Rapunzel the Grimm Brothers' Fairy Essay

  • Length: 8 pages
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  • Subject: Children
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #93432927

Excerpt from Essay :

Thus, Rapunzel and the prince's relationship develops over time, so that the prince must bring "a skein of silk every time" he visits. Before continuing on with this analysis of the prince, however, it will be useful to briefly examine Rapunzel's reaction to him, because it complicates the story and provides some insight into the later scene of the prince's (possible) attempted suicide.

Rapunzel decides to marry the prince because she thinks "he will love me more than old Dame Gothel [the enchantress] does," somewhat unaware that the enchantress is incapable of love in any usual sense (Grimm & Grimm 1857). (The inclusion of the enchantress' name for the first time may be seen as the side-effect of eros' influence; with the arrival of the prince, even the enchantress is forced to lose some of her anonymity.) However, Rapunzel fails to realize this, and this failure is what causes her to stumble just before escaping, thus precluding the fulfillment of eros' goals in the story and prolonging her time spent entrapped by the influence of thanatos. As "her eyes had never yet beheld" a man, and mistakenly believing she has felt the influence of eros in her time with the enchantress, Rapunzel is unprepared for its effects, one of which is to precipitate such curiosity and overconfidence that she ends up revealing her secret trysts to the enchantress, asking "tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king's son -- he is with me in a moment." In turn, the enchantress squirrels her away to desert and then remains to confront the prince. This may further be explained by what some post-Freudian theorists have called "the process of 'binding'," by which they mean that "binding is the central task of Thanatos" because it represents the reductive drive to bind and fix meaning and attention over the course of development (Kristiansen & Opdal 495). In this case, thanatos' effects have bound Rapunzel to the enchantress in opposition to her erotic drive to flee to be with the prince.

At this point in the text a kind of rupture occurs, because the story continues in its present location even though Rapunzel has been taken elsewhere. One may interpret this momentary lag as the ultimate confrontation between eros and thanatos, necessarily conducted at the site of their initial conflict but without the generative psyche (Rapunzel's) around which they have been circling throughout the story. Here the key difference between eros and thanatos is revealed, because the prince, without Rapunzel, is rendered impotent. Essentially, for its enactment, eros requires at least two people, not only for its most base realization in the act of sex but for any interpretation of the word.

Put another way, eros represents the relationship between two terms, whereas thanatos can be considered as both one term and no terms, because at least for human psychology and meaning-making, they might as well be the same. If meaning, or eros, is the relationship between two terms (for instance, the meaning of the sound "word" is actually the connection and interplay between the sound "word" and the idea it represents), then eros without the second term must necessarily succumb to thanatos; thus the prince without Rapunzel loses the vitality arisen in him by Rapunzel's song, and so "in his despair he leapt down from the tower," escaping "with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes" (Grimm & Grimm 1857).

One may suppose that the prince escapes with his life because as the representative of eros within the story he cannot never fully succumbs to thanatos, but his leap from the tower demonstrates how thanatos represents a lack of something rather than strictly a thing itself (thus, the enchantress' appearance at Rapunzel's birth brings with it a lack of a child for her parents as well as the lack of the parents in the rest of the story). Even the aftereffects of the prince's encounter with the enchantress represents a lack, as does the enchantress' actions against Rapunzel; his vision is taken away by the thorns, and Rapunzel's hair is cut off, so that it may be used in a cruel imitation of eros in order to ensnare the prince. Thus the enchantress is seen to embody another aspect of thanatos, as it has been described as "the drive to sever connection" (Cranwell 271).

Thus, the story continues on to the third segment by following the course of the prince, who "wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife," roaming "about in misery for some years," until he "came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness" (Grimm & Grimm 1857). Stripped of the second term which gives him meaning, the prince wanders, lacking both Rapunzel and his sight, until once again he hears her voice and is reunited. Upon reuniting, everything is restored and "they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented." That everything is restored to happiness and the fact that the enchantress simply disappears requires further investigation, in the same way that Rapunzel's parents simply disappear after the first segment.

In short, one may explain these textual difficulties with the appearance of the children, because they represent the full, natural enactment of eros within the story. Just as Rapunzel's unnatural birth at the beginning of the story represented a rupture in the normal functioning of life and death, precipitating the confrontation between eros and thanatos in the form of the prince and enchantress, so too does the natural birth of the children represent a reconciliation between the two opposing forces. As Geraldine Perriam notes in her study of fairy tales, "within the fairy tale, it is possible to be subversive, controversial, and challenging, provided the ending can be regarded […] as happily resolved for at least some of the central characters, most usually the hero and heroine of the story" (Perriam 41). Thus, the enchantress is able to leave the story because both the prince and Rapunzel to some extent internalize the influence of thanatos/the enchantress, the prince by losing his sight and Rapunzel by losing her hair, thus finally paying for the rampion taken from the enchantress at the beginning of the story and allowing for the natural birth of the twins. The stealing of rampion from the enchantress' garden for the purpose of aiding in a birth presents an inversion of the usual roles of eros and thanatos, so the rest of the story must work to reconcile this inversion.

The Grimm Brothers' fairy tale "Rapunzel" represents the conflicting drives of eros and thanatos in the characters of the prince and enchantress, and the two fight for control of Rapunzel's life. This conflict is caused by the inversion which occurs in the first segment of the story, as Rapunzel's father breaches the enchantress' wall in order to provide his wife with sustenance, in the process disrupting the usual relationship between eros and birth, thanatos and death. The enchantress attempts to raise Rapunzel as her own, but the best she can do is perform the role of a terrifying thanatonic mother, depressing Rapunzel's unique visage and expressive ability until the arrival of eros' avatar, the prince. However, thanatos remains dominant for some time, as Rapunzel's inexperience with love causes her to reveal herself too soon, thus allowing the enchantress to take advantage of eros' need for at least two in order for the creation of meaning. This removal of Rapunzel (and her hair) causes a subsequent lack in the prince, so he loses both his reason for living and his eyesight, until Rapunzel's erotic expression of song invigorates him once again.

In this way, the story of Rapunzel embodies the dynamic tension between eros and thanatos in the human psyche, although like much human culture, it views eros with considerably more favor than thanatos, although it does seem willing to admit that eros can only achieve its fully beneficial expression when thanatos has been internalized and reconciled with the drive towards meaning and life. Rapunzel's banishment and the prince's wandering represent the internalization of thanatos' influence, so that by the third segment the enchantress has disappeared completely, replaced by the arrival of Rapunzel's twins, the product of eros' successful enactment. In effect, the story seems to be saying that in order to truly live, one must first come to terms with death.

Works Cited

Aguirre, Manuel. "The grieving city: Lucan's aged Rome and the morphology of sovereignty."Neohelicon. 35.1 (2008): 31-60. Print.

Asha, M. "History, mystery and chemistry of eroticism: Emphasis on sexual health and dysfunction." Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 51.2 (2009): 141-149. Print.

Canwell, Caresse. "Embracing Thanatos-in-Eros: Evolutionary Ecology and Panentheism." Sophia. 49.2 (2010): 271-283. Print.

Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm…

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