The Battle of the Rapunzels (Disney vs. Grimm)


Everyone knows Disney, the big brand-name company that makes all of your favorite princess movies. Do you know about the books in which your favorite fairy tales really came from? Let’s look at Rapunzel…Disney made the movie Tangled in 2010 with a main character named Rapunzel. Throughout the movie we see major similarities and major differences between the 2010 Disney version and the Grimm Version from 1812. The biggest similarity between the two movies is the name of the young lady (Rapunzel) and the tower that she is forced to live in. 

In the Grimm Brothers’ Rapunzel, Rapunzel’s mother is pregnant with her first child and living next to a fairy’s house. Rapunzel’s mother sees the beautiful herbs and vegetables in the fairy’s garden and starts to crave for them so much that she gets terribly sick. Her husband, desperate to help his ill wife, climbs the fairy’s garden wall and steals a handful of rapunzel (a type of lettuce) from her garden. His wife made a salad out of the rapunzel and, “she devoured it greedily”. After the wife had finished her rapunzel she was desperate for more and became even more ill then the first time. Her husband, scared for his wife’s life, once again climbed the wall to the fairy’s garden. This time he was met face to face with the fairy herself. After begging for his wife’s life the fairy agreed to let the man have as much rapunzel as his wife could want in exchange for their child. 

The Disney movie starts out in a different way. We see Mother Gothel come in a cloak as an old woman to a magical flower and become young again.  Then she disappears as the royal guard rushes up and plucks the flower to save their dying pregnant queen. When the queen drinks a liquid that contains the flower she is instantly healed. Then the daughter that she gives birth to is born with beautiful golden hair (the same color as the magical flower). In the night, Mother Gothel comes to the palace and abducts tiny Rapunzel. Then we see Rapunzel growing up in a tower with Mother Gothel using her for her hair’s magical properties. 

Just from the beginning, we can see some major differences in the two versions of Rapunzel. One of Rapunzel’s mothers was a commoner whose greed led to her choosing to give up her child for some rapunzel leaves, while the other is a queen who was dying and saved by a magical flower which made her daughter’s hair magical, and was stolen in the night by Mother Gothel. One was traded to a fairy for a type of bellflower herb, while the other was stolen by an evil witch in the night.  Both are raised in the iconic tower where Mother Gothel, or Fru Gothel depending on the version, takes care of her and checks on her continually. 

In the original Grimm version, when Rapunzel is older, a prince comes to her tower and sees how beautiful she is from afar. He came to the forest every day to see her and one day spotted the fairy saying, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your hair.” Then the next day he came in the dark and called for her to let down her hair. At first, she was frightened of the strange man who climbed through her tower but soon they “lived in joy and pleasure for a long time”. After a period of time, Rapunzel was talking with Fru Gothel wondering why her clothes no longer seemed to fit. The fairy in a rage cut Rapunzel’s hair and banished Rapunzel from the tower and sent her to live in the forest alone. The Prince comes by later on the day where Rapunzel is banished. He calls up to her and Fru Gothel lets that hair she cut from Rapunzel’s head fall from the tower for the prince to climb up. She then tells the prince that he will never see Rapunzel and in his despair he jumps out of the tower and becomes blind upon the fall. He wanders blind through the woods for several years, and eventually he hears a familiar voice, the voice of his beloved  Rapunzel. Rapunzel who has made a small shack in the woods that she lives in with

her young twins. She hugs the Prince and cries, two tears fall into his eyes and he can see once again. 

The plot of Disney’s Tangled goes a little differently. Flynn Rider is running from the Royal Guard within the woods after stealing a crown with some old criminal acquaintances. As he runs, he stumbles upon a hidden glade with a tower standing within the center, and he hides within the glade until the guards move on. He then climbs the tower to find some sort of shelter. Rapunzel sees him and hits him over the head with a frying pan to defend herself from the strange outsider. He wakes up tied in ropes and through much trial and error they come to an agreement: he will take her to see the mysterious lights in the sky (lanterns), and she will let him free and return the stolen tiara she found in his bag. Rapunzel then ventures out of the tower for the first time in her life and discovers joy that she never thought possible. She loves the freedom, but fears what it is going to cost her. As she adventures with Flynn, they get chased by guards and soon begin to fall in love. As the story progresses, they make it back to the center of the kingdom. They travel around the city and realize Rapunzel looks very similar to the stolen princess from many years ago. As they watch, they finally watch the lights (floating lanterns) out in the water. When they come back inland, they are confronted by Flynn Rider’s old colleagues and Eugene is tied up in a boat while forcing Rapunzel to stay on the mainland and convincing her that Flynn is running away with the crown. Flynn Rider eventually escapes and goes back to the tower in hopes of finding Rapunzel, only to have Mother Gothel stab him to death. Rapunzel, in desperation, agrees to never go against Mother Gothel and to never leave the tower again if she is allowed to heal him. Flynn hears this and cuts off her magical hair before she can be forever enslaved within the tower. As the magic flows out of Rapunzel’s cut hair, Mother Gothel shrivels up into dust as the magic she had used to be forever young is no longer there. As Rapunzel cries over Flynn Rider’s dead body, her tears still contain a small amount of magic and bring him back to life. They then go reclaim Rapunzel’s rightful spot on the throne and pardon Flynn Rider for his crimes. 

As we can see, there are many differences between Disney and Grimm. Disney has done this many times not just with Rapunzel/Tangled the story of Ariel, Cinderella, and many others. These stories and plots are always similar to the original story and just slightly changed for a new time and a new age. Parts of the story take out typically more moral questions in the time, for instance the greed of the mother, or the lust of Rapunzel in the original story has been removed. This shows that in today’s society the characters in our stories are meant to have a higher moral standing. It’s what we have come to expect from them. The Disney movie also changed the original story to something more clear with a happily-ever-after ending. In the Grimm version, it was the fairy continuing to lead her life in the same way, while the main characters struggled and lost what peace they had originally had, while in the Disney version the witch disintegrates into dust and the characters go forth to get their happily-ever-after.  This happens with more than just Disney; several other stories have been based off of the same plots. It is an act of art but also an act of change. Disney, and other writers like to revamp old stories and make them new and different, yet there is always something to be said for understanding where a story came from and then seeing where it has gone and where it can still go.