“Top gruesome fairy tale origins”
- The Pied Piper
In the tale of the Pied Piper, we have a village overrun with rats. A man arrives dressed in clothes of pied (a patchwork of colors) and offers to rid the town of the vermin. The villagers agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it – and he does. He plays music on his pipe which draws all the rats out of the town. When he returns for payment – the villagers won’t cough up so the Pied Piper decides to rid the town of children too! In most modern variants, the piper draws the children to a cave out of the town and when the townsfolk finally agree to pay up, he sends them back. In the darker original, the piper leads the children to a river where they all drown (except a lame boy who couldn’t keep up). Some modern scholars say that there are connotations of pedophilia in this fairy tale.
- The Little Red Riding Hood
The version of this tale that most of us are familiar with ends with Riding Hood being saved by the woodsman who kills the wicked wolf. But in fact, the original French version (by Charles Perrault) of the tale was not quite so nice. In this version, the little girl is a well bred young lady who is given false instructions by the wolf when she asks the way to her grandmothers. Foolishly riding hood takes the advice of the wolf and ends up being eaten. And here the story ends. There is no woodsman – no grandmother – just a fat wolf and a dead Red Riding Hood. The moral to this story is to not take advice from strangers.
(I read over a version this morning where she gets in bed naked with the wolf, and then I thought of how she says “oh my, what big… you have”, abit dodgy! There’s also a version where she distracts him by giving him a lapdance, i’ll try find links later)
- The Little Mermaid
The 1989 version of the Little Mermaid might be better known as “The big whopper!” In the Disney version, the film ends with Ariel the mermaid being changed into a human so she can marry Eric. They marry in a wonderful wedding attended by humans and merpeople. But, in the very first version by Hans Christian Andersen, the mermaid sees the Prince marry a princess and she despairs. She is offered a knife with which to stab the prince to death, but rather than do that she jumps into the sea and dies by turning to froth. Hans Christian Andersen modified the ending slightly to make it more pleasant. In his new ending, instead of dying when turned to froth, she becomes a “daughter of the air” waiting to go to heaven – so, frankly, she is still dead for all intents and purposes.
- Snow White
In the tale of snow white that we are all familiar with, the Queen asks a huntsman to kill her and bring her heart back as proof. Instead, the huntsman can’t bring himself to do it and returns with the heart of a boar. Now, fortunately disney hasn’t done too much damage to this tale, but they did leave out one important original element: in the original tale, the Queen actually asks for Snow White’s liver and lungs – which are to be served for dinner that night! Also in the original, Snow White wakes up when she is jostled by the prince’s horse as he carries her back to his castle – not from a magical kiss. What the prince wanted to do with a dead girl’s body I will leave to your imagination. Oh – in the Grimm version, the tale ends with the Queen being forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes!
- Sleeping Beauty
In the original sleeping beauty, the lovely princess is put to sleep when she pricks her finger on a spindle. She sleeps for one hundred years when a prince finally arrives, kisses her, and awakens her. They fall in love, marry, and (surprise surprise) live happily ever after. But alas, the original tale is not so sweet (in fact, you have to read this to believe it.) In the original, the young woman is put to sleep because of a prophesy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince which wakes her up: the king seeing her asleep, and rather fancying having a bit, rapes her. After nine months she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep). One of the children sucks her finger which removes the piece of flax which was keeping her asleep. She wakes up to find herself raped and the mother of two kids.
- Hansel and Gretel
In the widely known version of Hansel and Gretel, we hear of two little children who become lost in the forest, eventually finding their way to a gingerbread house which belongs to a wicked witch. The children end up enslaved for a time as the witch prepares them for eating. They figure their way out and throw the witch in a fire and escape. In an earlier French version of this tale (called The Lost Children), instead of a witch we have a devil. Now the wicked old devil is tricked by the children (in much the same way as Hansel and Gretel) but he works it out and puts together a sawhorse to put one of the children on to bleed (that isn’t an error – he really does). The children pretend not to know how to get on the sawhorse so the devil’s wife demonstrates. While she is lying down the kids slash her throat and escape.
- The Girl Without Hands
Frankly, the revised version of this fairy tale is not a great deal better than the original, but there are sufficient differences to include it here. In the new version, a poor man is offered wealth by the devil if he gives him whatever is standing behind his mill. The poor man thinks it is an apple tree and agrees – but it is actually his daughter. The devil tries to take the daughter but can’t – because she is pure, so he threatens to take the father unless the daughter allows her father to chop off her hands. She agrees and the father does the deed. Now – that is not particularly nice, but it is slightly worse in some of the earlier variants in which the young girl chops off her own arms in order to make herself ugly to her brother who is trying to rape her. In another variant, the father chops off the daughter’s hands because she refuses to let him have sex with her.
In the Grimms’ tale, Cinderella’s fortunes are turned around not by a fairy godmother, but a macabre tree growing out of her mother’s grave, which she waters with her tears. Like the Disney version, Cinderella is able to call on birds to perform the tasks set by her wicked stepmother and a bird provides her with suitable clothing for the ball. But when the king’s son turns up on the familiar quest to find the foot that fits the shoe, these stepsisters are prepared to go above and beyond to get their man: one cuts off her toe and the other slices off her heel to make the shoe fit. Unsuprisingly each attempt is given away when one of Cinderella’s bird friends helpfully points out the blood running out of the shoe. Vengeance on the stepsisters is completed at Cinderella’s wedding to the prince. As the sisters go into the church, birds peck out an eye from each sister. After the wedding, the same birds peck out each woman’s remaining eye, thus “punishing them with blindness all their days”.
In older variations it’s Cinderella who kills her original mother or stepmother, only to get the wicked stepmother as a replacement. An interesting social aspect is the lost significance of the heroine having a small foot. One of the original versions of the Cinderella story comes from ancient China at a time where wives were often chosen by their foot size. Having a small foot suggested that you had agreed to it being bound and were therefore obedient and dependent, traits then seen as highly desirable in a wife.
Once a more bawdy tale, the main change for children’s consumption has been the disguising of the sexual relationship between Rapunzel and the prince who discovers her. One day after the Prince has been visiting for some time, the naive Rapunzel asks the witch why her clothes have become so tight across her belly and no longer fit her, causing the outraged witch to throw her out of the tower. Whilst the blinded prince is wondering round and living on grass and leaves, Rapunzel gives birth to twins and has a miserable time trying to support them as a single mother.
- The King Who Wished To Marry His Daughter
A king promises his dying wife that he will not marry again when she dies unless his new bride is at least as pretty and has golden hair. After the queen is dead the king is persuaded that he must remarry so that the land will have a queen. Unfortunately he remains bound by his promise and no-one can find a replacement as good looking as the dead queen. Until that is his daughter grows up. One day the king realises that she fulfils the criteria, since she is as beautiful as her mother and has golden hair. He immediately insists on marrying his daughter, against the advice of his shocked advisers and her wishes. Since she can’t dissuade him, the kings daughter disguises herself and runs away. Whilst disguised she’s brought back to the king’s castle and sent to live in a closet under the stairs (sound familiar?). After enduring a miserable existence as a kitchen slave for a while she makes sure that her father gets to know who she is. He hasn’t lost any of his twisted desire to marry his daughter and this time she goes through with the marriage.