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Comparing Literature and Film: Rapunzel and Tangled


It is a common practice for moviemakers to adapt a well-known story, fairy tale, or novel for their films. In the case of Tangled, it is based on a popular fairy tale. Tangled (2010) is an animated musical directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard and produced by Walt Disney. Rapunzel, on the other hand, is a German fairy tale first recorded by the Brothers Grimm. The first publication dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. Rapunzel is an iconic character alongside Cinderella, Ariel, and Sleeping Beauty. While the movie is based on the original story, there are specific differences between the two.

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Literature. Summary and the Author’s Background

As mentioned before, Rapunzel was first published by the Brothers Grimm as a story from their Children’s ad Household Tales, 1812. The Brothers Grimm were collectors of folklore and popularizers of traditional tales. Fairy tales such as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White were traditional oral tales that were first published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. They collected such European folklore and immortalized it by publishing it in written form. The original tale mentions a lonely couple who ended up giving their daughter away to a sorceress in exchange for the green leaves that were growing in her garden and were the only things the pregnant wife would ever eat. The sorceress locked her in a tower by the time she was twelve and did not allow her ever to go out. She would visit Rapunzel, and she would use her hair to climb up into her room. One day, a prince ended up visiting her, and they fell in love. The sorceress disapproved of their love, so she cut Rapunzel’s hair, sent her away into the woods, and lured the prince before he fell out of the window into a thorn bush that blinded him. The prince found Rapunzel years later by hearing her singing. He found out she gave birth to twins who were his children. When they fell into each other’s arms, her tears were able to restore his sight. They returned to his kingdom and lived happily ever after.

Film. Summary and Director’s Background

Tangled is an animated movie directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. The directors have both worked on other animated projects such as Mulan, The Princess Frog, Winnie the Pooh, Frozen, and Zootopia. Greno and Howard mentioned that a Rapunzel adaptation was a plan that has been on Disney’s list for more than 50 years. This is why they decided to illustrate such an iconic fairy-tale as a part of their 50th movie anniversary. In the movie Tangled, Rapunzel is a princess abducted by a woman who knew her hair has magical properties that would keep her young. Every year on her birthday, all the people in the kingdom would release sky lanterns in honor of the missing princess, and Rapunzel’s dream is to see the event in person rather than from her tower. She comes across a thief, Flynn Rider, who agrees to take her to the kingdom. Rapunzel’s mother ends up framing Flynn, so the heartbroken princess agrees to follow her back into the tower. The girl finally remembers who she is, and when Flynn comes to rescue her, he is stabbed by the old woman. When Rapunzel wants to heal him with her magical hair, he cuts it off, causing the mother to die. She, however, heals him when her tears touch his wound. They both return to the kingdom, where her parents recognize her.


While the central premise of the fairy tale and the animated movie is similar, there are specific differences between the two. However, some similarities connect the cartoon and the original story. One similarity would be the magical properties of Rapunzel’s tears. In the tale, her tears fall on his face, and his eyes magically heal. In the movie adaptation, Flynn is stabbed by their mother, and as Rapunzel cries over him, her tears help his wound disappear. A significant difference is the origin of Rapunzel and her love interest. In the tale, Rapunzel is the daughter of two regular people. In the movie adaptation, however, she is a princess who was abducted. Moreover, the prince is the one who comes across Rapunzel. The movie suggests that Flynn is an orphan and a thief. Another aspect that differentiates the tale from the film is Rapunzel’s hair. The hair plays an essential part in the movie. It was the reason why the princess was abducted. Her golden hair was magical, and it was helping the mother stay young and healthy (Greno & Byron). In the tale, her long hair was just a characteristic. It did help the sorceress and the prince go into the tower, but other than that, it had no magical properties. Last but not least, the final events differ from one another. According to the tale, Rapunzel lives in the woods and gives birth to twins before being reunited with the prince who is looking for her (Grimm 5). However, in the movie, the prince follows Rapunzel into the kingdom right away.


Rapunzel is a traditional tale that has been passed through generations before being published by the Brothers Grimm. Tangled is the animated movie adaptation directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. The movie is adapted to the current Disney style. It is hard to choose a superior version, but the original tale is more graphic. Fairy tales that have been a part of folklore are rarely similar to the modern-day movies that depict them. However, this is what makes them more captivating and exciting to read. In this case, the original Rapunzel is not as light-hearted, but certain aspects make it more interesting than the movie adaptation. According to critics, the movie’s premise was shifting the tale to match the traditional Disney musical style (Propes). While it was a success, there is no doubt that the fairy tale and the animated film have more differences than similarities.

Works Cited

Greno, Nathan and Byron Howard, directors. Tangled, Walt Disney Studios, 2010.

Grimm, Jacob Ludwig, and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. Rapunzel. Autumn Pub, 2011.

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Propes, Richard. Tangled Review. The Independent Critic, 2010, Web.

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