Friday, March 16, 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel: Love Triumphs!

My adult daughter and I sat among parents and their children to see Tangled, an animated musical version of the Rapunzel tale, another story that parents rank among those that they do not share with their children today. Granted, Grimm's versions of these tales can be dark, but I’ll let you be the judge, and I invite you to consider the lessons that children and adults can glean from this story.

As always, I encourage you to read Grimm’s version in its entirety. You can find it at

After rereading the story, I thought of a young boy who often comes to our front door, asking us to retrieve a ball from our back yard. Usually, he blames his playmate who, according to the neighbor child, makes “poor decisions.” Rapunzel’s story is the accumulation of one poor decision after another.

Once upon a time, a king and his wife longed for a child, and when at last she conceives, she craves what does not belong to her: rampion, also known as rapunzel, a plant that flourishes in the garden next door on grounds that belong to a wicked enchantress. The king, fearing that his wife will perish if her craving cannot be satisfied, steals rampion from the garden, but a little rampion only urges the queen to ask for more. When the king tries to steal again, the enchantress meets and threatens him until the king agrees to give her the child that the queen will bear.

The enchantress imprisons the baby in a high tower where she grows beautiful, her hair longer and longer with each year. The child knows no one but the enchantress and spends some of her time singing songs of solace to herself. A prince passing by hears Rapunzel’s exquisite song and tries to find entry to the tower. None exists. Only through his daily vigil does the prince learn how to see Rapunzel. He sees the enchantress call out to Rapunzel and climb up her long tresses to the only window so he imitates the action at the next opportunity.

In time, Rapunzel believes in the prince’s love and agrees to marry him. She asks him to bring silk that she can weave as a means of escape, but the enchantress learns of Rapunzel’s other visitor when Rapunzel errs, asking why the enchantress is so much heavier than the young man she lifts to her tower. Furious, the enchantress cuts Rapunzel's hair and casts her out, leaving her forlorn and desperate in a desert. Then she sets a trap for the prince who, when confronted with evil, throws himself from the tower. Though he survives, thorns below destroy his sight. He wanders friendless and lost until he walks upon the same desert sand as Rapunzel. She goes to him immediately, and her tears make him whole. He sees once more when her tears fall upon his damaged eyes. Then the couple, reunited, returns to his kingdom where they live happily ever after.

To summarize those poor decisions, the king is two for two in making bad decisions. First, he is an opportunist, taking from the nearest, most dangerous garden instead of seeking rampion elsewhere, and he enters into an unthinkable bargain for the rampion, selling his baby cheaply. The enchantress exceeds the king’s bad decisions. First, she  desires the child of another, then makes her a prisoner and deceives her. Worse, the enchantress casts the child out when Rapunzel learns to love another, a prince. Finally, the wicked enchantress harms the prince.

So one big idea or theme gleaned from this tale is one that shows itself in many works of literature, including fairy tales: Hasty, poorly considered decisions jeopardize and may even destroy our happiness.

In addition, this tale confirms that love conquers all. Rapunzel and the prince are lost in wildernesses. She is miserable in a desert; he is blind and unsure of his whereabouts. Still, love hurdles all obstacles and brings true lovers together again.

Finally, we mustn’t ignore the queen. From her, we could derive another truth: be wary of giving in to cravings and whims for they may lead us to sorrow.

Some children may fear their own safety in a world of adults revealed to be unreliable through Rapunzel’s tale, but more likely, they will discover that the most perfect love, the one that Rapunzel and the Prince find, is selfless, especially if Mom and Dad read Rapunzel to their children and guide them in interpreting it.

Reading Challenge:

“Read” the 2010 Disney animated film “Tangled.” Share it with your children after reading “Rapunzel” to them. Let them tell you what they like and enjoy. Have fun talking about how the two works are different.

Writing Challenge:

After reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 and I Corinthians 13: 4-13, write your own description or definition of true love.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics): More Commonly Confused Words, Council and Counsel

My friend asked for advice about her new boyfriend. I decided to heed my mother’s counsel and offer no counsel to my friend for Mother taught me that meddling in affairs of the heart will surely break someone’s hearts. I wonder if any of us would be better off if a Council of Mended and Broken Hearts existed so that the members could arbitrate our demands in love.

Counsel spelled with an “s” and “e” means to advise when it works as a verb; as a noun, it means advice.

Council spelled with a “c” and an “i” denotes a group of people who oversee, manage, or advise others.