- "Merida, our central character, she's a fiery, spirited lass, and her hair is very much part of her character and who she is."
- —Brave producer Katherine Sarafian
Princess Merida is the protagonist of the film Brave. She has three brothers Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. Her parents are King Fergus and Queen Elinor. She is also the first female protagonist in a Pixar feature film.
Passionate and fiery, Merida is a headstrong teenager of royal upbringing who is struggling to take control of her own destiny. She feels most at home in the outdoors honing her impressive athletic skills as an archer and swordfighter, and racing across the magnificent Highland countryside with her faithful horse, Angus. With a spirit as vibrant as her untamed hair, Merida also has a softness of heart, especially when it comes to her wee triplet brothers. As the daughter of the King and Queen, her life is weighted with responsibilities and expectations, causing her to yearn to preserve her freedom and independence. When Merida blatantly defies an ancient tradition, the consequences of her actions prove disastrous for the kingdom. She must race against time to make right the result of her reckless behavior, her journey compelling her to look inside to discover the meaning of bravery and reveal her true fate.
Merida is first seen as a child playing hide-and-seek with her mother Queen Elinor on her sixth birthday. Then she sees her father's bow on the table and asks him if she can shoot an arrow with it. Fergus, her father, presents her with her own bow as a birthday present. She accidentally shoots her 6th arrow into the forest and goes to retrieve it, but is distracted by a trail of Will O' the Wisps that appear before her. The Wisps lead her out of the forest and back to her parents. Elinor tells her that the wisps lead you to your fate, but Fergus doesn't believe it. Suddenly, Mor'du attacks, and Elinor and Merida flee while Fergus stays behind to fight the demonic bear.
Years later, Merida is a teenager that Queen Elinor is trying to make her into a proper princess of royalty despite Merida's objection. One day when there are no lessons, she goes riding on her horse Angus. She shoots arrows at targets she sets up in the forest and just explores. She even climbs the Crone's Tooth and drinks from the Fire Falls in joy. Merida returns home to join her family for dinner. As she enters, Merida listens to Fergus telling her triplet brothers the story of his battle with Mor'du until she interrupts and tells them that their father lost his left leg in the battle, and Mor'du is waiting his chance of revenge. Moments later, Elinor tells Merida that the three Lords are coming to present their suitors to compete for her hand in marriage. Not wanting any of this, Merida angrily storms out of the Great Hall to her bedroom.
As she takes out her anger and frustration on her bedposts by striking with her sword, Elinor enters telling her the story of a beloved king who had divided his kingdom for each of his four sons to rule, but the eldest wanted to rule the entire land and so brought chaos and war, and his desire to follow his own path led to the downfall of the kingdom. Merida still refuses to listen, but Elinor is adamant and tells Merida to go through with it even if she doesn't want it for the good of the kingdom. Moments later, Merida is seen in Angus's stall talking to Angus of what she would say to her mother about her wishes if she would listen. Merida is determined she will not marry whoever wins the games. Days later, the Lords arrive in DunBroch. Elinor prepares Merida in a tight formal dress and they all gather in the Great Hall for the presentation of the suitors. Each of the Lords presents their sons. Merida is not pleased with any of them. A brawl breaks out, at which Elinor is disgusted and Merida is displeased. Elinor proclaims that only the firstborn of the great leaders may compete in the games which gives Merida an idea of how to get out of the marriage: she declares that she chooses archery for the Highland Games. When the competition begins, Merida sneaks her bow and arrows behind her throne. As the suitors shoot at the targets, she chats with Fergus about each of them until Wee Dingwall wins by accident, striking a bulls-eye. She sneaks off and appears on the field, declaring she will shoot for her own hand. Ignoring Elinor's protests, she strikes the bulls-eye of the first two suitors' targets. When she shoots an arrow through the full length of Wee Dingwall's arrow and through the target, she smiles... until she sees her furious mother. Elinor drags and throws Merida into the tapestry room as they have a heated argument with each other about Merida's actions, with Elinor calling her a child and Merida calling her a beast for trying to ruin her life. Merida then throws a huge tantrum and slices the family tapestry between the pictures of herself and Elinor in a fit of rage, and Elinor throws Merida's bow into the fire out of anger. Merida tearfully runs away from the castle as Elinor quickly fishes the bow from the fire, feeling horribly guilty and she too begins to cry.
Merida is weeping as she rides Angus heedlessly through the forest until they come across the Ring of Stones and a trail of will o' the wisps leading them to a woodcarver's cottage. Noticing a broom that sweeps by itself and a talking crow, Merida discovers that this old woodcarver is actually a witch, and asks for a spell. The witch tells her to get out, threatening her with floating knives, until Merida offers to buy all her carvings with her pendant in exchange for a spell that will change her fate. The witch begrudgingly gives in and conjures up a cursed cake, which she says that she did for a prince who had wanted the strength of ten men and got what he wanted. Merida takes the cake and heads back to DunBroch.
She sneaks back into the kitchen to make the cake presentable, as Elinor enters the room, relieved to find her daughter home. Merida gives her the cake on a false peace offering and Elinor eats a piece, then suddenly starts feeling sick. Merida escorts Elinor to her chambers and puts her in bed. Suddenly Elinor starts transforming into a bear. Merida is horrified at the spell's effect and with her brothers' help gets Elinor out of the castle. They journey back to the Witch's cottage but they find her gone. Then they find the witch's cauldron with a ghostly image of the Witch in the potion-controlled automated voice message telling Merida that she has until the second sunrise to break the spell or her mother will remain a bear forever. The Witch tells Merida the way to do it was to remember the riddle "Fate be changed, look inside, mend the bond torn by pride." Baffled, Merida accidentally sabotages the cottage, so Merida and Elinor take shelter in the remains of the cottage for the night. Merida has a dream about a memory of her as a child with Elinor as they are both are singing "Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal)" together. The next morning, Elinor brings some berries and water for breakfast. Merida explains that the berries are poisonous nightshade berries and the water has worms in it. They go to a creek, where Merida teaches her mother to catch fish, and they both start bonding.
Then Elinor heads into the forest and Merida follows her, but Elinor is not herself and starts attacking her daughter until she returns to herself. Merida is confused until they see a trail of will o' the wisps and follow them to the ruins of a castle. Merida falls through the floor into a throne room and realizes it was the kingdom from the story Elinor was telling her about. Merida sees a stone with three figures and a split stone with the fourth figure and realizes that the curse has happened before, when the prince sought to change his fate, resulting in his kingdom's downfall and his transformation to Mor'du. Then she sees Mor'du and he attacks her until she barely escapes with Elinor's help and they flee back to the Ring of Stones. Merida realizes that Elinor will become like Mor'du forever unless she sews the tapestry back together to "mend the bond torn by pride" in hopes it will break the transformation spell.
That night they sneak into the castle. Peeking into the Great Hall, they see Fergus and the lords behind barricades, hurling weapons at each other, on the brink of war. That is when Merida realizes that the kingdom will be torn apart if she doesn't set it right, and she tries to tell Elinor to stop them. But Elinor, in bear form, can't do any such thing, and it is up to Merida to stop this madness. Elinor, fearful of being seen and attacked, freezes into a stationary position while Merida walks into the room and tells them she was in conference with Elinor. The Lords demand to see the queen until Merida silences them all. She tells them of the story of the selfish prince who brought chaos to the land and reminds them that legends are lessons and they ring with truths. The clans had been enemies until they were threatened by the Northern Invaders and joined forces to defend their lands. When they won the war, the clans made Fergus their king for bringing them together and made an alliance. Merida then admits that what she had done was selfish and must amend her mistake. She tells them that she and the sons should all be free to follow their hearts and find their own loves. The Lords' sons agree with this and confess to their fathers that they didn't want to fight over a girl who doesn't want any of it. So they all agree, but Merida notices a guard staring at Elinor's frozen pose and distracts everyone by telling them to got to the cellar to celebrate. When everyone is gone, Elinor is proud of her and they both head to the tapestry room. As Merida is looking for thread and needles to mend the tapestry, Elinor turns wild again and attacks Merida. When Fergus enters the room she attacks him and cuts Merida's arm. When Elinor snaps out of it, Merida tries to calm her, but her mother flees in horror as Merida tries to tell Fergus that the bear is Elinor, but Fergus refuses to listen. He locks her in the tapestry room for protection and gives the key to the servant Maudie while he and the Lords go after Elinor. Merida starts crying again and calls out until her brothers show up... but they, too, have been turned into bears for eating of the cursed cake. She tells them to get the key. They release Merida, and all four ride on Angus while Merida frantically sews up the tapestry. They follow a trail of will o' the wisps to where Elinor was captured. Merida fights Fergus to keep him from killing Elinor until he is convinced when the three bear cubs help stop him, and he realizes they are his sons.
Suddenly Mor'du appears and attacks the soldiers and Fergus. Then he attempts to eat Merida until Elinor breaks free from the ropes. She saves Merida just in time and starts fighting Mor'du. After slamming Elinor into one of the stones, he turns to kill Merida, who is holding up a spear against him, until Elinor pulls him back and smashes him against a cracked menhir, which then crushes him to death. A wisp of something rising from his body reveals the image of the prince, who nods to them as if in acknowledgment and gratitude and then disappears. As the sun starts to come up, Merida realizes it is the second sunrise; she grabs the tapestry and throws it around Elinor, but realizes that nothing is happening, much to her shock and sadness. Thinking she has failed, she tearfully hugs her mother. Merida sincerely apologizes for everything, admitting it is her fault and tells her she loves her. Then the tapestry seals itself around her clumsy stitches. She feels a human hand touching her hair and realizes Elinor is human again. Fergus comes and hugs his wife and daughter and kisses Elinor.
Merida reminds her she is naked under the tapestry and Fergus tells the lords not to look as the triplets, now human once again, come running naked and hugging their parents and elder sister.
Later, Merida and Elinor are sewing a new tapestry together of Merida and Elinor as a bear until they are called to the docks to say goodbye to the Lords. Then they both ride on their horses and journey around Scotland, their mother-daughter relationship and bond even stronger and closer now.
- Many people believe that "Merida" is a variation of "Meredith". However, as Brave is set in Scotland in the Middle Ages, this cannot be true. "Meredith" is a Welsh name, and until the late 20th century, it was exclusively male (it means "lord").
- Merida has more than 1500 individually sculpted, curly red strands that generate about 111,700 total hairs. Brenda Chapman insisted upon Merida having such curly hair, which was very difficult to create. Claudia Chung, the simulation supervisor, said, "We've never seen anything like Merida's curly hair. Technically, that was incredibly hard to achieve." The simulation team had to create a new simulation program to achieve the needed movement, which they named "Taz", after the Tasmanian Devil character from Looney Tunes, because it was "crazy fast", as Chung said. The results were so pleasing that they used the program to create all the other hair in the film, from Angus's fur to the triplets' hairstyles. It took three years and left them only six months to finish the rest of their work on the film.
- If Merida’s curls were straightened, her hair would be four feet long and reach the middle of her calf.
- With five dresses, plus a cloak, quiver, hand wrap, and necklace, as well as torn dresses, Merida has a total of 22 different costumes throughout the film. She also has five different hairstyles.
- Brenda Chapman came up with the concept of the Merida character as a combination of a daughter and a friend.
- Reese Witherspoon was originally cast to voice Princess Merida but was replaced due to scheduling issues.
- Merida has the strangest preview cameo prior to her film's release of any Pixar character in history: she and her family were all first seen in public media in automobile form on a tapestry on the wall inside a bar in London, England seen at the end of Cars 2.
- Merida joined the Disney Princess line-up on May 11, 2013, making her the 11th Disney Princess in the franchise, and the first ever Disney Princess to not come from the Disney Animated Canon.
- When she initially joined the line-up, Merida was given a redesign that drew much controversy, with many critics stating the design made her "too girly", which is the polar opposite of her adventurous personality. Disney eventually re-redesigned her to be closer to how she appeared in the movie.
- Tia Kratter, responsible for Merida's initial character design, has admitted that Merida took inspiration from British model and actress Lily Cole.
- Apparently, Merida and Young MacGuffin were going to be the "canon" couple, but then the filmmakers decided it would be better to leave her single.
- Her name means "honorable" in Gaelic.
- Merida appears as a figurine and playable character as part of Disney Infinity: 2.0 Edition.
- She appeared in the fifth season of ABC's Once Upon a Time, played by Amy Manson.
- Merida is the first Disney Princess to originate from a Pixar film, as well as not to have a love interest.
- Merida made an appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet, along with the other Disney Princesses. This is her first time where she appeared in a film by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- Disney Pixar Facebook account
- 'Brave' Concept Art for Merida and Angus
- Close-Up: The Amazing Design of 'Brave' Characters
- Alexander, Bryan. "Merida's hair in 'Brave' is an animation sensation" June 26, 2012, USA Today.
- Comic-Con 2015: Once Upon a Time introducing Merida in season 5