Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rapunzel and Rudaba

I wonder if there is at least one professional storyteller out there who likes Disney's Tangled.
I mean, apart from me.
I think it's awesome.

I have had problems with Disney movies in the past, but usually not because of the good old "that-is-not-how-the-original-story-goes" argument. Stories change, adapt, and modernize, that is very natural in oral tradition, nothing wrong with creatively playing around. If it is done well, I'm all for it.
And Tangled, in my humble storyteller opinion, was done really well.
The surprising part?
It is not even as far from the original as other Disney movies.

For one, the original Grimm story (as well as its many variations) raises a whole series of questions that will come up when you tell it to children. What happened to her original parents? What did she do in the tower all day? How did the witch get her into the tower in the first place? Why did the prince leave her there after they first met? (in fact, in the Grimm version, he leaves her there and just keeps visiting until she, um, realizes her dresses are too small around the waist). Disney found clever and humorous ways of explaining all that, and I know that folktales do not need to be explained, but try telling that to fourth grade, because they will want to know.

As for the characters, Rapunzel was cute, and the guy... well. I'd take a rogue over a paladin any time. Bring it.

Talking about that, by the way: one of my favorite tales to tell is the Persian legend of Zal and Rudaba, wich is generally seen as the earliest known version of the Rapunzel tale (also known as AaTh 310 for those folklorically inclined). The whole story is utterly fascinating (trying not to go off on a fangirlish tangent here), but my favorite part is the classical image: when the lady, Rudaba, lets down her long (black!) braid from her balcony, the hero just kisses the braid and says: "I wouldn't hurt you, I brought a rope." Hell yeah.

All in all, I never liked Rapunzel as a child - I was just not interested. I would probably have never read so many different versions of it if I had not seen the Disney movie and experienced how it echoed across the storytelling world last year. I still don't tell the Grimm tale, ony the Persian legend - but I learned that some good humor and creativity can make a good story that is modern and at the same time true to the original.


  1. Great review! I loved Rapunzel as a child, wanted hair like hers. Years later, when I took a bit of German and we read some of the tales in German, I learned Grimm had included some pretty tough issues in the tales.

  2. Love your review and agree whole-heartedly. My five-year-old son is obsessed with Rapunzel and we have about 25,000 portraits of her scattered around the place! I didn't know about the Persian tale. I'll have to look it up :-)