When we were kids, we all obliviously thought our lives were like fairy tales, ending with happily ever after. And who could blame us? That’s what pop culture fed us day in and day out, most especially the magic woven by Disney around our impressionable little minds.
All animated fairy tales made by Disney had happy endings. But if you see the origins of many of these stories, you’ll find that they were actually dark and morbid. It makes you wonder why fairy tales were meant for children, when in fact, they’re actually too disturbing to be read to little ones. Here’s a run-down of what really happened in these original fairy tales that were bastardized by Disney and other kiddie-centered production companies.
The titular character of Rumpelstiltskin has always been depicted as a malevolent little imp, even from the tale’s origins in Germany. He asked for the miller’s daughter’s firstborn in return for helping her spin a roomful of straw into gold so that she could marry the king’s son. After refusing to give up her child, the imp asks her to guess his very long and unique name and when one of her messengers is able to obtain it and she says his name, he flies into a rage. In the original Grimm version, Rumpelstiltskin merely runs away and never comes back. But in the altered 1857 version, he “…drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a passion he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two.” This notion is obviously too violent for children’s imaginations!
The Frog King
“The Frog King” was written by the Grimm Brothers and the title was later known as “The Frog Prince” in the English translation. In the story, a spoiled princess refuses to kiss a frog who claims to be a prince under a spell. The tale we know is that the frog is able to eventually win the princess’s heart and she gives him a kiss, thus turning him back into a prince. But the earlier authors apparently scoffed at true love’s kiss because their versions of the story depicted gruesome means of breaking the spell, from throwing the frog against a wall or having him burnt and decapitated. Obviously, there was no such thing as animal rights back then!
Little Red Riding Hood
The tale of the little girl with the red hood has many different versions, the original one being written by French author, Charles Perrault. We all know that on her way to take a basket of food to her grandmother’s, Red encounters the Big Bad Wolf, who stalls her so he could go ahead to her grandma’s cottage and eat her. When Red gets there, she trustingly believes the wolf in disguise is her grandma, but he reveals himself and eats up Red too! A child can develop trust issues with their loved ones because of this!
Hansel and Gretel
Sure, the Brothers Grimm gave the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” a happy ending, but the events that set the story in motion can leave any kid scarred for life. The two little ones were left in the forest to die because their parents were so poor, they could only afford to feed themselves. And so the children wound up in the witch’s candy-covered cottage, which they eventually escaped from and found their way back into their father’s contrite arms. And the stepmother who concocted the plan to abandon the kids? She died mysteriously. That’s just retribution for you.
Beauty and the Beast
Like the Disney version of the tale, the original “Beauty and the Beast” was indeed set in France as it was written by French author Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. But that’s just about where the similarities end. In Beaumont’s story, Beauty is the youngest of three sisters, the two elder ones being mean-spirited and jealous of their beautiful little sister. When Beauty is supposed to return to the Beast as promised, her evil sisters manipulate her into staying away from him, resulting in the Beast’s near death and putting their sister’s happiness on the line. Good thing in the Disney version, Belle’s only adversary was the pompous Gaston!
Disney’s Tangled was so far removed from the original story of Rapunzel and it’s no wonder. The Grimm Brothers put together a tale so dark that Disney had to alter it drastically to cater to kids. In the original story, Rapunzel’s parents are forced to give her up as a baby to an evil witch, who locks her in a tower and uses the little girl’s hair to scale the tower and visit her. The prince who falls in love with Rapunzel and visits her every night impregnates her and the witch inadvertently finds out. Rapunzel’s hair is cut off and she’s cast into the forest, while her prince, upon being told by the witch of Rapunzel’s banishment, jumps from the tower in apparent suicide and goes blind. He later finds his way to Rapunzel, who’s been living in the forest with their twin babies. Suicide and having babies out of wedlock aren’t exactly the best themes to impart on kids!
The Little Mermaid
It’s interesting how Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Little Mermaid” deals with lessons on the after-life, but in a pseudo-morbid way. The little mermaid’s love for her prince turns out to be unrequited, despite her giving up her legs and voice to be with him. It turns out, the prince is in love with the princess he was ordered by his father to marry so though it works out nicely for him and his kingdom, it’s at the expense of the mermaid’s life. She disintegrates into sea foam, like all merfolk do upon death, but since she made such a big sacrifice, she is rewarded a soul that would eventually rise up to Heaven when she does enough good deeds!
Also known as “The Little Glass Slipper,” the tale of Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm has a happy ending in the sense that Cinderella gets her prince. But many of the things that go on in between are twisted at best. For example, her two stepsisters are so desperate to have their feet fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper that they cut off their toes and heels! The prince catches on after they had both already bled into the shoe and he claims the rightful owner eventually. Another peculiar aspect of the original story was Cinderella’s father didn’t die, yet he didn’t do anything to stop his second wife and stepdaughters from abusing her the way they did. Talk about neglect!
Perhaps the most famous fairy tale in the world, the Brothers Grimm version of “Snow White” is quite sinister. Yes, Disney borrowed the same elements in the original story, such as the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, and the glass coffin, but a portion of the story was too dark to replicate. In the Grimms’ first edition, the evil queen is actually Snow White’s jealous and vain mother, rather than her stepmother! The huntsman is asked to bring not her heart, as depicted in the Disney movie, but rather her liver and lungs, which the queen means to feast on. Lastly, when Snow White eats the poison apple, she’s actually dead and not just in some deep sleep. The tale was so dark, that later versions had to be tempered down massively to make it more child-friendly.
The tale that Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm spun about the beautiful Briar Rose falling into a deep sleep was based on the story “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Giambattista Basile. Talia is what the princess is called and she doesn’t prick her finger on a needle and fall into a deep sleep. Rather, she gets flax stuck under her fingertip, which apparently kills her. As her body lies in one of her father’s estates, a king comes upon her and gives in to his desire for her beauty by—wait for it—raping her. Talia gives birth to twins, one of whom sucks the splinter from her finger and she wakes up, shocked to see that she has become a mother. The king who got her pregnant promptly kills his wife so that he can be with Sleeping Beauty and their children!