Hero’s Journey: the Case of Rapunzel
Tangled up in the Odyssey of a lifetime
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”
(Elisabeth Kubler-Ross). For a Journey to be realized it must have 3 stages, a call to adventure, challenges, transformation and return.Rapunzel has been living in a tower secluded from the rest of the world. She is held by mother Gothel who hid her after stealing her from the King and Queen to use her healing powers to keep herself young. Rapunzel begins to want to explore the word. Most off all she wishes to see the floating lanterns that are being lit up and lifted into the sky. This opportunity is given to her when Flynn arrives at her tower and leads her onto her journey. However she must face many struggles as she journeys to find who she is, eventually returning to her rightful place as princess.Odysseus also faces a similar sense of imprisonment on Calypso’s island as he cannot leave without the consent of the gods. Odysseus must also endure through hardships and tests when Poseidon shipwrecks him and he must seek help from the Phaeacians. The two heroes begin their journey in similar worlds where they are self centered and focused on themselves yet as their journey progresses they encounter different ordeals and internal struggles that eventually develop their character and maturity, shaping them into better people. The Power of the Hero’s Journey lies in its ability to engage and its power to persuade. From the stories such as the Odyssey the hero’s Journal reflects the guiding beliefs of our society and these stories continue to impact us in modern times because it reflects humanity’s fears and longings and as Joseph Campbell describes it “ The inner whisperings of our souls” and “ the world’s dreams”. We seek to find hints of our our life story within these character and clues that can lend meaning and purpose to our own life story. We cannot resist a good story and we have never been able to resist it since the beginning of myths and storytelling. Although the circumstances of Odysseus and Rapunzel’s hero’s journey differ, the similarities of the Hero’s journey archetype are universal stories that enduring, lending meaning and purpose to our own life story by showing that pain and suffering are necessary for humans to mature.
The similarities and differences between Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled and Odysseus from Homer’s The Odyssey during the preparation stage of the hero’s journey show that struggles and new experiences are necessary for oneself to discover true purpose and meaning in life. Both Rapunzel and Odysseus start their journey living in an Ordinary world. Ultimately the hero’s dissatisfaction with their lives lead to their call to adventure. However Odysseus is hopeless while Rapunzel is full of hope and dreams. Both Odysseus and Rapunzel feel as if their lives meanless and wasting away and cannot find a purpose. Imprisoned by the witch Calypso’s island “ She found him sitting upon the short. The tears were never dry in his eyes: life with its sweetness was slowly trickling away” ( Homer) paints a picture of time slowly “trickling away” to emphasize the hopelessness Odysseus faces. As time trickled away Odysseus recognized that with each passing day and year that he was not yet free of the troubles and that his hope of returning home is also slowly trickling away. Odysseus illustrates his dissatisfaction with his ordinary world and shows how being at Ogygia without anything to do about it causes him to become lifeless. This ordinary world shown through Odysseus can be relatable to some; although, instead of losing hope and the meaning of life such as Odysseus, people should keep enduring and not give up. In the same way Rapunzel’s life although filled with countless tasks and activities, her life lack meaning and she searches for something more. She feel as if something is not right which awakens her thirst of adventure. She sings:
I’ve got so many things
I should be thankful for
Yes I have everything
except I guess, a door
perhaps its better than I stay in
but tell me
When will my life begin? (Disney’s Rapunzel)
Rapunzel’s whole life was centered around herself, she was cut off from others and the only human interacted with was Mother Gothel someone only used her for her hair and it’s healing ability. She had never experienced genuine love. Although Rapunzel can be shown in the tower enjoying her solitude by filling her hours with various seemly fun activities, painting sewing pottery she was isolated and lonely. Her life had no purpose and she lived without hope of ever leaving the castle or achieving her dream of seeing the floating lights.What do we do to criminals? The ones who behave the worst? We put them in solitary confinement. That is what Rapunzel is in, locked up in a castle she is essentially less than a human, a prisoner. Although Rapunzel has been sheltered from the world her innocence ultimately makes her more vulnerable and weak. Her ordinary world begins in a way all humans can identify with, as innocent child, pure and full of hope and dreams. However her true captor is not Mother Gothel but fear, having lived in her ordinary world for 18 years she has never made an attempt to defy her mother or venture out of her tower. What is truly holding her back is her inner struggle with confidence and her fear of the unknown. She has blindly believes every word Mother Gothel has told her about the “scary” world and lived in fear of it her whole life. Her escape comes when she crosses the decision but eventually takes the first step after focusing on her dream of seeing the lights.
Here I go…
Just smell the grass! The dirt! Just like I dreamed they’d be!
Just feel that summer breeze – the way it’s calling me
For like the first time ever, I’m completely free! We realized that Rapunzel was so separated from reality and the real world and that she had never felt grass or dirt. This is similar to Odysseus’ ordinary world because he too, is discontent with his ordinary world and wants to leave. By both wanting to leave their ordinary worlds, Rapunzel and Odysseus show that they want to search for the life in store for them instead of having to keep on living the life they’ve always been living. People too, should follow their instincts like Rapunzel and Odysseus in their ordinary worlds, and know when something doesn’t feel right.
Throughout the Journey struggles and hardships they face give them purpose in life, the negative consequences serve to mold them into better characters. The mentor Flynn brings Rapunzel to the Snuggly Duckling a restaurant filled with thugs in order to expose her to the “horrors” of the real world. However Rapunzel surprises Flynn by finding common ground with the thugs, who then help Flynn and Rapunzel escape after the palace guards come after Flynn. After the Snuggly Duckling, Flynn becomes a “true mentor” who genuinely wants to help Rapunzel. He has seen her passion for her dream. Mentors The gang of thugs help solidify Rapunzel’s dream and sense of adventure.
Another test appears Mother Gothel appears to Rapunzel and gives her the crown that was hidden in the tower. She challenges Rapunzel to give Flynn the crown to prove that he does care about her and won’t abandon her when he gets the stolen crown back. “Don’t let him deceive you!/Give it to him, watch, you’ll see!/Trust me, my dear, that’s how fast he’ll leave you./I won’t say I told you so!/No, Rapunzel knows best!/Well, if he’s such a dreamboat,/Go and put him to the test!/If he’s lying, don’t come crying/Mother… knows best!”- Mother Gothel Rapunzel begins to learn what it means
When at last Rapunzel reaches her Reward and dream seeing the “floating lights” that appear each year on her Birthday.
“And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything looks different”( Disney Rapunzel)
Rapunzel’s reaction to seeing the lights is important to maintaining the authenticity of her character. This moment not only resolves her lifelong dream of seeing the lights but also shows a transition to her new dream; being with Flynn. When Rapunzel is apprehensive about seeing the lights rise into the sky, she asks Flynn what she is to do if they turn out to be everything she dreamed they would be. To which Flynn responds by telling her she will get to find a new dream. The scene is pivotal to consolidating who Rapunzel was before meeting Flynn and who she will become in the later part of the film. There is a subtle moment when we see Rapunzel’s thought process as her focus shifts from the lights to Flynn and their possible future together. The lantern scene begins with Rapunzel and Flynn in a boat placing flowers in the water. The second stage in the hero’s journey archetype is The Journey, which is the actual adventure itself and the main part of the story. It also is the part where the hero experiences life to the fullest and undergoes many challenges that affect the heroes. In this stage there are four steps: the test, allies and enemies, the new approach, the ordeal, and lastly, the reward. The ordeal is the most important step because the hero finally understands that he or she hasn’t been living the way he or she could have and learns that what they’ve been doing isn’t right. During Odysseus’s Journey he When Odysseus is at the party and the minstrel sings the songs of Odysseus, he relives flashbacks of his tribulations from his past. For example the book narrates: “So sang the famous minstrel. Odysseus was melted, and tears ran over his cheeks” (Homer 98). As the minstrel sang the song about Odysseus’ past, Odysseus had to reevaluate how he lived his life, what he did wrong, and how he should approach life differently. The ordeal is an important stage in life for everyone to experience because, without enduring the ordeal, no one would learn from mistakes. Similarly, Rapunzel also goes through her ordeal, though in a different way. In this case, Eugene “leaves” Rapunzel which is all part of Mother’s plan and Rapunzel figures out she is the lost princess. For example Rapunzel says, “I am the lost princess, aren’t I? Did I mumble, mother? Or should I even call you that?… No! You were wrong about the world. And you were wrong about me” (Tangled). In her case, Rapunzel falls in love with Eugene and gives the stolen crown back, but his “monsters”: Mother Gothel and the two crooks, send him off to jail putting him on a boat. Rapunzel sees him “leaving” and Mother tries proving herself to Rapunzel on how she knew that Eugene would leave her and forsake her. Mother Gothel then brings Rapunzel back to the castle and Rapunzel finally figures out that she is the lost princess. The way she handles this ordeal can lead to a life or death crisis; therefore, Rapunzel has to meticulously make her decision on how to deal with it. This is important to apply in life because it only takes one mistake from the hero for the antagonist to destroy their life.
As the Journey progresses, Odysseus and Rapunzel overcome their obstacles and mature as character during the Road Back.The last stage, The Return, is when the hero finally reaches his or her destination, experiences much more than they have expected to happen, and becomes a new and improved person. The three steps included in this stage are: the road back, the resurrection hero, and the return with the elixir. The most important step of this stage can be considered to be the return with the elixir because it is when the hero can finally relax and radiate happiness and relief to those around him or her. Odysseus’ return with the elixir is when he publicizes about his homecoming to Penelopeia and everyone around him. For example, when Penolopeia realizes that the stranger is actually Odysseus, she is filled with emotion: “She was conquered, she could hold out no longer when Odysseus told the secret she knew so well. She burst into tears and ran straight to him, throwing her arms about his neck. She kissed his head…” (Homer 257). Comfort and joy overwhelms Penelopeia as Odysseus returns to her with the “elixir” and makes everything in the world seem perfect. The “return with the elixir” is the moment where the struggle not only ends for Odysseus, but also ends the torment caused upon Penelopeia and Telemachos throughout Odysseus’ absence. When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, people can finally lay down all their troubles and rejoice about his coming. This is important because it isn’t just a moment to celebrate the hero’s homecoming, but it also is a time to rejoice over the new life the hero is living. In Disney’s Tangled, the hero’s return with the elixir is when Rapunzel returns to the kingdom as the princess, the dream of the princess finally returning is fulfilled and Rapunzel accepts Eugene’s marriage proposal. For example, Eugene describes how everyone’s dreams became reality and also narrates: “The party lasted an entire week, and honestly, I don’t remember most of it.” (Tangled). Returning with the elixir, Rapunzel and her return has caused the anxiety within the kingdom to be replaced with peace, joy, and hope. The long lost princess’ homecoming not only brightens the mood of the kingdom, but also unlocks a new sense of life within the people. This new sense of life is “the life that has been waiting for them”.Rapunzel’s life has officially begun Rapunzel’s return with the elixir is important because it enabled everyone to carry out their dreams. Overall the return with the elixir is the moment when the hero begins living the life that they found in their hero’s journey. The hero begins living a new life, and also brings a new lifestyle and to those around him or her.
We begin life as an ‘innocent,’ the archetype that represents the child – pure, full of hope and becoming. But soon we must leave the world of innocence and the protective sphere of our parents and enter the adult world where we become seekers, travelers along the uncertain road of life. And as we journey through life we embrace different archetypes Each archetype brings with a different worldview and values. There are times when we must be warriors like Odysseus When we must be willing to fight, perhaps even die, for what we believe. Rapunzel’s ordinary world and captivity represent as reality for many people. People living imprisonment. What do we do to criminals? The ones who behave the worst? We put them in solitary confinement. That is what Rapunzel is in. The only human she is allowed to see is the one who is cruel and mean to her. In this way Rapunzel’s hero’s journey reminds us all of the great story that has and is unfolding. The story of Rapunzel is the story of all humanity really;
When struggles are presented before us we are tempted to find fault within both ourselves and God in our suffering. We have all been taken captive by evil, the evil of our own sin. We find ourselves trapped in a tower of this sin with no escape. Yet God in his mercy saw the anguish of this condition and heard our voice and sent a prince to rescue us. Christ came to free us from the bondage of being enslaved to sin. In “Tangled” we see Rapunzel rejoicing greatly at her release. She is dancing, skipping and squealing She is rejoicing for this great and wonderful love. And so should we. The great Prince has come and we have been set free! That is the greatest news that any man could ever hear.
Alot of times, us humans, with our limited point of view, can’t understand why we must persevere through pain and suffering. We often expect God to act in a way that is favorable and reasonable to us and capitulate to our demands. We think that when things go wrong, God should have something to answer for. Alot of people ask why suffering exists. However, imagine a world without suffering. Would love and compassion exist, if there was nothing to be compassionate for? Would we grow, if there were no obstacles to overcome and learn from? Would we be complacent? for God at all? When we suffer, we have opportunities to draw closer to God and reach for Him during times of struggle.
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