The story of Rapunzel is one of timelessness; it is present in almost every culture and pervades virtually every time period since the Brothers Grimm first published it. Its plot and morals are even present in America today in the form of Tangled, that operates on the same premise of that of the fairy tale. In both stories, a witch takes a newborn child away from her parents and raises her in a tower in the middle of nowhere where she cannot be found. Yet, a dashing man does find her and they end up living happily ever after. However, it is the very beginning of the story and the parts in between when Rapunzel and this dashing man first finds her, and when the story ends.
The initial difference between the story line in the fairy tale and the movie is that, in the movie, there is an explicit reason as to why Mother Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel; her hair is a manifestation of the only flower in the entire world that keeps the witch young and vital. However, in the book, there is no clear understanding for why the witch trades her cabbage for the couple’s first born child, though there are implications. Quite possibly, she is lonely and is unable to conceive a daughter of her own so she sees this exchange as a way to acquire a child. Or, she is simply a sociopath who enjoys inflicting pain on this couple by taking away their only child. Whatever the reason, it is never revealed in the story like it is in the movie.
In addition to this variation, the Prince who discovers Rapunzel’s castle in the fairy tale is nobility; he is a kind-hearted man who visits Rapunzel often and practically marries her. There is no turmoil in their relationship, aside from the witch banishing Rapunzel and tormenting the Prince after she finds out about her betrayal. In the movie, on the other hand, the “prince” that finds Rapunzel’s tower is actually a cut-throat, selfish thief who does not fall in love with Rapunzel until after they go on a long tenuous journey that allows her to find out who she really is and cope with this discovery. There is adventure and turmoil unlike that which can be found in the fairy tale. In the movie, there is significantly more elaboration and this gives the characters more character, in essence. In the story, there is no development, aside from Rapunzel’s transition to motherhood. The movie allows each character to grow spiritually, to find their purpose, unlike in the fairy tale.