What I Learned from Disney Princes: Flynn Rider


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

It’s all  about the smolder.  That is until the smolder gets broke.   There’s only so much punishment a dashing face can take, what with all  the frying pan-wielding recluses with miles of magic hair which you  get tied up in, and chameleons…chameleons who are all enamored with  the notion of sticking their fly-grubbing tongue in your ear.   Meet Flynn Rider, good reader.  He didn’t start the day out with  any notion that his life of fantastic thievery would lead to his embroilment  in an eighteen year old search for a lost princess, almost drowning,  being healed by magic hair, discovering the girl of his dreams, dying,  being brought back from the dead by the self-same dream girl who also  happens to be the owner of the magic hair, changing his name, getting  married, and living happily ever.  I’m tired just thinking about  it.  But Flynn Rider goes through it all, and comes out on the  other side as Prince Eugene Fitzherbert.  What follows is what  I learned from him.


I like Eugene  Fitzherbert better.


Really.  It’s a good name.  It comes  from the Greek εὺγενής which means well born or good birth.  Now, it may seem  a little paradoxical that Eugene’s name bears this definition, because  he’s an orphan.  We’re not given to know the details of that abandonment.   We’re only privy to the results: the emergence of Flynn Rider.   But this result, smolder and all, isn’t predetermined by Eugene’s unfortunate  childhood.


Every time I watch Tangled, I am reminded again and again  that choice plays a major role in each of our lives.  As a boy  in the orphanage, Eugene regales the younger kids with the tales of  Flynnegan Rider, adventurer extraordinaire, and in so doing creates  his own alter-ego, Flynn Rider.  The problem, though, is that the  hero he wants to grow up to be like isn’t a thief.  Flynnegan Rider  doesn’t steal, cheat, lie, or anything else.  He’s a paragon (not  a Gaston type paragon, mind, an actual paragon), and he is what  Eugene Fitzherbert wants desperately to be.  But he doesn’t want  to do what it takes to get there.


This theme of choice isn’t  unique to Tangled.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber  of Secrets, even though there are eerie  similarities between Harry and Voldemort, and the sorting hat considered  putting him in Voldemort’s old house of Slytherin, Dumbledore tells  him, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far  more than our abilities…”  Likewise in “Chuck vs. the  Curse,” Sarah assures Chuck that being alone and hurting people  is the result of the choices that people make.  Eugene made choices,  a multitude of them, just like each one of us.  Each day we are  confronted with innumerable possibilities that will reflect who we are  in the deepest parts of our hearts and souls.  These choices not  only affect us, and reveal us to be who we are, they also impact those  around us for good or ill.  They will bring us closer to our true  dream, our true life, or they will separate us from it.


All of Eugene’s past choices  have had a deleterious effect, and so he becomes someone else.  Yes,  Flynn Rider is a compelling, fun, and interesting figure, but he is  Eugene’s own self-denial.  Flynn Rider is created by a series of  evil choices, and is the opposite of the well born.  He is a thief.   He betrays his cohorts.  He pursues money and a life of solitude.   Before his encounter with Rapunzel, Flynn lives in a state of denial.   Through her, he remembers his true name.  She innocently presses  him about the choices that he’s made.  She tells him that the boy,  and the name, he’s tried so hard to escape from, is actually better  than the false persona he’s created.


Your dream stinks.


True words, my dear hook-handed  ne’er-do-well.  The dream to live on an island by yourself with  no company save the piles and piles of ill-gotten booty is a malodorous  dream, indeed.  It is time to find a new dream, and this is precisely  what happens to Eugene/Flynn/Eugene.  I think it’s terribly interesting  that this new dream, which turns out to be Rapunzel herself, involves  not only giving up the thief’s life, and the piles and piles of money,   it also involves a reclamation of his original name.  In the finding  of the true dream of his life, the thief formerly known as Flynn Rider,  regains the original “good beginning.”  In Rapunzel,  and the act of self-sacrifice to protect her, Eugene experiences what  we might rightly call a metania (Greek: μετάνἰα).


If I can wax theological  for a moment, metania is often translated into  English as “repentance,” but it seems that we have an underdeveloped  sense of the original intent of the word.  Rather than simply being  sorry for one’s failures and bad choices, mentania literally means a “change  of mind.”  But it isn’t just a new way of thinking, being  persuaded by a superior argument.  No, this change of mind is a  completely new reorientation of one’s whole life.  The way you  view the world, yourself, and the people around you is changed, illumined  by the light of your new dream.  Eugene has ceased to be the caricature  of Flynnegan Rider, and has reoriented himself to participate in a new  “good birth.”  He has been truly converted-if I can use  that term-to a new dream, the dream of his life.


This new dream is a new existence,  or rather a renewed existence, and so it is  natural to reclaim his old name.  From the moment of his healing  by Rapunzel, and his telling her the story of his life, he is no longer  Flynn Rider, he is once again Eugene Fitzherbert.  When Rapunzel  refuses to use Eugene’s assumed name, she brings him back to who he  truly is.  Likewise, when we give up our selfish, and self-destructive,  desires we discover that we are able to perceive that spark, that inspiration,  that dream which will ultimately illuminate us (as Rapunzel is the Lost  Princess whose symbol is the sun), make us who we are supposed to be,  and yes, grant us a happily ever after.


In the end, Flynn Rider dies.   I realize that may sound dreadfully depressing, but it’s actually a good thing, because he wasn’t  supposed to be around in the first place.  He took the place of  Eugene Fitzherbert who’s every bit as dashing, fun, suave, and smoldery  as Flynn Rider.  And Eugene doesn’t have to lie, cheat, and steal  to live his dream.  He’s discovered his new dream, and lives his  new life without regrets.


Companion piece to: Things I Learned from Disney Princesses: Rapunzel


  1. JeanneJanuary 16th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I Learned from this is you can change and you can live your dreams. And I LOVED the movie. THANK you sooo much for this 🙂

  2. AlanaJanuary 17th, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    This is lovely. Thanks for writing it and for introducing me to “metania”. The concept isn’t new on me, but the word itself sure is.

  3. AlanaJanuary 17th, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    ok, it’s really “metanOia” (just looked it up, didn’t know that one either. But still. Nicely done.

  4. SnapeFan4LifeJanuary 18th, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Great article. The use of theological wordage is appreciated. 🙂 I love that you included references to Harry Potter and Chuck as well. I think Tangled is one of the strongest Disney movies not only because of this storyline, but because the villain isn’t “evil for reasons unknown”. She’s a manipulative, emotionally abusive person who we might guess was treated badly by someone in her youth (as evidenced by the lyrics she sings to Rapunzel, “trust me my dear/that’s how fast he’ll leave you”). I think children need to know the difference between a good authority and a bad authority in their lives.

    Thank you for writing!

  5. Kevin RigdonJanuary 18th, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Thanks, Alana. Forgot the omicron when I was typing it up.

  6. JuarhelaJanuary 19th, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Holy crow – this is such a good piece!!!! Thank you for sharing this.

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