Once upon a time, fairy tales were filled with murder and torture rather than a true love’s kiss or happily ever afters. Back in those days when storytelling wasn’t a business but just an act of passing down these stories to the next generation, maybe people didn’t care about happy endings or moral/ethical leaning of the good and bad characters.
In 2016, the original first edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairy tales was translated to English for the first time, leaving people shocked over the gory details of the stories. Although thanks to Disney, we may remember these stories a bit differently.
So read on to find out the dark and disturbing original versions of some popular fairy tales…
1) Sleeping Beauty
This story was spun to seem incredibly romantic — it set the trend of a ‘true love’s kiss’. But in the original version, a king finds a sleeping girl and rapes her, causing her to give birth to two children while asleep. She is later awoken when the splinter in her finger, which was keeping her asleep, gets sucked out by one of her children.
Later, the Queen discovers her husband’s infidelities and orders his babies to be cooked and fed to him. The cook, taking pity, hides the children, and serves goat meat instead. When the Queen attempts to kill Sleeping Beauty by throwing her into the fireplace, the King intercepts and burns his wife alive. Sleeping Beauty then ends up marrying the King, the very person who raped her.
A favorite bedtime story, Cinderella was first penned by Italian writer Giambattista Basile in 1634. The four centuries of difference between Basile’s story and Disney’s animated film was bound to be the cause of some changes to the tale… like skipping over all the murder and mutilation.
Basile’s story, titled The Cat Cinderella, starts off with Cinderella following the instructions of her governess and murdering her stepmother by snapping her neck with the lid of a dressing trunk. The conniving governess then banishes Cinderella from the kitchen and marries her father, who is now widowed for the second time.
In the original version, Cinderella does attend the ball after being granted a wish and does end up losing a glass slipper, prompting a nation-wide search by the Prince to find her.
When he reaches Cinderella’s house, the younger sister actually cuts off a piece of her heel in an attempt to fit into the slipper, while the elder sister cuts off her toes. Things then take a bizarre turn, as two doves sent by Cinderella’s dead mother alert the prince of the sister’s blood in the slippers.
Cinderella is then finally found to be the true owner of the slipper, and during her wedding to the Prince the doves return and peck her step-sister’s eyes out, who end up spending the rest of their lives as blind beggars while Cinderella lounges about in luxury at the castle.
3) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Perhaps one of the most popular stories of them all, the original version of Snow White paints a much darker story, with the Evil Queen ordering the Huntsman to take her step-daughter into the woods, kill her, and then bring back her lungs and liver for her to eat as proof of her death.
As we all know, the Huntsman ends up sparing Snow White and falls in love with her instead. The pair send a wedding invitation to the Queen, who attends it without the knowledge of her step-daughter being alive.
When the Queen arrives, Snow White tortures her to death by forcing her to put on red hot iron shoes and ordering her to dance in them until she no longer could. Snow White is not as sweet as she seems, huh?
4) The Little Mermaid
In the original version, mermaids were not bright-eyed redheads with a wish to explore the land, but rather soulless creatures destined to dissolve into sea foam when they died. But humans were bestowed with a beautiful afterlife, and it was this promise of an afterlife that the little mermaid longed for.
The mermaid learns that the only way she can grow a soul is by marrying a man who loves her, but it comes with a catch — should the man not marry her, she would die. The little mermaid’s desire to be human only worsens when she spots a handsome dark-haired prince onshore. And as desperate times call for desperate measures, the mermaid visits the Sea Witch to strike a deal that would help in her mission of marrying that man.
The Sea Witch offers the mermaid a draught that will give her legs but at a very high cost: she would feel great pain with every step, and she would also have to cut her tongue off as payment. Just a small price to pay for a bigger reward, she says.
What follows is nothing but heartbreak. The prince loves the little mermaid but ends up marrying another woman. The only way the mermaid can save herself is by stabbing the prince to death. But she refuses and ends her life by jumping into the sea and turning into froth.
5) Peter Pan
The basic theme of this story is that Peter and the Lost Boys never grow up, but what Disney doesn’t mention is the reason why. Pan is actually a villainous character who kills the Lost Boys to keep them from aging as it is ‘against the rules’.
While we like to think of Pan as obsessed with youthfulness, in fact, he’s obsessed with death. The original version also has more gory content, including Wendy nearly dying after being shot with an arrow, Peter being left to drown, and Hook being eaten by a crocodile.
6) Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel is the story of two little children who become lost in the forest and eventually find their way to a gingerbread house that belongs to a wicked witch. The children end up enslaved by the witch, who has her own solution for finding food in the winter (FYI, she’s a cannibal). They somehow figure their way out, throw the witch into a fire, and escape.
In an earlier version, it was their own father that leads them into the dark, wild woods as there was not enough food to feed the whole family throughout the harsh winter. So rather than watch the children slowly starve to death, they are taken into the woods to be found by wolves for a quick end.
But the children end up finding the “gingerbread cottage” where they are captured for a while as the witch prepares them for eating. They find a way to free themselves, burn the witch in her own oven, and then fetch their parents to live in the cottage as it provided them enough food to survive through the long winter.
7) The Princess and the Frog
In some versions of The Frog Prince, it isn’t a kiss from the princess which transforms the frog into a prince, but rather chopping off its head. In the original Brothers Grimm version, the princess smashes the frog against a wall in an effort to force him back into a prince. Ouch!
This tale is a little different from the others because rather than sanitizing the original, it was modified by the original author to make it more gruesome. In the original, a miller tells the king that his daughter can weave straw into gold (she obviously can’t) so he orders her to actually do it, threatening to kill her if she doesn’t by the next morning.
The daughter strikes a deal with an imp who agrees to do it in return for her firstborn child. She agrees — but when the day comes to hand over the kid, she refuses to part with it. The imp then tells her that he will let her off the bargain if she can guess his name. She overhears him singing his name and guesses it correctly. The imp named Rumpelstiltskin runs away furiously, never to be seen again.
But in the updated version, Rumpelstiltskin is so angry at the girl for correctly guessing the true name that he drives his right foot deep into the ground in a fit of rage. He then grabs his left leg and rips himself in half. Needless to say, this kills him.
17th century Chinese writer Chu Renhuo’s version of Mulan sees the girl coming back from war to find her father dead, her mother remarried and the Khan — the ruler at the time — forcing her to be his concubine.
Unable to cope with all this, Mulan kills herself. The end.
10) The Little Red Riding Hood
The version of this tale that most of us are familiar with ends with the Little Red Riding Hood being saved by the woodsman who kills the wicked wolf. But some earlier versions of the tale are not quite so pleasant.
In one version, the wolf arrives at the house early, chops up the grandmother, puts her flesh in the pantry, and her blood in a wine bottle. He tells Red Riding Hood to have something to eat when she arrives and she does, unaware they are her grandmother’s remnants. In another version, the wolf kills the grandmother, then dresses up and pretends to be her, ultimately tricking and eating Red Riding Hood too.
So now that you know the gory original versions of some favorite fairy tales, we would like to apologize for any trauma or permanent damage caused to your fond childhood memories.