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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Brave
The main conflict of the film does not result from Merida's wish
It's the fact that she makes it in the first place. The "sacred custom" she defies is not leaving magic to The Fair Folk. When things go to hell, the people blame the royal family for the mess and turn against them.

Elinor and Fergus had a Perfectly Arranged Marriage
In medieval Scotland (hell, in any medieval location) royal marriages were usually a political arrangement. Merida's mother Elinor was likely a noblewoman from a powerful family who was set up in an Arranged Marriage with Fergus when he was either a prince or already a king. Opposites Attract ensued, and the two grew to love each other. They had a daughter and three sons, so their compatibility must have been good. This will likely be brought up when Elinor is pressuring Merida to choose a husband. "You and X will learn to love each other eventually. Your father and I did..."

This theory gives more weight to Merida's question in the trailer:
"If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?"

Especially if Elinor is the one she's talking to.
  • Pretty much confirmed in a scene like that. Elinor says that she was nervous when she was betrothed, which is news to Fergus.

  • A new short in the home release shows that when she came of age, Elinor herself had the games set for her marriage. So like her daughter, it's only arranged in the fact that she had to go through with it. Fergus apparently won all of the events (archery, tossing, and a duel of blades) rather decisively which helped her ease into the idea despite her initial misgivings.

Merida is the heir to the throne because...
...of her little brothers. They're triplets. Despite the fact that they are boys and should technically be in line before Merida, it would cause complications to leave the kingdom to only one of them. The kingdom would be divided by jealous fights between the three (grown) brothers and the public fighting over which brother is best fit to rule. Civil war would probably ensue. So the throne goes to Merida, who (despite being a woman living in medieval times) is already grown, quite smart, and has the capability to lead. In the Japanese trailer it's hinted by Elinor that Merida is going to be Queen someday. Also, there's the fact that Word of God has said that Merida's the only one who can tell the triplets apart, so that would also naturally cause problems.
  • This is still Medieval times, though, so even if Merida is the eldest and most qualified to inherit the throne, she'd still be required to get married and produce another worthy heir. Which makes the whole business with the suitors all the more important, and Merida's rejection of them all the more problematic.
  • Long story short: the Scottish royal dynasty is screwed.
    • Not really. Merida's big problem with the marriage was that she wasn't ready and she didn't get to choose. She's fifteen, it's understandable, and she's got twenty-odd years to marry and conceive an heir. Even if she doesn't, she could easily leave the throne to one of her brothers. Granted, this has been known to result in some fairly nasty civil wars, but as Merida is the only one who can tell the triplets apart she's likely to know which is eldest anyway.
  • On the other hand, the prince who wanted to rule alone after his father meant to divide the kingdom between his sons is the villain of the legend Elinor tells to Merida. Perhaps that legend is so popular in Dun Broch because Fergus intends to do the same with his sons one day?
    • That didn't really work out so well the first time, though.

One of Merida's suitors will actually like her
He'll become the Abhorrent Admirer and will be a source of comic relief as Merida repeatedly rebuffs his advances.
  • Jossed. The suitors all explain that they were just going by their fathers' wishes, and had no say in the matter.
    • Not quite. It's implied at the end that Wee Dingwall likes her.
      • If by "implied" you mean "conclusively shown". Kissing her hand repeatedly, which Merida shows no overt objection to. :P
      • if by "no objection" you mean "awkwardly trying to pull away without offending him" then yeah
    • Young MacGuffin did look genuinely disappointed when he lost the competition, though. You'd think someone who was only following his father's wishes might look a little more relieved.
      • Genuine disappointment due to his lack of proficiency as an archer. The fact that he wouldn't have to marry a woman he barely knew was a relief. The fact that he can't shoot worth a darn, not so much.
      • Kevin Mc Kidd, Young MacGuffin's voice actor actually said in an interview that he really did like Merida.

Merida is secretly the alternate universe lovechild of Wally West and Artemis Crock or Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff
They're both redhead + archer pairings, see.
  • As revenge for the battle, Loki kidnapped her and dropped her back in time in Scotland. That's why there's so much friction between her and her parents.
    • Not really important, but it's interesting to note that in both those couples the archer is a blonde and the non-archer a red head.
  • Ooh! Ooh! Maybe she's a grandchild of both pairings! Loki dumped Elinor (child of Clint and Natasha) into ancient Scotland, and Klarion the Witch boy did the same thing with Fergus (child of Wally and Artemis). Which means that Merida has a smart-aleck streak a mile wide, a double helping of archery prowess from both sides, and a whole lot of badass besides. Chances of super-speed optional...

Calvin is a descendant of Clan Dingwall
Come on. Look at Lord Dingwall's son. Does he look like anyone you know?
  • The hairstyle, kinda. That's about it.
  • And the tendency to get lost in his own thoughts when something important is going down...and the Slasher Smile he gets when he's pounding on that one guy during the Ballroom Blitz...resemblance kinda stops there, though, but Calvin could get some of Dingwall's Casanova Wannabe traits with puberty, so you never know...

The kingdom has matriarchal succession
Fergus had to win Elinor's hand in marriage on the contest and now the same was to be done with Merida. Elinor is focused on Merida's education not the triplets, because Merida is the one that is going to rule one day. After all it is Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, and the tradition of having the firstborns of the great lords compete for the hand of the princess is a way of providing the queen to be with The Dragon.
  • Elinor focuses on Merida because it's her job as a woman to prepare her daughter traditionally. Also, the boys are still very young and aren't old enough to start real training and education. Remember the flashback of Merida at their age, she was happy-go-lucky and carefree.
  • True, but if they were just planning to marry Merida off to someone and not let her rule, why would she be getting lessons in public speaking and diplomacy? Her biggest concerns as the wife of a feudal lord would be heir-producing and managing his castle, so why teach her any of that if she's never going to rule, rather than sticking with music, embroidery and household management, the usual education for nobly-born girls?

Brave takes place in the same universe as How to Train Your Dragon
People have noticed the similarities between Fergus and Stoick. There are a few ways of explaining this.
  • Assuming the movies are set in the same time period, Stoick could be Fergus' younger brother. He wasn't going to get the throne, so he had to make his own way in the world. He traveled to Berk (possibly with Gobber), became chief, got married and eventually had a son. Basically, Hiccup is Merida's cousin.
  • If the movies are not contemporary with each othernote , then Merida is Hiccup's ancestor. A few centuries down the line, Clan DunBroch falls out of power and is forced to leave Scotland. They eventually find Berk and make a new home there.
    • This would explain why the older generation of Berk are so tremendously Scottish for Vikings.
  • A third option is that if the above scenario were to happen in Merida's lifetime, it's possible that she could be Hiccup's mother. It would explain where he got his rebellious streak from.
    • But not his helmet.
      • Maybe she picked up Viking customs.
  • Actually the clans of the movie united to fight the Vikings, so if Merida and Hiccup met, they would be enemies.
    • Someone write this. Please.
      • "Yeh ha' a DRAGOON!?"

Going from above, Brave, Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians all take place in the same universe.
Considering the amount of crossover fanfictions that involve two, three or all four of these movies, plus the pairings(Mericup, Hicpunzel, Jackpunzel, Jackcupp etc.) My guess is that these are the best CGI films to come out in the last four years. In some cases I've seen, you can add Harry Potter to the mix for some extra fun.(This troper is doing a story with all of these, plus another movie thrown in)

At some point in the movie, a cart emblazoned with the Pizza Planet logo will make an appearance
Because it wouldn't be Pixar without it.
  • The actual truck itself appears as a knick-knack in the Witch's cottage.

The Wisps in the movie are not trying to help Merida, they have their own plan
They actually are trying to redeem the fallen Prince. Everything in the movie is directly in service of this goal, or is a side effect thereof.
  • Makes sense. The fourth prince's spirit is the same blue color they are.

The Wisps are fantastic beings who have always existed in this version of Scotland and are not tied in any way to the Witch's spell
This is a fairy tale, so any magical element is fair game. They can't be a product of the Witch, unless she is immortal, because the royal family are aware of the Wisps before the events of the film. They're more like reclusive fairies who help a lost human find their way.
  • In the movie Elinor states that wisps "lead you to your fate". Going by that definition pans out. They lead Merida to the Witch, they lead both her and her mother to the ruins, and they lead Merida to where her father and the lords had Bear!Elinor pinned.
  • Regarding the Witch, recall that she was the one who turned Mor'du into a bear, which directly or indirectly led to the collapse of his kingdom... an event that the modern cast considers an ancient legend. The Witch is even older than she seems. That said, the Wisps do seem to be operating independentally of her.

How else do you explain the whole "Close the door and open it to go somewhere else," bit?

The Witch is another sister of Yubaba
They look pretty similar, and both have magical powers...
  • Yubaba was Lawful Evil though, wasn't she?
  • Yubaba was arguably Lawful Evil, but her canon sister Zeniba appears to be, at best, Chaotic Good (the paper-bird curbstomping she administers to Haku seems to put her a little outside Lawful Good). Who says they can't have a third sister or a cousin or something who's more Chaotic Neutral? The witch doesn't give Merida or Mor'dubh anything they don't ask for, she doesn't really encourage or discourage (Neutral, but she leaves the results of the spell up to the way the 'wisher' phrases the wish (Chaotic.)

The stone circle is some kind of portal
Two times in the movie, Merida is at one moment at a place established as some distance away fram the stone circle, only for her to turn around the next moment and find herself in the circle again.

Brave was intended to be a feature-length technical demo-reel to respond to Tangled
In an effort to keep Disney from getting overconfident and full of themselves, Pixar decided to do a CGI feature of their own regarding a fantasy world with a girl with ridiculous hair and ridiculous clothes riding through ridiculously real Ghibli Hills, all of which are freakin' hard to animate properly.
  • Angus's horse-like behavior was a Take That to Maximus's dog-like portrayal.

Merida is the first pagan Disney Princess
For a very technical definition (therefore, the Ancient Greek Megara doesn't count). There's been a lot of fuss with the media assuming that she's a lesbian for all the wrong reasons, but more evidence exists for this theory. Fergus mentions fighting the Romans, who left Scotland before its Christianization in the 8th century. This dates Brave to a time prior to then; ergo, the characters practice some form of Celtic paganism.

  • What about Ariel, though? She probably didn't have anything resembling religion because she lived underwater almost her whole life. Not to mention Jasmine, who most likely followed the Islamic religion. If you consider Pocahontas a princess (her father was a chieftain after all), then she would obviously not have any Judaic beliefs or traditions either.
    • Um, Islam is not exactly paganism. As for Pocahantas and Ariel, the former later became a Christian, and the later was VERY Christian in the original fairy tale (the whole point of the story was her getting an immortal soul and going to Heaven). I also hate to mention it, but Jasmine did have a very Christian-looking wedding...
    • Islam would most likely be considered a pagan religion by a Christian of that time period. if that's what you're using to measure paganism by. Also, do we ever have any indication that Disney's Ariel became a Christian or followed Christian traditions, other than the fact that she probably went through a traditional done-by-a-priest wedding?
      • Actually, when Islam appeared on the scene, Christians really didn't know how to classify it other than that it was not orthodox Christianity. Some called it pagan, while others called it a heresy, and still others called it a form of Judaism. Eventually they decided to declare it to be something else entirely- neither pagan, nor Jewish, nor a heresy (which would imply it to be on some level Christian).
    • Although she, too, isn't really a princess, Disney already had something as such with Mulan. The movie does nothing to hide her practice of ancestor worship, she mentions spirits and gods, and the people of her village preach Confucionist values.
  • This would seem to be supported by Merida and Elinor both believing in the wisps, an old superstition, and their overall general belief in magic which is forbidden by Christian doctrine.
    • But there's magic in Beauty and the Beast, which is in a decidedly Catholic setting (17th Century or so France). They also mention the Vikings, which would be from the Christian (Catholic) Era, and the movie features early Medieval weaponry, woad, from the pagan period, and kilts, from the Christian (Calvinist) period. Tying this movie down to a time period is an exercise in futility.
      • Point on being unable to tie down the time period. Although just because Beauty and the Beast took place in a Catholic setting doesn't mean Belle was necessarily Catholic, particularly since if the theory is correct that the movie takes place around the time of the French Revolution, that was when Catholicism was being cast aside by the state in favor of Protestantism and atheism. Anyway, Belle being an avid reader and lover of old fairy tales doesn't exactly make her representative of the time period, but at the same time stories of magic and fairies have always been well-loved in France regardless of religion. Of course this is also true in the British Isles, especially Scotland and Ireland, but while such beliefs even exist today concurrently with Christianity, they do date to the time when Scotland and Ireland were pagan. If what the filmmakers said about the time period is true, even being "sometime in the Middle Ages" would still mean pagan beliefs would be lingering regardless of Christianity having come to Scotland.

Elinor purposely had Merida's court dress made painfully skin-tight to keep her from trying to run
Which was why she showed no concern when Merida complained about not being able to move or breathe in it. This was her cunning trick to keep Merida from trying to escape during the "presentation of the suitors" ceremony and the Highland Games. Unfortunately for her, Merida outsmarted her.

The Witch is a time lord
This speaks for itself.

The Wisps are the souls of the slaughtered kingdom
Their goal was to free their fallen prince from his curse as Mor'du. Now that it's done, they can all rest in peace.
  • Or maybe they're just spirits in general. Scotland is well known for its ghost stories.

The Wisps are souls which were former recipients of the Witch's spells
This would explain why they and Mor'du's soul are the same color, and why they helped Merida—yes, leading her to the Witch led to everything going wrong, but perhaps they knew/hoped that in the process everything would be righted and improved, including freeing Mor'du as had previously been done for them in even more distant centuries.

Connecting Brave to the rest of the Pixar Universe
The Witch has a broom that sweeps the floor on its own, regardless of someone holding it. This, despite her saying "You can't imbue wood with magic, trust me I'm a wi- woodcarver" From that, you can say that maybe the broom is actually a precursor to the toys from Toy Story, themselves precursors to the cars from Cars.

The Witch's magic is limited so that she can only turn things and people into bears
Since all of her carvings seem to be bears or prominently feature them and the two spells she gave out turned the people into bears, this seems likely. Her magic is either limited just so, or it's all she knows how to do.
  • Fridge Horror kicks in here- when she refuses to give Merida a spell, she says, "Too many unsatisfied customers!" The Prince is the only other one that we know of, and look at what happened to HIM. How many other people are now running around as bears?
  • One unsatisfied customer... whose "dissatisfaction" provoked a war and destroyed a kingdom... that's definitely one unsatisfied customer too many.

The Witch from Brave is the same witch that set the curse in Beauty and the Beast
Its been established that shes long lived, and if bear curses are what she gives out to people who pay her imagine what she'd do to people who actually pissed her off.
  • What would she be doing in France?
  • Attending a carving festival.
  • I thought it was a beautiful Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast?
  • She's a witch, she can probably change forms at will.

The Witch wanted to do a spell for Merida
If she had just been up-front about it. ("I can change your fate. Pay me to do a spell!"), Merida might have been skeptical, wonder what the Witch's motives were. By tricking Merida into thinking the Witch was hiding being a witch, while being very obvious—"hiding" it without really hiding it, Merida has to "convince" the Witch to do a spell and isn't suspicious of her.

Merida is an immortal like in Highlander
  • Because that would be cool.

The Witch was acting as a Stealth Mentor
Far from being the spacey, forgetful witch that she acts like, The Witch was actually forcing Merida and Mor'du before her into a sort of Non-lethal Fly Or Die situation. Once given the spell they asked for, they either had to overcome their arrogance and pride or live with the consequences.

The Wisps were actually evil
Think about the places the Wisps lead Merida. They distracted her while a bear snuck up on her, they led her to a witch's house, where she got a spell that caused the entire plot to start by turning her mother into a bear, they brought her to the ruins of an ancient castle where she was attacked and nearly killed by ANOTHER bear, and, while she could have found the circle by herself presumably (she was five feet away), and they led her on a path to it where she wouldn't spot Mor'du. Plus, this fits better with the original stories of them basically leading people off of roads by hypnotzing them and then killing them, and it fits better with them being so CREEPY
  • That would fit in with the real-life legends of the Will-O-The-Wisps, who were said to lead travelers astray.
  • Except the last time, it was less that they led her on a path so she wouldn't see Mor'du and more that they led her away from him so she didn't gallop right into him and get attacked by him where she would have no help and no chance at surviving or breaking the curse on her mum.

The kingdom depicted in the film is on the edge of the Ramtops
Looking at maps of the Disc, the Ramtops lead all the way out to the Widdershins sea. Perhaps Merida's kingdom is in the Ramtops, hundreds of years before the current time frame of the books. I mean, look at the place! Barely a piece of flat land to be found! There are abandoned stone circles, real life witches, talking ravens... and it is said in Carpe Jugulum that witches were hated and feared in the Ramtops, way back when. The kingdom could even be the place where the Nac Mac Feegle first landed on the Disc after being kicked out of Fairyland.

Everything was a Batman Gambit by the Witch to help Mor'du
In the wake of his transformation, after killing his family and friends, Mor'du had a My God, What Have I Done? moment, seeking out the Witch who gave him the spell. While he had the strength of ten men, Mor'du no longer had a kingdom to rule, making the transformation meaningless. Convincing the Witch to help him find a way to return to normal, since there was no one left alive for him to mend any rifts with, she promised she would help. While wisps already existed, the blue ones we see were created by the Witch, from the souls of Mor'du's family and friends. Then, the Witch settled down in her cottage, waiting and watching for a soul she hoped would be strong enough to fulfill the curse's escape clause, which would bring an end to all the curse's victims once the conditions were met.

Merida's regular princess dress is enchanted
Seriously, it doesn't get damaged climbing the crone's tooth, or after being thrown off of Angus. What does damage it? Falling into the forgotten kingdom's throne room, and Bear!Elinor's claws. Maybe Elinor knew about the witch the whole time, after all, it was her who encouraged Merida's belief in magic. Either that or Merida's dress is made of some sort of cloth that's similar to adamantium.

The Witch is actually Merida's maternal grandmother
Elinor has been hiding being her daughter beacause Fergus doesn't believe in magic. Or she could have been asked to choose between her mother and Fergus and cut all bounds with her should she choose Fergus. The Witch however knows Merida is her granddaughter and has been playing dumb during the whole movie while helping them make up.

Merida is interested in magic and is going to be a witch when she gets older.

The three brothers DO get away with murder.
Notice how one of them hits a guy in the head with a mace during the scuffle in the castle hall. The next time we see them, the guy is gone...because someone dragged his dead body away.

The witch is Morrigan.
Morrigan is a Celtic goddess of war, death and several other things. She can appear like old lady, is associated with crows. Huh?
  • The only problem is that the Morrigan is an Irish goddess, and there doesn't seem to be an equivalent of her in Scottish beliefs (aside from the Cailleach, which is debatable). And shape-shifting abilities aside, the Morrigan is also a Blood Knight and a skilled magician as opposed to the Witch's Cloud Cuckoolander Inept Mage. However, using Exact Words ("change your fate" and "the strength of ten men"), the implicit And I Must Scream nature of Elinor's and the Prince's transformations, and throwing an entire kingdom into chaos twice would be very much in-character for her.

Fergus is the ancestor of Stephen Colbert
His hatred of bears proved to be genetic.

The witch is related to Miracle Max's wife.
They look similar, and sound exactly alike when they shout, "I'm not a witch!"

Merida's family and the three lords who presented their sons are all descended from Mor'du and his brothers.
This would make them all cousins to each other, albeit rather distantly.

Wisps are the spirits of people who died feeling remorseful.
When Mor'du died, his human spirit looked very sad just before it turned into a wisp. As he lay dying, Mor'du's human side started coming back to him. He remembered all the things he did- killing his brothers, then his own men and countless others. If the above guess is true, he also effectively abandoned his wife and children and made his nieces and nephews fatherless. And he could've stopped it all with just an apology and perhaps a little mortar. Mor'du died feeling remorse for what he did, and now must earn his rest by helping mortals. If a wisp proves themselves by guiding enough mortals to the right path, they can earn the right to rest in peace.
  • I thought the end reveal made this more or less canon, with a twist. Mor'du's spirit turns into a wisp, like you said. That, combined with the witch claiming "too many unsatisfied customers," and the wisps generally being associated with the witch or her magic... Plus the fact that the witch is either immortal or REALLY long living if she was around at the time of the ancient kingdom... I assumed that all the wisps were spirits she had (inadvertently?) brought to ruin with her magic.

Elinor is the sole heir to a large portion of the land she and Fergus rule over.
She's the only child (or the oldest child) of a King and Queen of a land adjacent to that of the four clans. Her parents felt that marrying her to a strong warlord like Fergus would give her kingdom a strong military force to back up Elinor's cool diplomacy. After Fergus united the clans, all their land was annexed to Elinor's inheritance, and part of her kingdom's "ancient laws" allow females to be at least joint rulers of land they legally inherit. Also, the land is tied to the oldest child (or oldest daughter), which is why Elinor puts so much work into Merida's education — she isn't only taught stereotypical princess-y things like manners and poetry, but geography and history as well, because Merida is fully expected to rule in the full sense of the word. If, when all of them reach the age of majority, the kingdom will be split up among the four Dunbroch siblings (as Mor'du's father attempted to do with his children), Merida will inherit her mother's part, which has been a legitimate kingdom for presumably decades. This is why competing for her hand is so important — the one that marries Merida, a future queen, becomes a king by default.

A year or two down the line, Merida will meet an old man dressed in gray.
He will ask her to join a quest to liberate a Dwarven kingdom from a dragon. Among other events on the journey, she will get into a pissing contest with a certain Elven archer, get on rather badly with the old man's skin-changing friend, and end up making the nigh-impossible shot that kills the aforementioned dragon.
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