Fairy tales of the past were often full of macabre and gruesome twists and endings. These days, companies like Disney have sanitized them for a modern audience that is clearly deemed unable to cope, and so we see happy endings everywhere. This list looks at some of the common endings we are familiar with – and explains the original gruesome origins. If you know of any others, be sure to mention it in the comments – or if you know of a fairy tale that is just outright gruesome (in its original or modern form), speak up. 10
The Pied Piper
In the tale of the Pied Piper, we have a village overrun with rats. A man arrives dressed in clothes of pied (a patchwork of colors) and offers to rid the town of the vermin. The villagers agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it – and he does. He plays music on his pipe which draws all the rats out of the town. When he returns for payment – the villagers won’t cough up so the Pied Piper decides to rid the town of children too! In most modern variants, the piper draws the children to a cave out of the town and when the townsfolk finally agree to pay up, he sends them back. In the darker original, the piper leads the children to a river where they all drown (except a lame boy who couldn’t keep up). Some modern scholars say that there are connotations of pedophilia in this fairy tale.
Little Red Riding Hood
The version of this tale that most of us are familiar with ends with Riding Hood being saved by the woodsman who kills the wicked wolf. But in fact, the original French version (by Charles Perrault) of the tale was not quite so nice. In this version, the little girl is a well bred young lady who is given false instructions by the wolf when she asks the way to her grandmothers. Foolishly riding hood takes the advice of the wolf and ends up being eaten. And here the story ends. There is no woodsman – no grandmother – just a fat wolf and a dead Red Riding Hood. The moral to this story is to not take advice from strangers.
8. The Little Mermaid
The 1989 version of the Little Mermaid might be better known as “The big whopper!” In the Disney version, the film ends with Ariel the mermaid being changed into a human so she can marry Eric. They marry in a wonderful wedding attended by humans and merpeople. But, in the very first version by Hans Christian Andersen, the mermaid sees the Prince marry a princess and she despairs. She is offered a knife with which to stab the prince to death, but rather than do that she jumps into the sea and dies by turning to froth. Hans Christian Andersen modified the ending slightly to make it more pleasant. In his new ending, instead of dying when turned to froth, she becomes a “daughter of the air” waiting to go to heaven – so, frankly, she is still dead for all intents and purposes.
In the tale of snow white that we are all familiar with, the Queen asks a huntsman to kill her and bring her heart back as proof. Instead, the huntsman can’t bring himself to do it and returns with the heart of a boar. Now, fortunately disney hasn’t done too much damage to this tale, but they did leave out one important original element: in the original tale, the Queen actually asks for Snow White’s liver and lungs – which are to be served for dinner that night! Also in the original, Snow White wakes up when she is jostled by the prince’s horse as he carries her back to his castle – not from a magical kiss. What the prince wanted to do with a dead girl’s body I will leave to your imagination. Oh – in the Grimm version, the tale ends with the Queen being forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes!
In the original sleeping beauty, the lovely princess is put to sleep when she pricks her finger on a spindle. She sleeps for one hundred years when a prince finally arrives, kisses her, and awakens her. They fall in love, marry, and (surprise surprise) live happily ever after. But alas, the original tale is not...
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