Psychoanalysis of Rapunzel Essay Example


The Psychoanalysis of”Rapunzel”

The Psychoanalysis of”Rapunzel”

The story and the Rapunzel’s character are very exciting. It starts long before Rapunzel was born; how her parents struggled to have a child and how her father was caught stealing rampion for his wife by an enchantress. She pardoned him to have as much rampion as he wanted under one condition that he would give her the child that they would have. The man agreed and as soon as the most beautiful princess was born, the enchantress took her away and raised her as her own. She named the child Rapunzel and locked her away when she was twelve in a very long tower with no doors (only a window) away from the outside world.

The story starts with the line “A man and a woman long wished in vain for a child” (The Brothers Grimm, 2008). According to the Freudian sexual theories, the man understands that the woman is void and he is urged to fill it with a child (De Berg, 2003). Similarly, the woman feels her void and she yearns to have it filled with pregnancy. In the story, Rapunzel’s biological mother says that if she does not get to eat the rampion in the garden she shall die. This can interpreted in Freudian’s view as the urge to get pregnant. According to her, the inability of a woman to conceive is equal to death. Therefore, in that case, women are nothing more than sexual productions (Vine, 2005). The man understands that and he is willing to sacrifice the child to the enchantress as long as the wife’s desire to have the child is fulfilled.

The three characters, the father, mother and the witch are a representation of the ego, id and superego (De Berg, 2003). The strong urge of Rapunzel’s mother to eat the rampion can also be interpreted as the conflict of the ego, Id and superego. The strong lust of the rampion is the role of Id. The ego realizes that this wrong and the superego try to justify the situation by finding the social approach to it. In that, it engages the father in the equation and he acts as the mother’s superego by stealing the rampion at night. It seeks not to offend the enchantress and fulfill the pregnant mother’s rampion cravings. When caught stealing the rampion the father claims that he was trying to please his wife. This clearly is a Freudian justification mechanism (Freud & Walker, 1990).

At the age of 12, Rapunzel would be at the genital stage of psychosexual development (Freud & Walker, 1990). However, due to solitary, confinement, and lack of any relationship with her peers, her development process is abnormal. This explains her fright when she saw the prince (a member of an opposite gender), he was an extraterrestrial to her. Nevertheless, her libido urges and her instincts enhanced her attraction to him. According to Freud, sexual drives do not occur when one becomes an adult, but they develop from the time of birth onwards. Rapunzel has had unconscious sexual drives. The Freud’s sexual theory helps in explaining Rapunzel’s sudden attraction to the male character despite never having met one in her entire life (De Berg, 2003). She hastily built a sexual relationship within the small period she had known the prince as evidenced by her giving birth to twins at the end of the story.

The enchantress hides Rapunzel in the tower away from every contact with the outside world. We can deduce that Rapunzel must have resented the witch. At the outset during her psychosexual development, Rapunzel is attracted to the enchantress. Things drastically changed when the prince appeared. Rapunzel realized that the “mother” does not have a penis. She thus blames the enchantress for her “castration” and tends to become more attached to the prince who assumes the fatherly role. De Berg (2003) asserts that secretly a woman is attracted to her father. In this case, the enchantress denied Rapunzel the fatherly figure in her psychosexual development. When she finally finds the prince, her “step mother” stands in between denying her access hence the resentment. This is a good example of an Electra complex.

This can also be coupled together with the Oedipus complex portrayed by the prince. He puts in so much effort and risks too much to try to win the heart of Rapunzel. Having been locked out of the world in the tower that was much feared by everyone in the area does not stop the prince from pursuing her. Moreover, when he finally wins her over he falls from the tower and becomes blind and Rapunzel is chased away to live in the wilderness. This obstacle never stopped the prince from pursuing her. It took him years to find her again with his blindness. All this effort can be interpreted as the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, the father and the son are in constant competition for the mother’s affection (Frankland, 2004). Therefore, they tend to put in so much effort to impress her. In this case, the prince is sacrificing all that to impress his mother; to appear as a hero in the eyes of the mother in saving Rapunzel.

The theme of castration has also been heavily manifested in the story. The cutting of the Rapunzel’s hair can be interpreted as castration. In that case, the tresses can be interpreted as a penis. Out of anger, the witch cuts off her hair and the tresses laid on the ground. This is a representation of castration.

The boy child commonly fears castration, as Freud has depicted it in the Oedipus complex. Fred argues that the boy child is in a constant competition with the father for the mother’s affection (Frankland, 2004). However, the father is more superior to the boy as he is at liberty to castrate him. Similarly, the girl child can have the same castration anxiety but because she does not have a penis, the degree of the anxiety is significantly small (Day, Macaskill & Maltby, 2007). In the story, it is clear that the prince’s anxiety of castration is higher than Rapunzel’s and that is why he is so adamant to find her. Even when he is blind, he wanders in the forest and in the desert looking for her as she stays exiled in the wilderness.

The prince has been seen to undergo a few trials before winning over Rapunzel. First the blindness; blindness is an obstacle which hampers his effort to find his princess. According to Freud (Stallman, 1969), blindness represents the infantile castration fear. This is the loss of confidence in oneself. The prince is not confident enough that he could find Rapunzel again. This is caused by the enchantress words: “Rapunzel is lost to you: you will never see her again” (The Brothers Grimm, 2008). The story asserts that he leapt from the tower out of desperation and hopelessness. The prince has a faulty perception of fear that he may fail to impress his mother. The prince is also inhibited from Rapunzel’s affection by the common fear that a child suffers as he transforms from childhood into adulthood. In this case this is symbolized by the fear of the enchantress (Bettelheim, 1976).


Bettelheim, B. (1976). The uses of enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. New York: Knopf.

Day, L., Macaskill, A., & Maltby, J. (2007). Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence, England: Pearson Education Limited.

De Berg, H. (2003). Freud’s Theory and its Use in Literary and Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Rochester, NY: Camdem House.

Frankland, G. (2004). Freud’s Literary Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Freud, S., & Walker, S. (1990). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Mendocino, CA: Audio Scholar.

Stallman, R. (1969). “Rapunzel” Unraveled. Victorian Poetry, 7(3), 221-232.

The Brothers Grimm. (2008). Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Retrieved from

Vine, S. (2005). Literature in psychoanalysis: A reader. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.