Over the centuries, fairytales have been retold and rewritten countless times. Disney’s sugarcoated versions are almost unrecognisable from the original stories that were told by writers like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, many of which were initially intended for an adult audience…
The Little Mermaid
Modern: A mermaid falls in love with a prince and asks a sea witch to exchange her voice for feet. On land, the prince falls in love with her, but the witch tricks him into marrying the wrong woman. The prince eventually realises his mistake, the sea witch is killed, and he and the mermaid live happily ever after.
Original: The sea witch exchanges the mermaid’s voice for feet, but tells her that every step she takes will feel like walking on knives. The prince marries another woman, and the witch tells the mermaid that she will be spared death if she kills the prince. The mermaid can’t bring herself to do it, and her body dissolves into foam.
La Belle au Bois Dorma
Modern: An evil fairy curses a baby princess. 16 years later, the princess pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep. A prince falls in love with her but is kidnapped by the evil fairy, then rescued by good fairies. The prince kills the evil fairy and wakes up the princess, and they live happily ever after.
Original: A king discovers the sleeping princess and, unable to wake her, rapes her. Still sleeping, she gives birth to two children, one of whom sucks the splinter out of her finger to awake the princes. The King’s wife finds out about his secret children, and orders for them to be brought to the palace and unknowingly fed to the king. The cook instead feeds him lamb, and when the King realizes what his wife has tried to do, he has her burnt alive.
Little Red Riding Hood
Walter Crane’s The Wolf Knocks on the Door While Grandma Lies in Bed
Modern: A girl is asked to deliver food to her sickly grandmother. A wolf, seeing Little Red Riding Hood walking through the forest, beats her to the house and locks her grandmother in the cupboard. He then gets into bed dressed in the grandmother’s clothing. A woodsman, seeing what is happening, kills the wolf and they all live happily ever after.
Original: The wolf kills the grandmother and cooks her, leaving the meat for Little Red Riding Hood to eat. He then asks Riding Hood to remove her clothes and throw them into the fire before she gets into bed with him. The wolf then eats her.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of History Revealed