It’s every little girl’s dream to have a life like the Disney princesses’. Young children grow up hearing the happily-ever-after fairy tales, and start to believe in the existence of a Utopian world full of happiness. Disney has been going steady for ages, telling little children stories based on old fairy-tales, albeit loosely so. The real versions of the Disney fairy-tales are a little different from the Disney movies, and even the tales that we commonly hear. Let us take a look at the Top 10 Dark Origins of Disney Fairy-tales.
In the original story, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the lady with the power of ice is the Snow Queen, who is nothing like Frozen’s Elsa. The Queen abducts a little boy and enslaves him with her power, promising to only free him if he solves a puzzle and spell the word ‘eternity’. A little girl, with an innocent heart full of love and purity, comes and saves the boy with the power of true love, as her tears melt the splinters of an evil mirror lodged in his heart, and the boy’s tears dislodge the pieces in his eyes. So it is a romantic love story, not a tale of sibling love, and the queen is evil.
2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
The original tale of one of the beloved Disney princesses, Snow White, has not been changed much from the original tale by the Brothers Grimm, except, it is not the princess’ heart but her liver and lungs that the Evil Queen wants, to be served for dinner. In the end, the Queen is forced to dance to death, wearing hot iron shoes. The third fact, in ascending order of shock element, is that she isn’t awakened by a kiss, but by the jostling of the prince’s horse on which he carries her to the castle. What’s shocking is the possible reason why the prince might take home am apparently dead girl.
3. Sleeping Beauty
Though the movie resembles the Grimm Brother’s Briar Rose, Disney credits Charles Perrault’s version where the prince’s part-ogre mother wants Sleeping Beauty and her children, cooked and served as dinner, and falls in a pit with deadly creatures which she builds to avenge being served animal meat instead of her desired meal. In an earlier version, i.e. Giambattista Basile’s Sun, Moon, and Talia, Sleeping Beauty wakes up when the flax is removed on her finger being sucked by one of her twins, whom she conceives and births after being raped during her 100 years of cursed sleep.
Cinderella’s origin lies in a variety of similar stories, like the story of Rhodopis, Giambattista Basile’s Cenerentola, Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, and many folklores, with only variations regarding the presence of the Godmother or magic, or the shoe material. Brothers Grimm’s Aschenputtel is helped by doves sent by her mother from heaven; the step-sisters cut off their toes or heels to fit into the shoes. In the end, the doves peck their eyes out. One tale suggests that Cinderella kills her first step-mother, while another says she escapes her incestuous father and meets the prince in a new land.
5. Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast is very directly inspired from the tale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which is a simplified and archetypical version of the story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve where the prince is turned to a beast by an evil fairy who fails to seduce him. But, as with most fairy-tales, this tale has many versions. One suggests the Beast can’t take the girl as she is pure, and forces her to get her hands chopped off, by threatening to take her father. In other gruesome variants, she cuts off her hands to make herself sexually less attractive to her brother or father.
The origin of Disney Tangled i.e. Rapunzel has been toned down over the ages for children. Brothers Grimm’s Rapunzel, the captive of a witch, held in a tall tower, gets pregnant after she invites a prince to her tower. When she innocently remarks that her clothes feel tight around her belly, the angry witch chops off her hair and sends her off to a far off place where soon she begs to feed her children, while the prince, who is lured with the cut-off locks, is thrown off the tower and is blinded by thorny bushes. But, after wandering around, living off grass and leaves, he finally finds his family.
7. The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog is a popular Disney movie, based, very loosely, on Brothers Grimm’s The Frog Prince. To be fair, its storyline does tally with the modern versions of the original tale. While the modern variants all fixate on the good-hearted princess kissing the frog, the original tale says that the princess, disgusted by the frog that tricks her into making a deal, throws the frog prince against the wall and breaks his spell, with some earlier versions suggesting that the frog just tries to spend a night on the princess’ pillow. An even more violent version says she has to cut off the frog’s head.
8. The Little Mermaid
The original story of the Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Anderson, ends with the prince marrying another princess, while the heart-broken Mermaid, who silently endures the agony of walking on swords for the prince, contemplates the his murder, but ends up committing suicide by jumping into the ocean, only to become the foam of the sea eternally. A newer, slightly less grim version narrates how she becomes the ‘daughter of the air’, waiting for 300 years to reach heaven. But in none of the versions does she get to marry the prince, as a human, because her fate has death written in it.
9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney’s film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, has its origin in the story by Victor Hugo. Even in the movie, the hunchback, Quasimodo, does not get his happily ever after with his love interest, Esmerelda, who settles with the Captain of the Guard Phoebus, as she is not romantically interested in Quasimodo, but he gets accepted, despite his deformities, as he defeats Frollo. But, in Hugo’s tale, Frollo frames Esmerelda for an attack on Phoebus, and sentences her to death, an act out of contempt and jealousy. Quasimodo mourns by her grave, and starves himself to death, lying there.
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10. Others (Disney Fairy-Tales)
- Disney has told the story of the Red Riding Hood by Brothers Grimm through many shorts. Charles Perrault’s tale has the wolf eating the grandmother, and the young woman, with no lumberjack, whom the Grimm Brothers added to save them. Older variants narrate how the wolf – or ogre, or werewolf – pretends to be the old lady, misguides Red Riding Hood into unwittingly cannibalizing her granny, and asks her to burn her clothes, before he devours her. The sexual connotation is not lost. In fact, the contemporary French idiom for a girl losing her virginity was “she has seen the wolf.”
- Then there is the Pied Piper, based on the many variants of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. In some of these, the Piper takes the children away and either drowns them to death, or has his own nasty way with them, hinting on paedophilia, unlike Disney’s version where he returns the children upon payment.
- Disney’s Goldie Locks and the Three Bears is only slightly different from Robert Southey’s The Story of the Three Bears, were the bears, three bachelors living in a house, are visited by an old hag. Another version of the tale suggests that the bears, on finding Goldilocks, rip her apart and eat her.
- Babes in the Woods is based on Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, which again is based on The Lost Children, where the devil wants to see the children bleed on the sawhorse, but the clever children pretend not to know how to get on. The devil has her wife show them, and before running away with his money, they slit her throat, despite the fact that she tries to help them earlier.
- Disney’s Pinocchio is quite different from the wooden boy in The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, where the boy kills Jiminy, and even sells off the book that Gepetto gets by selling his last coat. You almost don’t feel bad when bad things happen to Pinocchio, because he kind of deserves them all.
- Finally, The Fox and the Hound is different from the original tale by Daniel P. Mannix in which Tod the fox is chased to death by Copper the hound who is shot by his master before moving to a nursing home.
These are not fan theories; these are the original fairy-tales that, over time, had been toned down and made less gruesome, probably to make sure that the minds of children would not be scarred. Disney took a big leap, and changed many of the stories completely, while making slight changes and manipulations here and there in the other stories to ensure that they cater the picture of an absolutely happy world where good always triumphs the evil, love prevails, and there is enough power in our hearts to slay every dragon. Be it the initiative of Disney or the people in general, the dark origins of Disney fairy-tales have been disguised and toned down for children over the years, to make them appropriate for everyone.