The introduction to Tangled is as heart wrenching as it gets. Within the first moments of the movie, we are introduced to a miserable woman named Gothel who kidnaps an infant princess named Rapunzel. She does so because of the princess’ magic hair—locks that restore youth and heal wounds. For the next 18 years, sweet and innocent Rapunzel would be forced to live in a tower hidden in the woods. Other than Mother Gothel, she would have no contact with the world.
What a horrifying beginning to a story!
To keep Rapunzel hidden, Gothel instills paralyzing fear in the young girl. She deceptively convinces Rapunzel that “the world is dark and selfish and cruel.” This keeps her psychologically trapped, just as the tower keeps her physically incarcerated. However, because of a yearly ritual—one where the King and Queen release thousands of floating lanterns on Rapunzel’s birthday—she remains hopeful that there is more to the world than her “mother” would have her believe.
When an unlikely thief named Eugene Fitzherbert (who goes by the pseudonym, Flynn Rider) stumbles upon Rapunzel’s tower, she finally has her opportunity to experience the world. To ensure her escape, she knocks the intruder unconscious. She then hides his stolen merchandise—a satchel containing the royal crown. With the promise that she will return his “property,” Rapunzel then convinces Flynn to guide her to a place where she can witness the floating lanterns first-hand.
Once out of the tower, Rapunzel openly embraced the world God created—the grass between her toes, the wind in her hair, and the coolness of a babbling creek. It is truly a magical moment, one that captures how one should engage this beautiful planet. Flynn, though, used the moment for other matters. He devised a plan to take naïve Rapunzel to a bar that was a haven for the outcasts of society in hopes that she would scare back to her tower. Then, he could have his stolen goods back and be on his way. However, Flynn’s plan backfires when Rapunzel proves him wrong in every way.
Once in the “Snuggly Duckling,” as it is ironically named, Rapunzel is met by the local “roughians.” When confronted by the crowd, she does not shy away for long, as Flynn had hoped. Instead, Rapunzel almost immediately inspires the criminal men to consider something other than their violent ways. She inspires them to break out into a song, of all things—a jaunty tune about having yet to be fulfilled dreams. Shortly after the song ends though, the palace guards storm the bar in search of the bandit Flynn. Because of Rapunzel’s inspiring ways, one of the “sinners” helps her and Flynn escape through a secret hatch just before being noticed. However, the guards shortly catch up to them and after a brief entanglement with a palace horse named Maximus and a few guards, the two heroes escape into yet another tunnel. This time though, because of the ruckus created by the chase, a dam breaks and quickly fills the tunnel with water. Unless Rapunzel and Flynn can find a way out, it will be their grave.
While trapped, Flynn admits to Rapunzel that his real name is Eugene. Due to the dire circumstances he was in, his humanness starts to shine through. Because of Eugene’s vulnerability, Rapunzel lets down her guard and mimetically admits something to Eugene: her hair has the ability to glow when she sings. Upon saying this, Rapunzel realizes that if she begins to sing, her hair will glow and the two will be able to see enough so as to escape the pitch black tunnel. She starts to sing a soft melody and because of Rapunzel’s quick thinking, the two narrowly escape with their lives. However, in the process, Eugene badly cuts his hand. Now, the magical gift of Rapunzel’s hair will be on full display—the ability to heal and restore.
During a precious moment shared between our heroes, Rapunzel sings a beautiful tune to Eugene and the power of her hair goes to work. In an instant, the awful cut sustained in the flooded tunnel disappears and Eugene’s hand is restored—apokatastasis! He then takes the opportunity to gather some firewood for the night when Mother Gothel—having earlier found the hidden satchel containing the royal crown—enters the scene. And she knows exactly what she’s doing! Gothel talks down to Rapunzel, instilling fear in the young girl the entire time. Just prior to fleeing off into the shadows, Gothel baits her “daughter” with the satchel in hopes that Eugene would discover it and leave Rapunzel behind.
Time would tell if Gothel’s sinister plan would work or not . . .
Upon waking the next morning, Rapunzel and Eugene are greeted by the palace horse, Maximus. However, instead of having a fight on their hands, similar to what takes place at the “Snuggly Duckling,” Rapunzel again turns a potential enemy into a friend when she convinces Maximus to aid them in their quest to see the floating lanterns.
Once inside the kingdom, Rapunzel cannot help but bring life to the people. Her energy is infectious and easily starts a flash-mob of sorts—getting the townsfolk to join her in a lively dance. Shortly after, her dream finally comes true . . . And yet, even witnessing the beautiful lanterns was nothing compared to the love that she was starting to feel for Eugene. Indeed, the feeling was mutual. It was so strong even, that when Eugene is given the satchel, he wants nothing to do with it and attempts to give it back to his ex-partners, the Stabbington Brothers, when he notices them off in the distance. Little did Eugene know that they were working with Gothel, who had plans of her own.
When Eugene attempts to give back the satchel, the wicked brothers instead tie him up and send him off to the city—stolen goods in tow—where he is a wanted criminal. The brothers then go after Rapunzel and her magic hair but in a double crossing, Mother Gothel knocks the two unconscious and is viewed as the savior—Rapunzel’s “messiah.” In Rapunzel’s mind, everything her “mother” told her was true. The world was a dangerous place. It was safer in the tower.
Life now seemed hopeless and so Rapunzel returned to her captivity.
Meanwhile, back in the kingdom, Eugene was set to be executed for the crime of theft. (Perhaps the Queen and King—Rapunzel’s parents—were not as compassionate as they are portrayed in the story.) However, new friend Maximus, along with the crew from the “Snuggly Duckling,” breaks Eugene out just in the nick of time. He then heads straight for Rapunzel, who was in trouble herself.
While Eugene was incarcerated, Rapunzel realized her identity—the true “self” she had been all along. When she confronts Mother Gothel, however, Gothel does not take well to this realization and bounds Rapunzel’s hands and feet. Once Eugene arrives, Gothel would be ready.
Gothel, who had been a liar from the beginning, then became a murderer. When Eugene enters the tower, Gothel stabs him in the back and immediately gets ready to leave off with a resentful Rapunzel and her magic hair. However, Rapunzel, with a true servant’s heart, convinces Mother Gothel to allow her to heal Eugene if Rapunzel promises to willingly stay with Gothel all the rest of her days. Gothel agrees and in an act of true love, Rapunzel openly lays down her life for Eugene, running to his side with the intentions of saving his life.
However, Eugene had other ideas . . .
Just when Rapunzel was about to heal Eugene and thus, be lost to him forever, he dramatically takes a shard of glass and cuts off all of Rapunzel’s magical hair. In doing so, the restorative powers that were keeping Mother Gothel alive ceased and she was revealed for who she really was. In an instant, Gothel shriveled up to nothing in the face of Eugene’s self-giving love and fell like lightening from Rapunzel’s tower. When she hit the ground, nothing but her clothes remained. She was gone. Sadly, Eugene would soon follow.
In a heartbreaking scene, Eugene takes his final breath in the comfort of Rapunzel’s delicate arms. Painfully, he remains in this status for some time until a single tear from Rapunzel’s eyes fall onto Eugene’s cheek and instantly begins to bring life to his deceased body. Love, in its purest form, starts to undo what death could ever hope to accomplish. Like Lazarus, Eugene breaks free from the grips of death and becomes fully restored in the matter of moments. Eugene and Rapunzel joyfully embrace with the realization that because of their love, all would be well.
All in all, this is a tale about how love overcomes all obstacles. In spite of the freedom that was taken from Rapunzel, in spite of a childhood shrouded with fear and torment—in spite of everything!—love conquers the powers of evil. As hopeless as life seemed for Rapunzel and as dim as the light of love must have appeared, it was always with her; always present in some form or another. And because of this, she not only helped transform the lives of the outcasts of society, she transformed her own reality and discovered her true self, grounded in splendid love.
 I would like to note that in a real-life situation such as this, Rapunzel would no doubt not become the woman she ends up as in the film. In fact, depending on the severity of isolation, she likely would have died early on. She most definitely would not have learned all she did as there would have been nobody to imitate.
 Apokatastasis is the restoration to the original state. In terms of theology, it means the restitution and reconciliation of all things to God. The word is found once in the New Testament, namely, Acts 3:21.
 John 8:44 describes the devil as a “liar and a murderer” from the beginning.
 Luke 10:18
 For the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, see John 11: 38 – 44.
Image: Rapunzel’s hair grows and shines while she sings. (Screenshot from YouTube)
For more in Matthew’s Disney Princess series, see:
Cinderella: Happily Ever After
Beauty and the Beast: Tale As Old As Time
The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea
Alladin: A Whole New World
Frozen: Love Will Thaw a Frozen Heart
Tangled: Let Down Your Hair