Did you know many fairy tales were originally gruesome German legends that were never meant to be children’s bedtime stories?
There are many fairy tales that were read to me as a child. Little did I know that most of those childhood stories were based on centuries old German folklore. Fables like Cinderella were told and retold, passed down generations until the brothers Jakob & Wilhelm Grimm committed them to paper. They collected legends and traditional lore and wrote several editions throughout 1812 – 1864.
These Fairy Tales Are Not For Kids!
The first of these collections, titled “Children’s and Household Tales” was not written for kids. These versions were grisly tales full of gore and even death. However, the book gained popularity; although, to much criticism from parents and the Church. To appease the masses, the Brothers Grimm re-edited their collections to suit the virtues of that Period.
By the time Disney and others released their own adaptations, the stories had been completely sanitized.
I went in search of the original versions and here is what I found.
The original story was a bit more savage. To begin with, Cinderella’s father is alive and well aware of the stepmother and stepsisters cruel treatment of his only daughter.
And you remember when the prince proclaims to marry the person whose foot fits the golden slipper that he found? Well, the sisters cut off parts of their feet to try fitting into the golden slipper. It’s a whole bloody mess.
THE ENDING IS THE BEST… in Grimms’s 1819 edition (plus all versions thereafter), Cinderella’s stepsisters get their eyes pecked at by the pigeons in the story, leaving them blind as their final punishment. The same pigeons that help grant Cinderella’s wish, because there is no fairy godmother!
What a happy ending!
Little Red Riding Hood
In the Brothers Grimm original version, the wolf eats both grandma and Little Red Riding Hood. By chance, a hunter kills the wolf and in skinning him, both grandma and Little Red Riding Hood jump out unscathed.
They go on to have a second wolf encounter, but this time Little Red Riding Hood is not duped. She sticks to her path and upon reaching grandma’s, they both trick the wolf, kill him and no one messes with Little Red ever again.
What a way to empower girls!
In the original version of Rapunzel, an evil witch holds the beautiful Rapunzel captive in the tower. There is a prince who finds a way to secretly visit Rapunzel without the witch finding out. Until Rapunzel tells her one day that her clothes fit no more and her pregnancy is unraveled. Soon after, Rapunzel is stripped of her hair and banished into the forest.
In the following editions, mention of pregnancy or premarital sex was completely disguised.
Too bad I don’t have any kids! I would be reading this fairy tale to my daughter.
Hansel & Gretel
In this terrifying fairy tale, a brother and sister duo are abandoned by their mother (first edition) in the forest. Lost and starving, they are lured into the candy house by an old witch, who intends to eat them. Instead, Gretel tricks her and shoves her in the oven, burning her alive. After setting her brother free, they steal her jewels and find their way back home to their loving father.
This fairy tale hasn’t changed much over the centuries, because why should it? It is such a wonderful story for kids!
The Frog Prince
Later called “The Princess and The Frog”, this original Grimm fairy tale did not include a romantic kiss. Instead, the frog is thrown against a wall by a disgusted princess. The force breaks the spell and they both live happily ever after.
That’s similar to how I met my husband! Some fairy tales do come true.
Another fairy tale that has not changed much from the original, is Rumpelstiltskin. The miller still lies to the king about his daughter being able to spin straw into gold. The king still locks her up with piles of straw, a spinning wheel and a reel to put her to the test. If she passes, she becomes queen. She fails, she dies! She cries and cries until an awkward little man appears and promises to spin all the straw into gold. In exchange, she must give him her first born, if she becomes queen.
She survives, becomes queen and when her first child arrives, so does the awkward little man demanding the child. Obviously, she does not want to give him her child, so he tells her that if she can guess his name in three days, she would be able to keep her child. She finds out his name is Rumpelstiltskin on the third day, and…
This is where the original differs: … in Rumpelstiltskin’s rage, he plunges and pulls at his leg so hard that HE TEARS HIMSELF IN HALF.
So, which fairy tale will you be reading to your kids tonight?