her one beauty”?
Rapunzel – although innocent in fact – is “tainted” in spirit. Mother Gothel knows that the mother may have influenced the child, and so locks up Rapunzel when she hits puberty. The Prince finds his way in, impregnates Rapunzel. Mother Gothel discovers this, banishes Rapunzel and cuts off all her hair. She then blinds the Prince. The eyes are the body’s most lustful organs…you figure out the rest.
Of course, the lovers find each other again. In a desert-like place. Rapunzel’s got some kiddies now. She cries into the Prince’s eyes, and he regains his sight. But. The fairy tale ends there. They do not go off to his castle (or at least we don’t hear about it). There is no ‘real’ marriage. There is no conventional “fairy tale ending.”
What I love about this tangled web of lust is how human it is. We could argue about what the Grimms (and others) are trying to say about human nature here. (I agree that the idea that children are determined by their parents is a problematic one, but we’ll leave that aside for now). But what I think makes this fairy tale so fascinating is how weak everyone is. The lustful mother, the fearful father, the flawed witch, the easily persuaded Rapunzel, the Prince who follows his…er…well, not his brain. Every single character in the whole thing is weak, flawed, human – and hey – lustful.
If you think about it, most “conventional” or “popular” tales aren’t like that. Take Snow White, or Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Little Red Riding Hood. The girls in these tales are all clearly protagonists, and the villains in these tales are all clearly villains. Cinderella is a sweet little thing, demure, obedient, who cries at her mother’s grave. The evil stepmothers, wolves, or witches are all quite clearly bad, evil, wicked, antagonists. Here, things are called into question. No one really acts “rightly,” do they? No one’s really evil, either. Granted, Mother Gothel takes Mummy Dearest’s baby away. But she treats Rapunzel very well. She’s no Wicked Stepmother. What I love about Rapunzel is its darkness, its lust, its complexity.
At the end of the day, it’s jut a terrific read.