Friday, January 20, 2012

Rapunzel's Revenge

By Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale (Shannon and Dean are married - Nathan is no relation. So they say.)
First reading, I liked it. I enjoy a good fairy tale any time, whether in its most traditional form or wildly adapted, as long as it holds the story.
...As long as it holds the story. See, Revenge didn't do that. It began promisingly, with a little girl and her weird mother, (who, curiously enough, don't look anything alike), living behind a huge unscaleable stone wall. Beyond the wall is a wild-west landscape filled with thieves, outlaws, ranches and dusty towns. Red-headed and curious, Rapunzel escapes over the wall at the age of twelve, and in the brief few moments she is in the outside world, she discovers her 'mother' is a witch named Gothel, this witch rules the land with terrible tyranny through her magical vegitation production powers, Rapunzel was kidnapped as a tiny child when her real parents stole lettuces from Gothel, and Rapunzel's real mother works jut beyond the wall in Gothel's mines. What a miracle, finding her mother just like that and discovering everything she did! Gothel removes Rapunzel posthaste to a magic tree tower for a four-year time out to think about what she has done and how naughty she was to be defiant. Meanwhile, Rapunzel grows up and her hair grows yards and yards. Cue the prince, right?
Wrong. Rapunzel escapes (much like in the new Disney version, Tangled.) Then she meets the theiving rascal, Jack, who totes around his pet goose (who refuses to lay a single egg) and a special bean in his pocket. The two set out together to restore peace and order and growing things to the land and defeat Gothel. Through the rest of the story, Rapunzel is the hero, the one who rescues, the one who saves the day. Of course, she and Jack fall in love and everything ends up peachy.
This all reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend a long time ago about the movie Enchanted. She had the same problems with that movie as I have with this book. The fairy tale was corrupted, mostly by feminism - girls saving princes, cynisism overriding chivalry. Not that girls shouldn't be able to escape from wacky tree fort prisons, but this kind of fiction is not supposed to work that way. My friend was right when she objected to the way the classic fairy tale themes were turned upside down to market towards today's audiences. In Rapunzels' Revenge, wrong is still overcome by right, but right has taken on a new form. It doesn't fit the old fairytale standards anymore. Jacob and Wilhelm most likely are turning in their graves.
The graphic novel format of the book was its best quality. Oddly, it bears a lot of parallels to the movie Tangled (which I don't care to go into here.) It was published three years before the movie came out. There is a sequel, Calamity Jack.
Incidentally, Enchanted is and remains one of my favorite movies...for other reasons.


  1. Huuummmm....I'm not sure I agree with the issues you have with the new take on the fairy tale, but this shouldn't come as a surprise. hehehe! I imagine that yes, Jacob and Wilhelm would not be pleased, but should we please them? I mean, aren't there opportunities for new fairy tales? It isn't excessively realistic to wait for your handsome prince when you could do something about it. I'm just...being the squeaky wheel. I wouldn't have like the book anyway, but actually for the same reasons you did....why are we friends again? hahaha!

  2. I think a 'new' fairy tale wouldn't really be a fairy tale. There are certain characteristics that define what a fairy tale is - in my opinion. Girls often are heroines in fairy tales, and they do save themselves, but they don't take the lead in a rebellion against the wicked witch, they don't continually get their prince charming out of sticky situations he blunders into.

  3. Well, I did say the new "take" on the fairy tale, but perhaps you are right since "revenge" isn't exactly a good concept either. And is that an Emily fairy tale definition or an actual literary "this is what a fairy tale" is definition. Is there a definition of one? Yes, perhaps if your prince charming blunders into sticky situations, it might be time to switch up prince charmings, but should one encourage a story where the female lead is always in sticky situations and always must be saved? I'm being about 70% facetious...just so you know. :-)

  4. this point, it's an Emily definition. But hurrah for libraries, I have books on fairy tales on hold (not books OF fairy tales - books ON them) to determine if my definition is somewhere near the mark.
    I don't encourage a story necessarily where the female lead is helpless for herslef or the male lead is never in need of a little assistance, even among fairy tales. In this particular book, though, they really twisted stuff around and ruined what I consider proper fairytaleism.
    I'll get back to you on the literary criticism of FT's soon. :)

  5. Heh...yeah, I was being sliiightly devil's advocate-y because honestly I probably wouldn't have liked it either. I don't like when anything borders on "preachy" for whatever cause they are trying to force on kids.

    But the books ON fairytales sound fabulous. Do let me know what you think. In a blog post. Dedicate it to ME! I will feel very special.

  6. I have five big books stacked up, and I might throw in Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology just for kicks. I will dedicate the upcoming post(s) to you - but be warned, it may be MANY decades in the future before you see it.

    1. It's ok. I have a sinking sensation I won't be going anywhere. hahaha!