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Merida of DunBroch

Dunbroch, Scotland (Early Middle Ages)
Premiered in: Brave (2012)
Voiced By: Kelly Macdonald

The last of the official Disney Princesses to have an actual coronation ceremony, at the Magic Kingdom no less, Merida of DunBroch is likely the most distinct of the royals bar none for several reasons. First and foremost, she is, thus far, the only Disney Princess to hail from Pixar so proper credits go to them for her creation. Second, she is the only princess whose tale is entirely original, based more on common folklore than any actual work of literature. She’s also the only one, aside from Elsa, whose story ends with her not being romantically involved with anyone. A pity really but then, I’m rather glad of it as it leaves much amusement to be found amongst the fandom.

If I’ve not mentioned it prior, I’ll mention it now that alongside Rapunzel from Tangled, Merida is part of what is commonly referred to as “The Big Four,” a group of animated characters whose films, while released within years of each other, have nothing in common save for being done with computer generated imagery rather than traditional. In point of fact, the other two members of this illustrious group include Jack Frost of Rise of the Guardians renown and Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III of How To Train Your Dragon. I bring this up because one of the most popular original pairings I’ve ever seen is Hiccup and Merida due to their respected stories being, relatively, within the same time period though obviously not in the same world. Supposedly at any rate given there was a comment of dragons made in Brave, but I digress.

Merida is not by any means the stereotypical princess. Many are the comics and illustrations I’ve seen that show how well she’d get along with the other Disney Princesses and while civility is a rather vain hope, there is much silliness and awkwardness abounds with this rambunctious princess. Merida is the picture definition of tomboy in every sense of the word and then some. While I have no doubt that she can play the part of proper nobility and had even done so to cease the feuding amongst the clans due to her actions, Merida is both willing, and able, to get her hands dirty to see the job done.

With mud or blood…

For while there is no question that Mulan is a soldier and a capable martial artist in her own right, Merida is a warrior. While her mother had a firm hand in raising her, her father, who was named as “Bear King” by his subjects, doted on her by teaching her all the tricks and skills that earned him his name. Heck, there’s even video evidence of his way of teaching her their people’s history by way of the sword. Merida became so skilled that she even managed to best her father in swordsmanship whilst defending her then-magically-changed mother from his misplaced wrath. Still, Merida’s one true strength has been and always will be her archery, a skill that’s practiced to such a degree that I would hardly be surprised to find that she has a descendent by name of Robin somewhere down the line. She practices her archery not only daily but to such an extreme degree that frankly I’d be amazed if she couldn’t hit a bulls eye whilst blindfolded.

Merida’s kingdom of DunBroch resides in the early middle ages of Scotland and I shan’t lie that it is a place I would dearly love to visit in its pristine past. While I’m sure there is much of that beautiful landscape still remains to this day the portions which mankind has claimed dominion lacks the earthen feel of DunBroch and its nearby territories. Out of the many palaces and castles I’ve seen throughout film, Castle DunBroch is by far the most realistic. It is functional as an actual newly crafted castle ought to be and one that while not lacking in space is missing the obscene decadence most other palaces have in overabundance. It is one that I imagine would remain even to the present day though only as a marker of what had been rather than what still is. A pity that.

Contrary to most princesses, official or not, Merida has no true animal companion beyond her horse, Angus, whom was the one to initially bring her to the stone circle and into the waiting arms of the will-o-wisps. Contrary to most steeds before him, Angus appears every bit a regular horse though he does have some instinct towards the supernatural as he initially refused to enter the stone ring. If anything, Merida’s “companion” could best be ascribed to her mother Elinor whilst she was in bear form but seeing as the journey was meant for the both of them, I think mother and daughter best describes their relationship.

While Merida hasn’t received a “Palace Pet” of her own, she has received a redesign but contrary to the others, hers received a lot of controversy amongst the fans. While many were okay with Rapunzel’s redesign being hand drawn rather than 3D, the same could not be said for Merida whose redesign sparked protests of sexism. This has nothing to due with her dress, which I’ll touch on in a moment, but rather Merida’s physical alterations that being all the more obvious when one compares the original image of her 3D self with her newly redesigned counterpart. Needless to say, many a fan was up in arms over this to a point that a single fan managed to collect well over 200,000 to change it.

And change it Disney did for, as of this post, whilst Merida is presented alone for products featuring her, the newly made 3D redesign is used whilst the traditional hand drawn one is used so that she doesn’t stick out amongst the other Princesses. Personally, when I first saw it I assumed that, much like Belle and Ariel, Merida was merely being depicted as her adult self and not strictly the one in the film. Admittedly, she is stereotypically designed as the perfectly proportioned princess but it is still Merida beneath the skin and that’s who should matter. Not to say that I’d be displeased to learn that she is supposed to be the age she is in the film in her redesign. If that is the case, consider me amongst the 200,000.

As to her dress itself, I’m exceptionally glad they kept her in the dress that she likes rather than the one her mother, literally, stuffed her into. True, it has some additions what with the Celtic stitching at the hem and a rather nice belt complete with her clan’s emblem and sash. While it is a bit more refined than her usual one, it’s a dress that I imagine a spitfire like Merida wouldn’t mind wearing, particularly if no one cares whether she dirties it via another day adventuring in the Scottish landscape.