Little Red Riding Hood
Of course, we all know the famous story about the cute girl who visits her sick grandma and gets rid of a mean wolf with the help of a resourceful hunter. However, most readers don’t know that the original version wasn’t so romantic. Charles Perrault, the original writer, published a much more brutal tale than the Grimm Brothers’ later version. In his story, Little Red Riding Hood lies next to the disguised wolf, and then he eats her. That was Perrault’s ending: no hunter, no rescue, just Little Red Riding Hood eaten alive.
In this case, Charles Perrault came up with the kinder, gentler story, which is the one we have all heard. One of the versions called Sun, Moon, and Talia (Sole, Luna, e Talia) written by Italian writer Giambattista Basile was much more violent. The sleeping beauty pricks her finger on a spindle wheel, and then sleeps for a century. She definitely is awakened, but by her own child, who sucks the splinter out of her finger, not by a romantic kiss. While she was asleep, Talia (main character) was raped by a king and then, while still unconscious gave birth to two children. As she wakes up, she falls in love with her already married kidnapper. His wife, obviously, doesn’t approve of that, so she tries to cook their kids, but actually ends up burnt alive when the king realizes her intentions.
A famous European folktale and a story that every girl grew up with, Cinderella is definitely one of the most influential fairy tales ever published. Despite that, the original version contains some brutal scenes that most kids wouldn’t enjoy reading. The beginning of the story is partly the same, as her mother dies and her father remarries, taking up with a horrible woman who has two spoiled daughters. They treat her like a servant, she is called Ashfool and has to do the hardest jobs. When the famous ball is announced, she is given 5 minutes of happiness with the help of her fairy god mother, who gives her clothes and a carriage, but with a warning that the magic stops at 12 o’clock. She dances with the prince, who falls in love with her, but obviously forgets what she looks like, so he has to make every girl in the kingdom try on Cinderella’s shoe, the one thing that Cinderella left behind her. Until this part, everything is fine, but children wouldn’t sleep well if they knew that one of the sisters cut her toes off and the other one her heel in order to fit into the shoe. However, these are not the only body parts they lose. In the end, their punishment is that pigeons pluck out their eyes.
In the original version, the evil queen happens not to be Snow White’s stepmother but her real one! Disney also left out the part where her mother wants to eat Snow White’s liver and lungs, for lunch. She is later not asleep when the prince finds her, but dead; and he has to make herculean efforts to bring her back to life. Grimm’s punishment for the evil queen is probably the weirdest part of the story – she is forced to wear iron shoes, heated red hot in a fire, and compelled to dance until she dies.
Hansel and Gretel
The Grimms didn’t change this one too much, but the original version came from France and was called The Lost Children. The main villain of the story here is not a witch, but a devil who wants to bleed the kids on a sawhorse. His wife helps the poor kids, they cut his throat, steal the money, and run away.
The Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Andersen wasn’t particularly soft in the popular version either, but the original story was definitely worse. In the first version, the Little Mermaid also sold her voice for legs, so she could dance for the prince in order to impress him. (The spell contained an important little detail – she would die the moment he married another girl). He clapped along, he definitely liked her performance, but he chose someone else so the Little Mermaid died in agony.
What do you think about your favorite fairy tale now? Are those secret messages and brutal scenes for kids or were they meant for older children? Should kids hear those stories, too? You decide.