We all remember the stories when we were kids, the poor girl turns in to a princess, meets a prince and lives happily ever after, right? Well, as we have learnt, there is no such thing as happily ever after, and, quite frankly, Walt Disney got it wrong.
Be prepared for cannibalism, paedophilia, rape, suicide and mutilation – amongst other things!
Since Snow White and the Huntsman is popular in the media, (we’ll ignore K-Stews indiscretions) I’ll start there.
In the shiny Disney version (1937), Snow White’s evil Step mother – The Queen, wants to be the ‘Fairest of them all’ and so, after being told by the magic mirror that Snow White is now the fairest, she sends a huntsman to take her out in to the woods and kill her, and as evidence, bring back her heart in a jewelled box.
Snow White is told to flee by the huntsman and goes to live with the seven dwarfs, and when the Queen comes to find her – disguised as an old woman – she poisons her with the apple and she falls in to an eternal sleep. Like most Disney films, the Prince comes along and kisses her, breaks the spell, and they all go on living happily ever after.
In the slightly darker tale by the Brothers Grimm (1812), the huntsman is to return with Snow White’s lungs and liver, which were to be prepared for dinner that evening to be eaten by the Queen. Instead the huntsman returns with a boar’s lungs and liver, and so the Queen is on the hunt again.
When the Queen thinks Snow White is dead, she asks the mirror once more, to which it replies ‘the young Queen’, curious, the Queen attends the young Queens wedding to find it is Snow White, and so the evil Queen is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies. Not so magical now, eh?
Between the varying stories, Snow White’s age is an issue, in the Disney version she appears to be an of-age teen when the prince rescues her, but, in the Grimm, and many other versions, Snow White is just seven when the story starts, and it is never made clear how much time actually passes. So it would appear the huntsman ain’t so friendly.
Little Red Riding Hood.
Little red is on her way to Grandma’s house when she runs into the Big Bad Wolf, and stupidly tell him where she’s going. The wolf races ahead, eats grandma, and waits for Red. After some taunting the wolf eats Little Red too, and is only saved when a huntsman comes and cuts them out of the wolf’s belly, thus, saving the day.
In older versions of this tale, there was no huntsman, so grandma and Red were dead. The End. But in some, there are a variety of ways the wolf is represented, and in most cases it’s that of a sexual predator to the young girl.
In one version, Red does a striptease for the wolf – who is still dressed as Grandma – and runs away whilst he is “distracted”. Worse still, in another version, the wolf dissects Grandma and invites Red in to a slap up meal of Grandmas insides!
In the Disney movie, beautiful princess pricks her finger on the evening of her sixteenth birthday, sleeps for one hundred years, and is awakened by a kiss from her true love, the Prince, and, you’ve guessed it, they live happily ever after.
Not so happy versions of the tale show the princess is put to sleep through a prophecy, not a curse. When she is finally asleep the King comes to visit her, but instead of the sweet loving kiss, rapes her whilst she’s still sleeping. Nine months on, two children crawl from her, and it is only when one suck on her finger that the spell is broken. She wakes up raped and a mother of two.
In the most modern fairy tale version, Cinderella is treated badly by her step mother and step sister’s, goes to a ball and falls in love with the prince, the glass slipper fits and they go and live in the prince’s castle.
The oldest version, dated in the 1st Century BC, is not much different; apart from there is no pumpkin and no glass slipper.
Bring in the Brothers Grimm version, and we have a whole new story. The step sister’s are so desperate to make the glass slipper fit, they actually hack off parts of their own feet to squeeze them in and fool the prince.
Two pigeons see this happen and alert the prince. They also go on to peck the sisters’ eyes out, forcing them to live out their lives as blind beggars, whilst Cinders lives it up in a castle!
The Little Mermaid
Ariel is a raven haired mermaid who longs to be human, after saving Prince Eric and leaving him for a human to find, she knows it is him she is to marry. She trades her voice for legs and sets out on land.
After some double-crossing from Ursula the sea witch, the two eventually live happily ever after and get married on a ship.
In Hans Christian Anderson’s 1837 version – originally written as a ballet – things don’t end so romantically. Instead, Ariel is given legs to make the Prince fall in love with her, only to find he wants to marry the girl who found him after Ariel had rescued him. On realising this, Ariel is given a knife to stab the prince so she can return to the sea as a mermaid. If she doesn’t, and the prince marries someone else, she will be turned into sea foam.
She can’t bring herself to kill her prince, and so she chooses death. The Prince realises it is Ariel that he loves, but it is too late, and he sees her dive into the see an commit suicide.
These aren’t the tales to be telling kids, as most of them were told around campfires as peasants shared stories after a hard nights graft. Merely as entertainment to the dark world they already lived in, that is, until Walt Disney came along and made everything into a ‘Happily ever after’.