We all have grown up reading fairy tales or at least watching them in the form of movies. Our childhood wouldn’t be the same if there were no fairy tales. They entertain us, inspire us and at the same time teach us valuable life lessons and make us believe that in the end, everything reaches to a happy ending. That is perhaps why we love to read them.
But not all fairy tales leave us enthralled. Some leave us heartbroken; some leave us sickened; while some are so depressing that they needed to be rewritten to suit the mentality of the children. This list is about 5 such popular fairy tales we all have read that actually had very gory and disturbing original versions.
1. The Pied Piper of Hamelin
In this story, we read about a village which was infested with rats. It had become such a big problem for the villagers that when a man dressed in clothes made of pieces of different colours arrived in the village and offered help, the villagers agreed to pay him a large sum of money if he could do this. So he started playing his pipe, and after listening to the music, all the rats came out and started following the Pied Piper. He led them out of town and the villagers were relieved. But when he returned for the promised money, he was refused by the villagers. The Pied Piper then started playing the pipe again and this time the children started to follow him. In most of the modern versions, he led them to a cave until the promised money was paid and then sent them back.
But in the earliest version of the story, he actually led them to a river where all the children were murdered by drowning. Only one lame boy could not keep up with the other healthy children and thus was saved from the similar fate.
2. The Little Mermaid
In the Disney version of the story of the Little Mermaid, originally written by Hans Christian Anderson, Ariel- a mermaid, falls in love with a prince named Eric, turns herself into human, wins over the prince overcoming difficulties and then gets married to him in a grand celebration attended by humans and mer-people and they lived happily ever after.
But Anderson’s original version of the story was rather bleak and happy ending never came for the mermaid. In the original version, the prince was a jerk who treated her unfairly and was always in love with someone else whom he eventually married. The mermaid had but only two choices, to get married to the prince which would earn her a soul (which mermaids don’t have unlike humans) or die and become sea froth. When she failed in her pursuit of winning over him despite of all her love, her sisters offered her a magical knife using which she must kill the prince so that she could turn to mermaid again and return to the waters. But she refused and threw the knife away and jumped into the sea to get turned into froth. Nevertheless, instead if dying, she becomes ‘daughter of the air’ with an option to earn a soul if she did good deeds to humans for the next 300 years.
3. The Sleeping Beauty
The modern tale of the Sleeping Beauty tells us the heartwarming story of a princess who because of a curse, fell asleep for a hundred years when she got pricked on a spindle and woke up after a prince came along and kissed her. He broke the curse, fell in love with her, got married to her and they lived happily ever after.
But that isn’t the original version. In the original version, the princess fell asleep because of prophesy after a flax got stuck in her fingers. The prince was actually a king who was already married and instead of kissing her in her sleep, he raped her and left her there in the castle where she always was. After getting raped, she gave birth to two children in her sleep and one of them, trying to find milk, started sucking on her finger and accidentally got the flax out, waking her from her long sleep. After a year, the king decided to visit the princess again (for reasons we all can assume) and found her with two of his children. He told her about the raping incident, and strangely, instead of confronting him, she fell in love with him. He took her to his kingdom as another wife.
4. The Girl Without Hands
The girl without hands tells the story of a poor man to whom one day the Devil appeared and promised to give him enormous wealth if he gave him whatever was there behind his mill. The man thinking that it was only an apple tree, agreed. But it turned out that his daughter was there. Three years later when the Devil came to take the daughter, he but couldn’t take her as she was so pure. Angered, the Devil threatened the man that he should chop off her hands or else he would take him instead. Compelled by circumstances, she let her father to cut off her hands. But still, she was pure enough for the Devil to not touch her. So he let her go.
In the early variants though it wasn’t because of the Devil’s threat that the father had to chop off his daughter’s hands but he did it because she refused his sexual advances. In other variants, her brother was sexually attracted towards her and would find her hands particularly captivating. So, to make herself ugly in front of him, she cut off her hands.
Who hasn’t read, heard or watched the story of Cinderella? Cinderella is perhaps one of the most famous of fairy tales out there that has been adapted countless times in different forms and continues to influence cultures till today. It is also one of those fairy tales which has thousands of variants across countries and regions but the version of Brothers Grimm had perhaps taken the story far and wide for the first time and popularized it immensely.
In the most modern versions and adaptations, Cinderella was helped by her Godmother to reach the ball where she would lose her glass slippers and the prince thus would start a manhunt to find her. This would end up her getting married to him and her jealous and cruel step-sisters, who also wanted to marry the prince, only end up getting married to lesser lords. In Grimm’s version though, there was no Godmother but she would be helped by a tree that grew over her mother’s grave and when the prince sent his men to find the owner of the slipper, the sisters went to the extent of cutting their toes to fit in the shoe. Also, unlike the warm, forgiving ending of the modern variants, in Grimm’s version the sisters’ eyes were pecked by doves for their cruelty towards Cinderella and they spent the rest of their lives as blind beggars.