When last did you watch a movie or read a fairy tale originally written or published by Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm? Are you a parent who read your children bedtime stories from books published by Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm? If you look at them today, you might be shocked by the gruesomeness of these tales. Although they claimed to contain valuable lessons for children, their darkness seems to lean more toward material to be censored than life lessons to teach your children.
Apparently, these tales were fantasy stories that adults used to entertain each other. For that purpose, the German Grimm brothers published two volumes of the stories in the early 1800s. However, sources say the disappointing sales then had them toning down the tales with children in mind. Let’s look at some of the horrors depicted in well-known fairy tales the Grimm’s included in the publication of “Nursery and Household Tales.”
Pinocchio, a fairy tale about the evil of lying
The happy puppet in the Disney movie was considerably less happy in the original tale. The Disney version of the tale in 1940 was about the wooden puppet whose nose grew longer each time he fibbed. His little pal, the cute Jiminy Cricket, sang the unforgettable theme song “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The story meant to teach children lessons about lying, running off and being taken by evil adults.
In the movie, Stromboli, Pinocchio’s evil kidnapper, says the wooden puppet would make excellent firewood when he grows old. However, when Carlo Collodi wrote the tale in 1883, the cricket teased Pinocchio about having wooden head. The puppet became enraged and killed the cricket by throwing a hammer at him.
The fairy tale of The Little Mermaid
Disney projected Ariel, the little mermaid, as a model of both cheerfulness and sadness in the 1989 version of the fairy tale. Prince Eric and the mermaid falls in love. In the film, a sea witch, Ursula, makes a deal by which she will change Ariel to be human for a short while. In exchange, she gives the witch her beautiful singing voice, and the witch puts the voice inside a seashell.
However, in the 1837 original, the Danish author of this fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen, had a different way for the witch to silence Arial. He had the witch cutting off the little mermaid’s tongue. Furthermore, unlike the happy ever after ending of the film, Andersen’s version was quite the opposite. His version ends with the prince choosing a human bride over Ariel, who had one last chance to smile at him. In the end, The mermaid rises slowly to heaven, accompanied by her sisters.
Cinderella — a fairy tale depicting an evil stepmother
There were three versions of this fairy tale. In 1950, Disney’s film depicted the enslaved Cinderella suffering under the control of her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Her fairy godmother steps in and transforms her ragged clothing into a gown fit for a princess. She attends a royal ball where she meets Prince Charming. Unfortunately, the magic would expire at midnight. As she flees back to her chariot, she loses a glass slipper along the way.
Similarly, the 1697 original tale by French author Charles Perrault ends with the evil stepsister begging for Cinderella’s forgiveness and she accepts. However, in the 1812 version by the Grimm brothers, the story took a horrific turn. When the prince came looking for the owner of the slipper, the evil stepmother orders one of the stepsisters to cut off one of her toes and take Cinderella’s place with Prince Charming. As he rides off with the imposter, two pigeons tell him about the deception. The other stepsister then cuts off her heel and tries to deceive the prince, but the pigeons warn him again. The prince ultimately finds Cinderella. When the two stepsisters try to pry the prince away from Cinderella, the pigeons pluck out their eyes and leave them blinded.
Little Red Riding Hood
In this fairy tale, the horror between the Grimm’s version and the more modern versions are almost equal. The fairy tale involves the girl walking through the wood to take her grandmother a basket of food. She comes across a wolf who convinces her to pick flowers for granny. While she does that, the wolf rushes ahead and eats the grandmother. The wolf puts on the granny’s clothes and lies in her bed, waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.
Here is where the tales vary. In the original Grimm’s version, the wolf then also eats the girl. A hunter arrives, cuts open the wolf’s belly, rescuing Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
Hansel and Gretel
This German fairy tale is comparable to “The Silence of the Lambs,” the film about the cannibal Hannibal Lecter, a serial killer. The horror tale that the Grimm Brothers included in their 1812 publication is equally macabre. An old woman whose home is a gingerbread house in the woods seems kindly but is quite the opposite. She uses her edible home to lure children into entrapping before cooking and eating them. She locks up Hansel and Gretel, feeding Hansel to fatten him up and starving Gretel. However, instead of just cooking the boy, she ultimately decides to eat both of them. Gretel manages to push the old woman into the oven, where she burns to death. Even Hannibal Lecter’s story ended less grossly because he escaped from prison.