Disney has capitalized on authors like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault, turning their fairytales into instant animated film classics that have shaped and defined childhoods for nearly 80 years. And what’s a good fairytale without a happily ever after?
Well, the authors beg to differ. Before these tales were fluffed up with glitter and ponies for the big screen, the originals were things of a much darker and gruesome nature. Buckle up, buttercup, because your childhood is about to be ruined.
In the 1950 Disney classic, while the prince is searching for his princess, Cinderella’s evil stepsisters try to fit their feet into the glass slipper, but to no avail. It’s actually quite comical. Cinderella marries her prince and lives happy ever after, leaving her evil stepsisters sulking in the dust.
In Charles Perrault’s original story, Cinderella’s evil stepsisters horrifyingly mutilate their feet in order to fit into the slipper. One cuts off her big toe, while the other cuts off a piece of her heel. Fooled, the prince marries each stepsister, until he looks down and sees blood running from the slipper. When the prince finally finds Cinderella and they marry, the stepsisters attend the wedding and have their eyes pecked out by pigeons.
In Disney’s 1959 version, Princess Aurora pricks her finger on an evil witch’s spindle and falls into a deep sleep. A prince defeats a dragon, finds Aurora sleeping and kisses her, waking her up from her deep sleep. They get married and live happily ever after.
In Giambattista Basile’s 17th century version, a prince does not kiss Aurora. Not by a long shot. It is a king who finds her sleeping, and after he calls to her, and she does not wake, he begins to “grow hot with lust” and rapes her, then leaves. The princess gives birth to twins, and as one of them sucks on her finger, the curse is lifted, and the princess wakes up.
For some sick twisted reason the princess falls in love with the king, but there’s one problem: he’s kind of married. The king’s wife orders the cook to kill the babies and serve them to the king, and threatens to burn Aurora to death. Luckily, the king doesn’t like this idea and has his wife burned to death instead.
Snow White (Cover Photo)
In Disney’s 1939 (and very first feature animated film) version, Snow White falls into a deep sleep after her wicked stepmother disguises herself as an old woman and convinces her to eat a poisoned apple. A prince finds her and kisses her, waking her up from her slumber. They get married and live happily ever after. (Seeing a trend here?)
In the Brothers Grimm version, the evil queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and kill her, and tells him to bring back her lungs and liver. Unwilling to kill Snow White, he brings back the lungs and liver of a boar instead. The evil queen eats them, assuming them to be Snow White’s.
The prince does not kiss Snow White in this version. He convinces the dwarves to let him take Snow White away, and as the glass casket is being carried, one of the carriers trips, causing the poisoned apple to become dislodged from Snow White’s throat. She and the prince marry, and as punishment the evil queen is ordered to dance in scalding hot iron shoes until she collapses and dies.
Disney’s 2010 “Tangled” is a far cry from the story of Rapunzel, but we all know the story. A young woman is locked away in a tower. A prince shows up, climbs up her long hair, and rescues her. They live happily ever after.
In Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force’s late 17th century version, Rapunzel gets knocked up by the prince. Only until her clothes stop fitting her does she realize that she’s pregnant. Enraged, the evil witch cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and throws her into the wilderness, where she is forced to give birth to twins all alone. The prince comes to the tower and is lured up by the evil witch with Rapunzel’s hair. She tells him he’ll never see her again, and in a fit of despair he throws himself from the tower, but ends up falling into a thorn bush and blinding himself. He wanders the wilderness blindly until Rapunzel’s voice reunites them. Her tears give the prince his sight back. They go back to the prince’s kingdom, get married, and live happily ever after.
I guess some gruesome fairytales do have happy endings after all.
The Little Mermaid
We saved the best for last.
Disney’s 1989 version follows the basic outline of the original tale, but most elements are very different. Ariel, a young princess mermaid, isn’t satisfied with her life under the sea. After she saves Prince Eric from drowning, she falls madly in love with him. In order to be with him, she goes to visit Ursula, a witch who grants her the ability to walk on land in exchange for her voice. If she fails to receive true love’s kiss from Eric, she will forever be banished back into the sea.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 version, she does fall in love with a prince after rescuing him, but Ariel also wants to give up her life as a mermaid in order to gain a human soul (in this tale, mermaids do not have souls). She visits Ursula the sea-witch to strike a deal with her. Ursula gives her a potion that will give Ariel legs in exchange for her tongue and beautiful voice. If she does not receive true love’s kiss from the prince, and he marries someone else, she will die of a broken heart and turn to sea foam.
While Ariel walks on land, it feels like stepping on sharp knives with every move she makes, causing her excruciating pain. And if you thought that wasn’t bad enough, the prince thinks the woman who saved him is the neighboring princess, and ends up marrying her instead. Just before dawn, Ariel’s sisters bring her a knife and tell her that if she kills the prince and lets his blood drip on her feet, that she will once again become a mermaid and be reunited with her family until the end of her days. Unfortunately, she can’t bring herself to kill him, so she throws the knife and herself over into the ocean, turning into sea foam as dawn hits.
Well, there go your sweet innocent childhood memories. You’re welcome.