Brave is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. He was the one who greenlighted the film in the first place, and not just that — anyone familiar with the early history of Pixar knows that it was literally Steve Jobs who kept the company afloat, back when it was trying to eke out an identity making medical imaging workstations. He was also a very influential negotiator who steered Pixar during the heated disputes with Disney during the Eisner years.
"Mend the bond torn by pride." Merida thinks it means the tapestry, the audience realizes it means the rift between her and Elinor. But there's more...Merida's flat refusal to participate in the marriage tradition came close to severing the alliance between the four clans, and on top of that, there was Mor'du, whose pride had destroyed his kingdom and his own brothers, and even denied him reconciliation with them in the afterlife. All these problems were solved by the events of the film.
The tapestry.◊ The redheads are all grouped in one cluster; Elinor stands apart, connected only by holding hands with Merida. Given that Elinor almost certainly stitched the tapestry herself, it may show that, for all her fierce love towards her family, she feels somewhat...isolated.
Why does Merida keep what happened to Elinor a secret from Fergus instead of just telling him the truth? First, Fergus doesn't believe in magic, which he makes very clear in the prologue by mocking the existence of Wisps. Second, he hunts bears for sport in the hope of one day killing Mor'du and avenging his leg (much like Captain Ahab was with Moby-Dick), to the point that he's called the Bear King. Merida even has to remind Elinor about that. Third, even though the whole problem is Merida's fault to begin with, she's too stubborn to admit it.
Why did Mor'du change right in front of his whole family and destroy throne room and clan, while Elinor has time to make it up to her bedroom and writhe around for a while first? Aside from the fact that Mor'du didn't have anyone who was in on the spell to help him hide, Elinor only ate a very small piece of the cake. Mor'du, greedy as he was for power, ate the whole thing in one bite.
According to the article about the archery in the movie, Young MacGuffin's "arrow should have hit the dirt about 10 feet in front of the target" but it manages to hit it despite him "doing all the work with his hand, wrist and forearm, not using his considerable back muscles at all". Of course, this was also the suitor that was capable of using a very long wooden bench as a weapon. He is literally strong enough to use just his hand, wrist and forearm to hit the target [though it did nothing for his aim]. Of course, given that one of the first things young MacGuffin does when being introduced is break a solid log with just his hands, it's likely he handled the bow that way because he was afraid he'd break it.
When I received my Disney store Elinor and Merida dolls, I was at first surprised at how young Elinor looks (the doll lacks the character's gray hair in the movie). At first I was annoyed, but then I realized: it's entirely possible that Elinor is as young as 30. Considering the time frame, she could have been married at fourteen and given birth to Merida at fifteen. If Merida is around the same age now, and expected to marry already, it makes sense that Elinor really is quite young.
The fact that Elinor has grey hair at all is strange to me, the wrinkles as well. Especially when you contrast other Disney and Pixar moms; for example, Rapunzel's mom has a daughter only 3 or 4 years older than Merida, but she still looks youthful and completely without grey.
Some people just start to go gray as early as 20, just like those who go bald.
That's a case of Fridge Brilliance for Tangled: Rapunzel's mom still looking young is a side effect from the flower's magical properties. If you notice, Rapunzel's dad has aged a lot, but her mom looks exactly the same as she did when Rapunzel was born.
Merida complains early in the film that Elinor doesn't listen to her and that she thinks she knows best. When the "Woodcarver" tries to dissuade Merida from getting a spell to "change her fate", she doesn't listen even when the "Woodcarver" outright says that many people tend to be disappointed by the spell. Apple never does fall far from the tree,does it?
The same can be said of the ranting scenes. Not only do they both feel exactly the same way towards each other, they organized their rants the same way.
Merida wasn't the only one that needed to mend the bond broken by pride, Elinor had to do so as well, which she accomplishes by easing back and letting Merida break tradition and giving her the freedom to marry on her own terms.
This is symbolized by Elinor's hair. Before she got turned into a bear, she wore it tied back and perfectly neat. Once she changed back into a human,she lets it down.
Everyone seems to be debating on whether the witch is good or evil based on her habit of selling Bear curses. The evil side argues that if she was good she wouldn’t give them in the first place, the good side argues that she is just a batty old lady who works on a different moral standard and was good in giving an escape clause. Both have good points, but has anyone considered that she might be a Stealth Mentor doling out Karma? With the Bear curse, it seems that if you’re a good person who can admit your mistakes then you can overcome the spell, but if you’re a stubborn person who can’t find it in yourself to admit to and overcome your flaws then your stuck in a life of punishment and penance as a bear.
The early parts of the movie demonstrate Merida's skill with archery, riding, climbing, and other physical skills. We also see that she disdains the "girly" skills her mother insists on pounding into her - sewing, public speaking, etc. But it is the girly skills that actually break the curse - while her combat skills, though formidable, are almost useless against Mor'du.
At the same time, none of Elinor's finesse and royal bearing can help her when Mor'du is about to tear her daughter apart. Charging head first into a situation without a second thought is a rather Merida style of thinking, don't you agree?
At the beginning of the movie, Elinor reminds Merida that it is important for a princess to have knowledge of her kingdom, although Merida ignores her mother during that lesson. Later, though, Merida uses her knowledge of the battles her father and the clan leaders fought together to settle the feuding between them and remind them that their teamwork was what made the kingdom strong. So technically, Elinor was right that time, although Merida gets much of the credit for paying close attention to her father's war stories.
One way to look at Elinor's insistence of Merida getting married is that Elinor herself had a Perfectly Arranged Marriage to Fergus. Due to this outlook, she may believe that no matter who Merida would marry, she would eventually come to love them as Elinor had done with Fergus.
It becomes obvious once you listen to the DVD commentary, but Bear!Elinor's switch to her bear mentality is always triggered by the presence of food. The first time, it's a food that would trigger the bear's feared carnivore instincts: fish. The second is when she sees a bowl of apples in the tapestry room. Another layer of brilliance is added here if you apply the common symbology of apples representing discord amongst strong parties; the second switch happens right after Merida had finally calmed the clans down and strengthened their loyalty to Fergus again by communicating with her mother (in secret via charades). The apples then lead to Bear!Elinor going wild, attacking Fergus and Merida, and prompting Fergus and the other clans to hunt down Elinor despite Merida's pleadings. The movie's crowning moment of reconciliation immediately led to its most tense moment of discord.
A will-o'-the-wisp appears over the dedication to Steve Jobs in the end credits. In some parts of Europe, wisps are considered to be spirits of the dead. Knowing that adds a bit of gravity to the visual. It also gives weight to the idea that the wisps seen throughout the film are relatives of Mor'du's.
Merida, at the tender age of five or so, watched her father get his leg bitten off. She probably had to help Elinor stem the bleeding!
Maybe not. Elinor made sure she got Merida back to the castle right when the fight began, so she was probably spared some of the gore, but still had to face seeing her dad fighting a bear and then coming home with no leg.
And before that when she wanders into the forest, Mor'du is watching her.
Which brings up the question: what would've happened if Merida hadn't found her way back to the camp?
That's why the wisps appeared to her.
The stone carving of Mor'du's family was broken by a blow from an axe, so why is it covered in claw marks? Well... this viewer read it as the still-human-on-the-inside Mor'du trying, in a futile rage, to mend the broken stone and regain his human form. A dark, brutal undertone emerges: Mor'du is a creature of fury, regret, and pain, and follows his fate to Merida, eats Fergus's leg, and inadvertently sets the events of the movie in motion, all so that he can die and finally know peace.
It could also, however, be a mere act of rage over what had been done to him, lashing out at whoever/whatever was on-hand. Or like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, destroying what reminded him of the past and appearance he could no longer have...
Considering the fact that the claw marks all dragged inwards toward the crack, but the face of the forth son was completely destroyed, it's possibly a combination of both.
After Mor'du is killed, his human spirit appears, nods to Merida, then turns into a wisp. So the wisps she's been following this whole time are human souls!
"Too many unsatisfied customers!"
Or... It was the cursed prince's spirit, trapped within Mor'du, that had been summoning the wisps and guiding Merida this whole time.
This troper always assumed that they were the souls of his long-dead family, guiding Merida this whole time so they could be reunited and reconciled with their lost brother.
Exactly how long was Mor'du under that curse? Judging by the state of the castle, and the story of the four princes being "an ancient legend" which no one but Elinor believes in any more, it must have been a very long time indeed. (The witch referring to the prince as being "the last time" someone came to her for a spell might seem as casual and off-handed as if it happened just yesterday, but between her age and being a Cloud Cuckoolander...) Which means that along with transformation, the spell must have granted a form of immortality. Which means Mor'duwould stay like that forever until someone managed to kill him. Even taking into account his greed and desire for power, he didn't deserve that...
I assumed that since he received the strength of ten men, his lifespan was multiplied by ten as well.
If Mor'du's soul was still with him until his bear-form died, just how aware was he of what he had done? Killed his entire kingdom, family, everything destroyed... ouch.
Take into consideration the the witch in the woods seems to have quite a fascination with bears and has given the bear curse to two people on-screen. Well, who's to say she hasn't given the bear curse to others? Now consider that Fergus has quite the passion for killing bears in his kingdom...