image from Paul O. Zelinksky’s Rapunzel
The Disney Movie
I couldn’t remember the name of the movie I wanted us to see. “Is it Untangled?” I asked. “Tangled,” my daughters, said. We all went. Daughters and I, the son and his wife and kids. Not really a fan of everything Disney, I wanted to go because the story it’s based on, “Rapunzel,” had been one of my favorites when I was a kid. And I figured the grandkids would dig it.
I remembered parts of the fairy-tale read by my mother at bedtime, the incantation echoing in the dark long after she’d kissed me good-night. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair that I may climb the golden stair. Back then it was the blond hair that filled my dreams. Princesses often had long blond hair. Something I would never have.
The Fairy Tale
The Grimm’s version of this tale, “Rapunzel,” is, of course, much darker than the movie, “Tangled”. Rapunzel is stolen from her parents and raised in a tower by a witch, unaware of her true identity. So right aware we’re in a story about adoption. And then before you know it, Rapunzel herself is, unwittingly, an unmarried pregnant teen. It goes from bad to worse. Rapunzel is cast out, left in the desert as punishment for her predicament. And as if giving birth to one baby alone and clueless isn’t punishment enough, Rapunzel has twins.
So Rapunzel, for me, is the story of an accidentally pregnant girl forced to give birth alone. Pretty familiar.
“What did you think of the movie?” my son asked when we were back in his kitchen getting ready for our own fairy-tale activity of building a gingerbread house. “To me, it was a movie about adoption,” I said.
“A lot of fairy tales are about that,” he said. He’s right.
The gingerbread house brought to mind “Hansel and Gretel.” In this tale, it’s the children you are cast out by their step-mother.
The real-life adoption story involving my son and me has pretty much untangled itself. It was dark (from my perspective) for a long time. Finding my son when, at first, it seemed impossible now feels like a fairy tale ending.
The life we live is as sweet as this.