Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Analysis of Rapunzel Or Rapunzel: A Wig Makers Joy



There seems to be quite a bit of moral ambiguity in tonights story. The cast of characters includes one witch who appears to be the baddie but, on closer inspection, turns out to be suffering from a rather extreme case of paranoia.
A husband who's only role is to get caught pinching Rapunzel [1].

You get 10 points if you can spot the connection between the two
Finally there's a handsome prince who doesn't actually seem to have any redeeming qualities beyond the ability to look rather dashing while scaling tall towers.
But not these towers. I'd have a little more respect for the story if she was at the top of one of these ones
However, before we actually get into the story I must take a step back and say that there is a tendency, when reading or writing witch-centric stories, to bore everyone to death with the Which witch joke. I therefore make a solemn vow that you will not see that joke in this story.
Seriously, it's been done to death and is even lamer than the “French are cheese eating surrender monkeys” meme. I don't have a lot of lines but this is one that I absolutely refuse to cross.

Infact, if I do accidentally make this joke I am fully prepared to take 10 points off Gryfindor. That should give you an idea of how serious I am.


A long time ago, a husband and his wife lived happily in a cottage at the edge of a wood, one day the wife fell ill and would eat nothing. As she grew thinner and thinner [2] her husband pleaded with her to eat something, All she had to do was name it he said and he'd get it for her. Finally the wife confessed that there was only thing that she could eat and that thing just happened to be a strange herb which grew in the beautiful garden next to their cottage [3].

Now this beautiful garden belonged to a wicked witch who used it to grow herbs for her spells and when you add this to the fact that the husband simply vaulted over the wall rather than knocking on the womans door and simply asking for some or even offering to buy it from the witch, which I think we can all agree is what any normal person would have done, then she's very much justified in both catching him in the act and also wanging him over the head with a number 9 size cast iron frying pan wot has been specially designed to be used both in the kitchen and also in the field of burglary prevention [4].

“Think you can steal from a defenseless old woman do you?” she cried out in the time honored fashion of someone who doesn't have a lot of time and is determined to get in as much payback as possible “well I'll learn ya!”
It took a long time but the husband finally managed to spell out exactly what his reasons were and the witch [5] let him know that if he were to give her their first born child then he could take all the Rapunzel that he wanted.

Now the thing to remember is that, although the husband agreed to the deal, his thinking was that
A) She was a very old witch and would certainly be done away with by a couple of young tearaways any day now.
B) Even if she wasn't 'orribly murdered in some manner then she was so old that she probably wouldn't remember this meeting.
This goes to show that you can’t expect convenient murders to just happen. You have to go out and make them happen. Because a few years later, when the wife had just given birth the witch paid a visit.

“Ah” said the husband “I thought you was dead”
“I got better. But lets not hang about, give me the child and I'll be off”
“Are you sure we can't keep her? I mean we did all the work after all. What about if I guess your name?”
“Don't you try and lay the old Rumpelstiltskin game on me Sonny Jim. We had a deal and if there's one thing you don't want to do it's back out of a deal with me and my magic capice?”
“Capice” the husband agreed sadly, wondering how he was going to explain this to his wife
“I mean I might not even bother with the old abracadabra. I've still got the frying pan you know”
“I'm capicing already! Oh just take the little poo larvae if you must”
“Oh I must” said the witch [6] and took the child far away.

Except that she didn't. The girl grew up in the witchy garden right under the noses of the couple who could see her laughing and playing, just to add the extra strength industrial sodium into the wound the witch named her Rapunzel [7]

But the good times couldn't last forever and eventually the witches paranoia got the better of her. Rapunzel was 12 when she was locked up in a high tower just in case she tried to run away, there were no doors or staircases but Rapunzel was quite happy up there as she could sit at the window watching the life of the forest and talking to the birds.
Yet sometimes she would sigh, for she longed to be back in the beautiful garden where she could run and skip in the sunshine but then she would sing to cheer herself up and that was how she spent her days.

Each day the witch came to see her and brought fresh food and Rapunzel would drop her hair out of the window and allow the witch to ascend the tower while, and at the same time, thumbing her nose towards plausibility and sticking her tongue out at Split Ends.

But not these guys. These guys are super cool.

 When the witch left she would use the hair to abseil down the side of the tower with, it should be noted, absolutely no safety gear on at all [8].
One day the kings son was riding through the forest when he heard Rapunzel singing, once he found the tower and saw how the witch gained access he waited until she had gone and then called for Rapunzel to do the same. Naturally when he got to the top of the tower he fell instantly in love with her [9] and they talked together for a long time before he left her with a promise that he would come again [10] and soon [11].
Things went on like this for a while and then one day Rapunzel said  “Why is it, when you climb up my hair you are so heavy? The handsome prince who comes in is much lighter than you” [12]
Predictably the witch flew into a rage and took Rapunzel out of the tower and led her into the forest to a lonely spot and told her that she must stay there without food or shelter and then cuts her hair and leaves her alone.
When the prince came by that evening he called for the hair and it came down easily enough but the punchline was that it wasn't Rapunzel at the end of it.
“Surprise Princy!” the witch cackled “You'll not see my Rapunzel again” and she scratched out his eyes before pushing him out of the tower and laughing even harder when she saw that he landed in a thorny bush.
The prince wandered blindly in the forest for some days [13] but then he heard a voice singing. He blindly followed the sound since he couldn't do much of anything else and realized that he had stumbled across Rapunzel with the extremely contrived sort of luck that you normally only get in the Disney version.  They kissed and as she did so the princes eyes were healed and he could see again. Wasting no time they went to the king and told him the story [14]
Rapunzel was finally reunited with her parents who were overjoyed to see their daughter again and a proclamation was made to forever ban that witch from the kingdom. A grand wedding was had and the celebration lasted for a week, but as for the witch she was never seen again [15].
• Rapunzel the herb:
What, exactly, is Rapunzel? After all the trouble it's caused it had better be something like a saffron that sells for $100 an ounce.
• Rapunzel the girl:
It has to be said and I'm not trying to be cruel but I don't think that this is the sharpest poisoned apple in the poisoned apple basket. I mean she just blurts out the fact that she's seeing a prince to the, obviously paranoid witch of a mother and when she's locked in the tower she just accepts it as a matter of course and doesn't mind it at all because she can look out at the forest and talk to the birds.
Seriously? She doesn't even have an internet connection! [16] I mean at the very least give her a binoculars and a CB radio so she can watch out for forest fires. 
• The witch. Which witch? That witch:
The witch puts a girl in a tower because she's scared Rapunzel might run away. Then when an uncontrollable variable, i.e. The Prince, comes onto the scene she removes Rapunzel from said tower, gives her a haircut and then leaves her alone in the forest with nothing more than a promise to stay where she is?
My only answer for this behavior is that she was dangerously paranoid, didn't cope well with change. In her mind there were very logical reasons for her actions but to the rest of us however the whole thing seems pretty strange.
I suspect, were this story being written today, that this prince wouldn't get much of a look in. I mean Rapunzel, once free from the witch, need only pick a direction in which to move and sooner or later she'll come across a village or some woodsmen or a little gingerbread cottage [17].
In fact, were it I who was writing this story it would most certainly have one scene where the prince is in the tower and hiding in plain sight with a variety of silly costumes. Also, after she was abandoned in the forest my Rapunzel certainly wouldn't stay there crying her eyes out or moaning about where her prince is [18].
The big thing to ponder about this story is exactly who is the villain? I mean we're told that its the witch on the rather flimsy and extremely circular piece of logic that she's wicked because she's a witch and she’s a witch because she's wicked. While this is a woman who, perhaps, shouldn't be around children it would seem that all this hostility stems from the rather extreme paranoia that she suffers from rather than actual magic powers.
Neither is it the father who, it cannot be denied is a thief yes but when your wife will only eat one particular thing then you can be forgiven for making certain that she has a steady supply of it.
No once we've stripped away everyone else I'm afraid that it's the prince himself who is the real villain in this melodrama. He was healed from blindness by her kisses – or her tears depending on which version you're going from – and what did he do?
Only took her home to the castle to live a life of luxury and several bouncing happily ever afters which all combine to keep her away from any sort of potentially rewarding career as a miracle optician.
This whole aspect of the tower story intrigues me and not just for the phallic symbolism [19]. It's an interesting thing that the witch was never seen again in the kingdom because the last place that we saw her was in the tower scratching out the princes eyes.
Now please forgive the speculation but:
Maybe the tower was the only place that the witch felt safe from the outside world. But she couldn't just build the tower and then kick the ladder away because it wouldn't be long before some wandering hero and his pussycat happened across the structure and decided to climb to the top.
The witch decides to put Rapunzel in the tower and kicks off the series of events which
A) Get her daughter a good husband who is far above the type of man she would have gotten if she'd stayed with her birth parents [20]. and
B) Give the tower a fearsome reputation which allows the witch to live out her days in solitary bliss.
Which witch Joke Counter: 40 points from Gryfindor – Sorry, I just couldn't resist. The joke was just too much for me. [21]
  1. The herb, not the girl – I wouldn't normally include a note for this sort of thing but in this story it's important to know the difference.
  2. The no food diet actually works? Who knew?
  3. Which was by a forest in case you had forgotten.
  4. It’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t actually being used in a field but only because I want to make certain that there’s no life left in this gag.
  5. Which is what she was by the way, you might want to start taking notes.
  6. “The narrative demands it”
    “Why didn’t you say so? That makes it perfectly all right then”
  7. If nothing else it guarentees that she is going to have one hell of a story for the girls 21st birthday party.
  8. “Bye mum. Thanks for setting such a good example”
  9. Ah would that it worked like that in real life. All anyone would need to guarantee true love is a handy tower. The renting of which, I feel certain, would not be too much of a strain on ones finances.
  10. And since this is, ofiicially at least, a story for children I’ll take 10 points from Gryfindor for anyone who sniggered at this bit.
  11. Most princes would need a ten minute break – another 10 points from Gryfindor BTW.
  12. “Also, why is this, like, my only line in the whole story? I mean, come on”
  13. In older versions of the story he wandered blind for years before finding Rapunzel AND she was in a completely different country. Talk to your grandparents and you’ll soon realize that people back then were a lot tougher.
  14. "Hey dad. I found this girl in the woods like two days ago and now I’m gonna marry her” It is to be hoped that they worked out the details a little better than that but I’m not pinning my hopes very high.
  15. Day: 1045 – Still inside tower. sick of all these birds. @PrinceFabuloso: Where are you?
  16. She should avoid at least one of these.
  17. My kids will happily go to sleep after I read them the story of Princess Ripley, the powerloader and the Evil Queen. Of course I’ll wake them up to make certain they hear the good bits.
  18. Don’t worry I’m not about to start banging on about Freud – Mainly because I think a lot of what he said is absolute rubbish and will be the subject of a future post.
  19. The fact that he was a prince seems to be a happy turn of fate. Presumably there was nobody else available because they were all at work with no time to swan about looking dashing.
  20. Surprise! You've just been Slytherined! - I've taken the online test three times now and there is clearly only one house that is prepared to accept me.

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