Friday, December 3, 2010

VII. Rapunzel Love and Hate by Erin K. C.

More of your Rapunzel Love and Hate thoughts. Here's part VII. by Erin K. C.

I have always wanted Rapunzel’s tower. The story’s most iconic image is of our heroine letting down her infamously long hair, ready for witch or for prince, but when I was little, I loved seeing the inside of her tower. In my storybook’s illustrations, it looked like a wonderful place to live, decorated in silk and velvet with a beautiful bed and tapestries on the walls. I imagined a long winding staircase leading down to a stone wall where the door had once been. The idea of being locked up in such a place was scary, but it was exciting too, and I secretly thought Rapunzel must have liked it. After all, if she was unhappy, why didn’t she just cut her hair and climb down herself?

This thought stayed with me as I grew up. My interest in fairy tales flourished during my teen years, and I returned to Rapunzel often. I related to the idea of being cut off from the world, only my exile was self-imposed. Being an only child, I was comfortable living within the walls of my imagination. Now that I was a teenager with adulthood ever encroaching, the pain leaving childhood behind started to grate on me. I had wonderful friends, but I always kept one foot firmly planted in another world of my own making. Rapunzel’s tower came to represent this inner world, safe and apart from adults. Looking at the tower this way, it was easy to forget what it really was: a lovingly made prison.

Like many fairy tale heroines, Rapunzel has a reputation for being passive. Things happen to her; she doesn’t make them happen (except for restoring her prince’s eyesight with her tears, but that’s really a happy accident). Her story offers no easy answers about to save yourself from the tower of your childhood. After all, the prince brings the real world to her; she makes no effort to see it for herself. Then Mother Gothel banishes her from the tower, finally forcing her to be on her own. These outside forces determine her life; she only reacts. Maybe she would have been content to stay in her tower forever with her mother close at hand, and men safe and distant in the realm of fantasy. But then there would be no story.

Fairy tales tap into the subconscious, allowing us to better understand ourselves and our lives. One reason I love Rapunzel is that it shows how easy it is to stay hidden inside our personal towers, torn between childhood and growing up. Inside each of us, there is a Mother Gothel who doesn’t want things to change, and a prince who tempts us into the outside world. Though Rapunzel remains a passive character, she represents the powerlessness we all feel in the face of growing up, and the ultimate triumph that comes with making the journey. Her story reminds me that though my imagination will always be a source of joy, I have to be careful not to let it consume the real world and all it has to offer.

by Erin K. C.

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