Mood And Setting: Essay
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Throughout the history of folklore and fairy tales a multitude of artists have attempted to capture the feeling, sensations, and general mood of the story through their use of color, settings, and how they manage to convey the forms and even positions of the characters that dominate or are at least an integral part of the tale. Many of those said tales have a decidedly darker side, and the artists work have quite naturally conveyed that, depicting the plight of said characters with hints of shadow, a foreboding presence somewhere within the picture, or even the faintest of emotions that are placed upon the features of the subject being drawn.
In the tale of Rapunzel, a German fairy tale presented by The Brothers Grimm in 1812, a couple is expecting their first child. The mother, craving a certain vegetable, or fruit depending on how the tale is told, asks her husband to fetch it for her. Unfortunately it is discovered that the desired item grows within the property of a witch, who catches the husband and demands he repay her for the theft. The payment is their unborn child, whom the woman, named either Dame Gothel or Mother Gothel depending upon the version, then takes as her own and shuts away within a tower without any doors and only a single window.
In the older versions of the story the child is taken as payment, but in the newest version, that of the Disney film Tangled, Rapunzel is now a princess who has been stolen, still by Dame Gothel, who becomes Mother Gothel. The reason behind the kidnapping is still Rapunzel, but the focus of her hair has changed, and thus so has the artwork.
In an illustration by artist Johnny Gruelle, Dame Gothel is shown calling out to Rapunzel to let down her golden hair, which is already hanging from the single window within a tall, strong-looking tower that is stark white and all hard lines against a much softer backdrop. Behind the tower is a mountain swathed in shadow, while the grounds in front are all thistle and hard scrub, an impassable field that is also dark and foreboding.
In contrast another illustrator, Alix Berenzy, depicts the tale of Rapunzel in much softer lines, with a great definition in color and warmth that shows far more hope and a marked absence of Dame Gothel. This version is a much warmer style in which one can assume that despite her plight, despite being locked away in a tower, Rapunzel is a genuinely warm spirit that is nigh impossible to break. As opposed to the hard lines and edges of Gruelle’s work, Berenzy tends to bring forth a fuller, more robust vision that seems far more inviting.
Much different and far more updated than the first two examples, the work of Jean-Paul Orpinas casts Rapunzel in a manner that is far more plucky, soft and warm in color and yet with well-defined lines that are neither severe nor too soft. It is almost as if the focus of the figure has been finally adjusted to the proper setting, and the softened shadows that seem to follow her are neither foreboding nor in any way concealing, revealing the character both within and without.
In all three versions Rapunzel’s hair is a great focal point, but within Orpinas’ work the golden locks of the main character finally seem to take center stage, becoming a fixture that cannot be ignored and thus becomes the most important ingredient to get right.
Berenzy, Alix. Rapunzel. 1995. Book illustration. Henry Holth and Co.
Gruelle, Johnny. Rapunzel. 2006. Paint on canvas. Project Gutenberg
Orpinas, Jean-Paul. Tangled. 2010. Book illustration. Random House.
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