Theme: The Light of Life
The new Walt Disney film, Tangled, begins with these words, "This is the story of how I died". The narrator who is now telling the story has died and been brought to life. The movie begins with Resurrection.
The Light of Life
The story starts with a single drop of Sun that fell and grew into a magic golden flower. This flower could heal the sick and injured and restore what had been lost1. The flower is plucked and crushed and given to the dying Queen who is healed by its properties and is then able to give birth to a little princess with golden hair. The King and Queen celebrate the birth of their daughter by lighting the lantern and, in thanksgiving for the light of life, they offer up their worship. By so doing they become reflectors of the light.
The Stealer of Light
Mother Gothel in contrast is one who dwells in darkness. She first hordes the light by covering the magic flower with her basket and then steals the light by taking the princess. There is no light in her. When she sings her theme song, "Mother Knows Best", it is fittingly sung in the darkness. She does not want to receive the light, but only to use it and control it. She does not want the light to illumine her darkness; she wants her darkness to consume the light.
The Light Healer
Rapunzel, the kidnapped princess, is a light healer. Her hair manifests the light and releases its qualities of healing and restoration. Mother Gothel isolates her in the tower to hide her and use her just as she had the magic flower. However, the darkness cannot keep the light out and every year on her birthday Rapunzel sees the "floating lights" and they speak to her of life outside the tower.
The Dream of Light
Rapunzel's journey from darkness to her dream of seeing the floating lights begins with an unexpected visitor. His name is Flynn Rider. This petty thief agrees to Rapunzel's proposal: take her to see the floating lights on her birthday and in exchange she will return his stolen satchel.
Their adventure takes them from:
Bondage Her tower, his thievery
into Fear The pub scene2
of Death Their burial underground3
through baptism Immersed in water, led out by the light
to a new life Their true identities revealed
and ends in the movie's most beautiful scene: "Seeing the Light".
The King and Queen light their annual lantern and in heartbroken sorrow continue to offer up their worship. The light ascends and wherever it goes other lanterns join with it until the sky is filled with light, symbolic of how one small light can illuminate the world
Death of the Dream
Mother Gothel is not finished with Rapunzel. Deceiving her once more, she tells her "The world is dark, selfish, and cruel and if it finds the slightest ray of sunshine, it destroys it". It is a description of her evil self and her wicked intentions.
Death and darkness are often defined by philosophers not as entities themselves, but as the negation or absence of something. Death is the absence of life and darkness is the absence of light. This becomes evident when sacrificial love, the laying down of one's life for another (Rapunzel for Eugene and Eugene for Rapunzel) unmasks and destroys Mother Gothel. She shrivels up into death and darkness because there was nothing of life or light in her.
As the story begins so it ends, with resurrection. Rapunzel's magic hair was not the light healer; it was just the manifestation of its glory. The true healer was the light of the sun within her. One drop of the life light gives resurrection life to Eugene and their dream is restored. So it is true for all of those who have received the light; the King and Queen, the outcasts from the pub, even the animals are all restored to their original dream and glory.
The "One moment when everything was perfect" where the story began, but was interrupted by the stealing of the light, is now restored to the entire kingdom ... ... ... and they live happily ever after.
For its 50th animated film4 Walt Disney has rewritten the Germanic fairytale, Rapunzel, into a beautiful allegory of the true godspell5, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the life light that comes down from Heaven (John 1:4). He is the plucked and crushed flower that brings healing and restoration (Isaiah 53:5). To all who receive Him, He gives eternal life and they become vessels of light (John 1:12, Matthew 6:16). His light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower Him (John 1:5). By His sacrificial death He defeated death and removed its sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) and of His Kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33). There is a Happily Ever After.
1. Lyrics from the song Rapunzel sings to make her hair shine.
2. The theme of resurrection is throughout the film. In the pub it is in symbol form; three skeleton vases with white lilies in them...life out of death. The unicorn is a symbol of the risen Christ.
3. Going underground they come across the skeleton symbolic of going down into a grave.
4. It is fitting that Disney's 50th animated film has the theme of restoration and resurrection. The 50th year is the year of Jubilee. In the Bible Jubilee brings healing of the brokenhearted, release of captives, freedom for prisoners and restoration of all that has been lost (Isaiah 61).
5. Godspell: the original root word from which the word "gospel" is derived. The gospel, good tidings, the god tale, is the "good news" concerning Christ, the Kingdom of God and Salvation.