‘Once upon a time…’ we all love those words. They evoke a certain comfort and excitement simultaneously. We are excited because we know a story is coming, an adventure with noble heroes, adventurous undertakings, an evil person to defeat and challenges to be overcome. We’re comforted knowing that the evil will be defeated and challenges will be overcome. There’s no question about how it will end, good always wins.
I’ve recently decided to take a trip down memory lane by returning to some of my favorite Disney movies, one of those being Tangled. Even though it only came out a few years ago, a lot has changed since then! It’s crazy all the things that can happen and how much we can change over the course of just a few years. Of course, though we go through a lot and we do change, I think in essence who we are and what we want doesn’t. We might change our hair, go through different styles and mature (hopefully), but we still remain the same person and want the same things. We want to be happy, we want to be fulfilled and we want to be our best selves (whether we’re aware of it or not).
The beauty of fairy tales (and recreations of them, such as Tangled) is that they embody these truths so well. We see an individual who desires happiness (typically sought from the love of a prince or princess) and has to overcome certain challenges to achieve that (for example an evil witch or poisoned apple) and ends up growing in the process.
This is why I don’t think fairy tales stop being relevant when we turn a certain age, we’ll always come back to the hope they bring and the truths they reveal about human nature.
Having said that, here are a few things we can learn from Tangled specifically (if you haven’t seen it, you really should):
We want (and should seek) adventure.
Pretty much the first thing we learn about Rapunzel is that she’s sick of being stuck in that tower. She wants to experience life, specifically to have the experience of seeing the lanterns in the sky that come out every year on her birthday. Once she escapes, we see the complete wonder she has for everything, as it’s all completely new to her!
It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of our day to day lives and feel disappointed that this is it. Especially once we’ve graduated from college and started a stable job. Between work and going to the gym and cleaning the house and getting groceries, what else do we have time for? But life is an adventure and we can’t forget that. We should aim to hold on to that feeling of wonder as we go about our daily tasks and remember to take a break now and then to do something outside the ordinary. For me that looks like weekly trips in the afternoon to the beach and walks through different parks in the area. Sometimes I’ll go visit a friend who is a road trip away for the weekend or even just explore a nearby town! It’s important to remember the gift that life is and not take it for granted.
We should have dreams and follow them.
My favorite song is the movie is ‘I’ve got a dream’ in which Rapunzel explains her goal of seeing the lanterns to the scary men in the pub and they in return share their own dreams of being concert pianists, interior designers, mimes, bakers and finding love. I think it is important to have some sort of accomplishment we would like to work toward. It can be something simple like running a 10k or something more complex, like growing in virtue. But as long as it has actionable steps that we can work toward daily, instead of being a vague idea. Our desires are an important part of who we are. What I love about Rapunzel’s dream is that it doesn’t involve finding a prince or getting married, it’s something that is completely her own and not dependent on anyone else. While finding love and getting married are good things to want, they’re not exactly things we are in control of. Therefore working toward other goals of our own and letting love and people find us seems a little more realistic and healthy.
Love is wanting the best for the other.
Of course Rapunzel does find love (well, it finds her in the form of Eugene climbing into her tower to run away from his former thug accomplices) and shows us what that really means toward the end of the movie. She agrees to go quietly with the woman who has been keeping her locked in the tower as long as Eugene can escape. Ultimately Rapunzel doesn’t just want to be with Eugene or for him to act a certain way toward her, she wants the best for him (in this case to live and get away from the antagonist of the movie). That is a pretty good example of what love should look like; relationships and marriage aren’t just about finding someone to keep us company for the rest of our lives, we also want to grow together and want whatever is best for the other person; making love other-centered as opposed to thinking only about how that person makes me feel or how I benefit from the relationship. When we go into marriage thinking about it as an adventure that has the end goal of growing together and striving to do good, I think it’s easier to take the pressure off yourself and the other person to make each other happy (which is a lot to ask for).
I hope you take some time to catch up on a childhood fave this weekend! You might even learn a thing or two 😉