National Reading Movement

The Gruesome Truth of Fairy Tales

Every fairy tale ends with a happily ever after, right? Not in the original versions of our favourite classics!

Fairy tales used to be written for adults too, so dark themes were not unexpected. Since it’s the month for Halloween and all things horror 😈, we dug deep to find the gruesome truth behind some of our favourite tales.

Fair warning, your childhood may be ruined if you read on!

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Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm

There are many versions of Cinderella, but have you heard of Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm?

In that version, Cinderella’s wishes do not come from the fairy godmother, but from a bird living on the tree growing on her mother’s grave. The stepsisters also cut off parts of their feet to fit into the gold slippers brought by the prince. Talk about commitment!

Cinderella eventually marries the prince, but the happy occasion is somewhat marred by her stepsisters getting their eyes blinded by birds during the wedding ceremony.

What a beautiful tale for children!

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The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

Forget the Disney version—the original tale is a far cry from happily ever after.

The mermaid agrees to a deal with the sea witch to live on land in perpetual agony, where every step feels like “she were treading on sharp knives”. If that isn’t disturbing enough, she also agrees to give up her voice by having her tongue cut out.

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Oh, and did we mention that if the prince falls for anyone else, the mermaid will die? Spoiler alert, he does fall for someone else.

The mermaid’s sisters ultimately come to her rescue, giving her a knife that would save her if she uses it to kill the prince. However, (spoiler alert!) she is unable to murder him as she loves him.

 

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

In Carlo Collodi’s original story, Pinocchio runs away from home after he is created. He meets a local policeman who thinks that Pinocchio has been abused by Geppetto, and the woodcarver is thrown in jail.

When Pinocchio returns home, the Talking Cricket who lives there starts teaching him the error of his ways. But Pinocchio grows weary of the moral lessons and kills the cricket with a mallet.

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Pinocchio heads out and soon meets the cunning fox and his sidekick cat. But unlike the Disney version where they trick Pinocchio into joining a puppet show, Collodi’s characters attempt to kill Pinocchio by hanging him from a tree.

“’Oh, Father, dear Father! If you were only here!’ These were his last words. He closed his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched out his legs, and hung there, as if he were dead.”

Horrifying! 😱

 

Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm

We know the basics of the story: a pretty girl with long hair is imprisoned by an evil witch, and is eventually saved by a handsome prince who climbs up her hair.

The original Brothers Grimm’s version does feature a long-haired girl who is kept in a tower by a witch. But did you know that Rapunzel was given to the witch just because her parents stole some plants?

Her mother had cravings for some herbs while pregnant, so being the good husband that he was, Rapunzel’s father went into the witch’s garden to steal them. Unfortunately, he was caught by the witch and the couple had to give Rapunzel up for their crimes.

Fast forward a few years and a grown-up Rapunzel meets the prince, who falls in love with her singing. The witch eventually finds out that the prince has been visiting Rapunzel every night, who is now carrying his child. She cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and banishes her to the wilderness.

The prince climbs up the hair that night only to find the witch, who tells him that Rapunzel is gone. In his despair, he flings himself off the tower in an attempted suicide. He survives but is blinded by the thorns that pierced his eyes when he fell.

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Interested in reading more fairy tales? Be sure to check out these collections in the library!

  1. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Brothers Grimm
  2. Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen by Hans Christian Andersen
  3. American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum