Sunday, April 14, 2013


As I was laying down trying to take a nap in preparation for the double shift I had to work, I got to thinking about the story of Rapunzel.  You know, the one where the girl is trapped in the tower and she tosses her long hair out the window so that the prince can climb up to her on it?  I started idly mulling over the logistics of the whole thing in my head.  It’s amazing the stupid shit that crosses your mind when you’re trying to sleep.  Anyway, I figured that no matter how long, no matter how lustrous, her hair was, as soon as the prince started to climb all of the strain and tension would be right on her roots.  That’s gotta hurt.  Even a poor bald son of a bitch like me can remember how much it hurts to have your hair pulled.  Just imagine someone climbing on it!

Then, on top of that, you have the simple physics of the matter.  You gotta figure that the prince’s overall body mass is a great deal more than Rapunzel’s.  No matter the tensile strength of her hair, the prince is pitting all the weight of his body against Rapunzel's weight as soon as he starts to climb.  Instead of climbing up to meet her, he’d be yanking her down out of the window.  She could, perhaps, anchor herself to something in the room, strap herself to the wall maybe.  But think of the strain that would put on her neck!  We’re talking a serious dislocation, possibly a decapitation.  One good tug and Rapunzel’s pretty head is liable to come tumbling out the window and land in the bushes at the prince’s feet.  That’s no way for a fairy tale to end.

But how to solve this problem?  I pictured a heavy clamping mechanism, something wood and iron, appropriate to the period, of course.  The hair could be placed in the clamp, the clamp locked down and tightened securely with a screw.  The hair leading from Rapunzel’s head to the clamp could hang slack and loose, coiled on the floor even, while the hair from the clamp all the way down to the prince could be pulled tight and tense.  Of course, this clamp would have to be a large free-standing apparatus, fixed to the floor in order to bear the strain.  I pictured heavy bolts, screwed deep into the wood. I could almost hear the floorboards crack under the prince’s weight.  Apparently he’s a big guy.  It’s all muscle, naturally.

Of course, then you’d have to wonder why the troll or the gnome or the psychopath or whoever that’s keeping Rapunzel prisoner would have this clamp installed in her room in the first place.  So, it’s likely that she would have to improvise from the stuff that she DOES have in the room already.  I hit upon the idea of her using the window in the same manner as I had envisioned her using the clamp.  She could drape her hair across the window sill and then shut and latch the window on it.  Perfect.  Oh, but wait.  She’s got to open the window for the prince, and he’d still be holding on to her hair.  Plus, we’re talking about a castle tower here.  I don’t think they had those kind of windows back then. I’d have to look it up.

Ah, but then it came to me.  So simple.  She could just tie her hair to the bedpost!  It would work by pretty much the same principle as the clamp and the window.  It would just be fastened with a knot instead of gripped by something.  And think of how big those freaking beds were back then!  I always got the impression that the ogre (or whoever) had Rapunzel set up pretty comfortably, like a pet or a prize, so I’m thinking a big queen-size bed with a heavy wrought iron frame, and the posts probably have that nice spiraling groove with a big knob at the top, perfect for tying her hair to.  Yep, that’ll work just fine.

So there you have it folks.  When Hollywood finally makes Rapunzel: The Movie - which is probably bound to happen – you can keep an eye out for this kind of shit.  Then, when all the movie nerds with their Dorito fingers hop on the message boards to complain about “plot holes” as they inevitably will, you can just sit back with a knowing grin and tell them how they SHOULD have done it.   
Well, that's a whole other problem.


  1. At a tender age I read an Omnibus edition of Ripley's Believe it or Not!. I've written about it here and elsewhere. I'm sure it had stuff about the strength of hair.

    Googling "ripley believe it or not hair" in the image search mode, I quickly found an instance more modern than the one I recall from that 1930s book.

    See for example

    1. Youch!

      Of course, you gotta figure that an SUV rolling on wheels in neutral is easier to pull than, say, a five ton block. Still, that's pretty crazy. Reminds me of those guys who suspend people from their testicles (I'll leave that for you to Google.)

  2. Hair can actually be worth a lot. You know, for wigs, extensions, etc. If I were the prince, I'd pull until it ripped out, and when those fifty foot long locks came tumbling down, I'd start counting the dollars. Sorry, princess. The economy's gone tits up and times are hard. Plus, think of the poor bald children who need your hair. You, as an ogre rape victim, need it much less.

  3. Well there you have it! I've always wondered how she could possibly stand having someone yank on her hair like that without toppling through the window, screaming in pain, completely scalped...

    Yeah, they've been making really intense, action-type movies about all the fairy tales over the past couple of years, I suppose Rapunzel has got to be on that list somewhere. I just hope they'll consult you first, so they get their facts right.

    1. Of course in the movie version the prince will have to slay dragons and orcs with a sub-machine gun as he climbs her hair.

  4. One might say they already did a modern version of Rapunzel (Tangled). I have definitely always wondered how she was able to let the prince climb up her hair, but beyond that, how does she even hold her head up all day long? Is her neck like 20 inches of solid muscle? :P

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