Tangled Up Together
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This information is not considered canon. This material, though sourced from authentic sources, is fan fiction.
Tangled Up Together
Unlike many other Disney fairy-tale films (which limit themselves to restrictive storylines and vague settings), Tangled covers an enormous amount of ground, both geographically and historically. The enormous amount of history covered by the story’s narration, the great physical distance covered by the film's characters (as evidenced by the sheer number of different locations) and the incredible detail given to the background details invites speculation about the origins and workings of the world that Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert (Flynn Rider) live in. The intent of this blog is to provide some much-needed background for the feature film, the subsequent short film Tangled Ever After, and the spin-off TV series, Before Tangled Ever After. Of course, this is fan-fiction, not actually canon.
The coherence of this work relies heavily upon research conducted by others, as official statements from Disney animators, storyboard artists, and directors is limited to bonus features and the book The Art of Tangled. This is not intended to be a definitive guide (only those things explicitly stated in official books, videos, and songs can be considered "canon"; however, I will consider these conclusions to be "reasonable" until further information is forthcoming. As such, I welcome feedback and will either incorporate suggestions, or clearly explain why modifications cannot be made to this line of reasoning).
A great deal of discussion has centered upon the possible geographical location and historical period which form the setting for Tangled. Being a completely fictional place, however, the Kingdom of Corona defies a definite classification of this sort. A reasonable conclusion has placed Corona's probable location on the northern coast of Germany, in the Baltic Sea, protected from harsh ocean weather by a barrier peninsula. However, as we will see later, Corona actually lies much farther south, in a warmer region. The obvious cultural influences of British, Russian, and Norwegian architecture date the kingdom at about 1918. While not perfect, these assumptions explain several pressing matters, such as the unusually large and calm body of water surrounding the capital island, the cultural appropriations, and even the monarchy.
Being such a worldly country clearly points to the source of Corona's prosperity-a thriving merchant economy. To further underscore this point, cargo ships fill the harbor during the movie, and countless vendors sell all sorts of imported goods. In fact, the very absence of raw material production indicates Corona's advanced economy. There are no fishing boats, presumably because Corona buys fresh fish from other city-states. The tar-factory from Frozen Ever After is only necessary because the transportation of such a sticky material was difficult with the existing class of sea vessels. Even though an enormous amount of wood is used in the capital's construction, the mainland forests are clearly untouched by heavy logging. One theory proposes that Corona's industrious citizens cut down all of the evergreens, leaving only broad-leafed plants left. While certainly possible, this selectivity (and the subsequent absence of stumps or small conifers) suggests this is not so. Corona can evidently afford to import its lumber from afar, especially since the pine and cedar timber needed for building is in short supply among the deciduous trees that populate the hills. The most likely source of this lumber is the Kingdom of Arendelle, from Frozen.
From the first Frozen film, we learn that the Kingdom of Arendelle has plenty of evergreen trees and is also close allies with Corona, as evidenced by Eugene and Rapunzel's appearance at the coronation-day festivities. From the second Frozen film, we also know that there are massive forests of deciduous trees nearby, as well. Since we assume that Frozen exists in the same world as that of Tangled, we can use Frozen information to date Tangled. Although Frozen 2 tells us that the King and Queen from Frozen were not sailing south to Corona when they died in a storm, we are clearly shown that "north" is cold and sparsely populated, while "south" is a warmer, safer direction. This clearly indicates that the Kingdom of Corona must be south of the Kingdom of Arendelle. A year after Eugene and Rapunzel (now married) attend Elsa’s coronation in the first Frozen film, the map of Arendelle and the Southern Isles in the short film Frozen Fever reads 1840, which places the events of Tangled around five years prior, about 1835.
Therefore, the purpose of this writing is to provide a brief history of the more puzzling aspects of Corona's history. More specifically, how did Corona grow into the kingdom it is today? In the film’s opening narration, Eugene says that “a hop, skip, and a boat ride away, there grew a kingdom.” This implies that Corona’s appearance and subsequent ascendancy to power was swift. There are very few industries that could have supported this kind of growth. While it is possible that fishing may have been a previous industry, the films do not seem to show any decaying fishing infrastructure. There are no glimpses of open-pit mines for stone quarries, no deforestation, and no open swaths of farmland. It has been wisely pointed out that just because these things have not been explicitly (or implicitly) shown does not mean they fail to exist altogether. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, however, we can once again assume that this implies Corona is not a subsistence economy, upon which the people depend solely upon the exploitation of natural resources. Such economies, though rich in natural resources, often remain destitute, due to the high labor costs of such activities. The prosperous and happy citizens of Corona indicate that this is a service-oriented country, which buys and sells goods from other seafaring kingdoms--such as Arendelle, The Southern Isles, Weselton, and other kingdoms. What industries does Corona actually have evidence of?
As noted earlier, all wine caskets are clearly marked with the "Snuggly Duckling" trademark, implying that the local economy has a strong craft-winery sector. Remember, however, that we haven't seen any fields of grape vines. In fact, the entire mainland seems devoid of habitation, except for Rapunzel's hidden tower and the Snuggly Duckling pub. The very fact that Rapunzel's tower has never been discovered before the events of the film reveals that citizens avoid setting foot on the mainland, except when absolutely necessary (such as the desperate search for the healing flower, or the desperate search for Flynn Rider). This may be due to the fact that the mainland is swarming with criminals and outcasts, such as those who frequent the Snuggly Duckling. These rough men seem entirely unfazed by the royal guards, likely because the royal guards seem to lose every fight they engage in, whether on the mainland land or on the capital city island. The large bridge connecting the island to the mainland, then, appears to be more ceremonial than functional, as the prologue shows most searching for the fire flower via boats, not by bridge. As Flynn escapes from the castle, the bridge and the road beyond it are clearly empty. Where do they lead? Not to an important trading partner, or the path would be bustling with carts and travelers. Perhaps to something which used to be important?
The Snuggly Duckling's remarkable age (more than 100 years old) reveals that there is more to the mainland than meets the eye. A lot more, in fact. As the aging wine barrels underground indicate, the Snuggly Duckling has probably been involved in wine making from the region’s very beginning, nearly a century ago. The grapes, however, can't be that old. The consumption of wine during the pub scene indicates a strong demand for the beverage. Hypothesizing that the owner of the pub has diversified into distant wineries makes sense, but since we haven't seen any grapes (or the organized manpower to run a sizable winery operation), we must look elsewhere.
First, we must consider the extensive network of passages (at least one labeled with the Snuggly Duckling logo) that connects the pub with boarded-up tunnels, creek-side caves filled with rocks, and dilapidated dams. The wooden dam, in particular, seems useless for water control or recreational purposes, and the waterwheel doesn't seem to turn anything, either. It does, however, have a long flume. For this reason, it seems apparent that Corona's initial success and prosperity is due to a massive gold rush. The resulting gold-mining operations dug miles of twisted mazes underground, leaving much of the forest above-ground untouched. By the time the gold ran out, the kingdom's careful leadership had already turned the small country into a thriving commercial center. Under this theory, the abandoned (and primitive) wooden dam makes sense. It was needed to separate the gold from the ore. The bridge-to-nowhere also makes sense. There simply isn't need for the bridge anymore: gold shipments have stopped coming to the seaport. How, then, did people first come to Corona’s shores and find the gold?
From Tangled: Before Ever After and Tangled: The Series, we know that Lady Caine is a member of a notorious pirate gang. Pirates are very much in existence in the Kingdom of Corona. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the pirate skeleton (with cutlass) in the Snuggly Duckling escape tunnel. The obvious familiarity of Corona's citizens with ships and the pirate skeleton indicate two things:
#1: The original inhabitants of Corona were seafarers, as evidenced by their mastery of ships and close relationship with the sea. This explains their continued fascination with the ocean (and rejection of the inland). Pirates and sailors don't have experience growing crops and settling down on land.
#2: The pirates, buccaneers, and adventurers who landed on the shores of Corona were specifically seeking gold, and fought over the control of this precious resource. This explains why other natural resources, such as wood, were mostly overlooked. Ruffians and thugs don't have time to cultivate crops.
The criminals, ruffians, and thugs, then, seem to control the lawless interior, but what is there for them to control? As it turns out, the Snuggly Duckling pub is most likely the headquarters of the organized-crime smuggling syndicate that supplies wine to the black market. Note that Snuggly Duckling wine is not seen in the capital city until after Rapunzel and Eugene are welcomed home (and the criminals are inducted into society). This indicates that Snuggly wine is prohibited in Corona during Rapunzel’s childhood; but why? Two reasons exist:
#1: A commercial country such as Corona depends heavily upon sales tax to operate. Alcoholic beverages such as wine were heavily taxed, making the legal sale unprofitable. Snuggly's undercover operations circumvented the sales tax.
#2: The symbol of the kingdom is the sun, which is related to light, joy, and celebration (and gold, of course). Once Rapunzel was kidnapped, the King and Queen (and the whole kingdom with them) were greatly saddened. The law against wine was designed to keep the citizens of Corona sober, and remind them of their loss. This plan seemed to be working-everyone seemed bright-eyed and industrious in the capital city.
If wine was prohibited, then was there even a market strong enough to support this secretive operation? Yes, definitely.
First, note the apparent apathy the royal guards have towards the Snuggly Duckling and its many wanted criminals. Instead of making a raid on the place, they actually cooperated with the bootleggers (why else would the ruffians risk alerting the guards, and talk about getting the reward?). This indicates that the guards are aware of its existence and tolerate its operation, perhaps because they are being bribed, or perhaps because they like to have a drink every once in a while.
Secondly, note that Mother Gothel is also familiar with the Snuggly Duckling. When she finds the Wanted poster of Flynn Rider, she heads straightway to the pub. Interestingly, when the old man loitering outside is threatened to reveal the secret tunnel’s exit, he leads her to the wrong exit to protect Eugene and Rapunzel. This cannot have been an accident, because there are no splits or path separations in the first tunnel. This indicates that he is familiar with the many tunnels honeycombed underneath the forest.
Thirdly, note the sheer number of barrels stacked in the short film Tangled Ever After. This indicates the enormity of the country's thirst. If we assume that the wine inside the barrels is two years old and that the wedding happened a year after the events of the main film, then the Snuggly Duckling had all of that wine stockpiled before the “forbidden” beverage was legalized. Why would the Snuggly have so much wine in storage? Basic business sense tells us that the Snuggly wouldn't produce more wine than the available demand. Which means that many people were already drinking Snuggly wine!
No wonder there are so many ruffians and thugs at the pub! They are needed to keep the operation running smoothly, perhaps using strong-arm tactics to bend the law (and why they didn't protest too loudly when the guards showed up). Eugene, who is familiar with the criminals (and thus their not-so-undercover operation), must have lobbied for the Snuggly wine to be legalized once he and Rapunzel were reunited with the royal family. Now that Rapunzel had returned with a fiancé, the kingdom had a legitimate reason to celebrate. The king and queen were successfully persuaded to lower taxes enough to let the wine be sold through commercial channels.
Even with such a tidy explanation, one pressing question remains: where did the grapes for the Snuggly wine come from? The answer, of course, is Weselton. As the leader of Arendelle's self-proclaimed "most important trading partner," the Duke of Weselton naturally did business with other countries, as well. We know that Weselton had favorable conditions for grapes, because the Duke is taken home on a ship bound for the Southern Isles, in Frozen. In the best interest of his country, the Duke had no qualms about selling his grapes on the black market to whomever would buy, even if they were being used for illegal purposes (note that he is the only visiting dignitary to use body guards in Frozen, who look related to the Stabbington brothers).
Weselton's grapes were shipped overseas in barrels to Corona, where they were further processed, aged, and resold by the Snuggly crime cartel. However, our timeline tells us that Snuggly wine was legalized in Tangled Ever After, so Weselton became a legitimate source of grapes for three years, until Arendelle imposed a trade ban against the Duke and his country shorty after Queen Elsa’s coronation. With Corona a clear ally of Arendelle, public outcry quickly mounted against trade (even indirectly) with Weselton. The re-commercialization of the Snuggly wine had raised the issue of grape origins, which had been suppressed under the old system. As a result, grapes were no longer imported from Weselton, and shipped in from the Southern Isles, instead (where Prince Hans was sent back in disgrace). Meanwhile, the Duke was deposed and a new governor was placed in charge.