Grimm to Gory: The Gruesome Origins of 30 Fairy Tale Classics

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1Dark Red Riding

Dark Red Riding

One of the earliest versions of the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" initially depicted the Big Bad Wolf and the title character devouring her grandmother together. The wolf then coerces Little Red Riding Hood to undress and lie naked beside him.

2. Prior to Disney's adaptation of "Cinderella," the Brothers Grimm version of the story featured the stepsisters mutilating their own feet to fit into the slipper. They manage to fool the prince momentarily, but two magical doves reveal their bloody feet to him. Later, when Cinderella becomes queen, she has the doves blind both stepsisters.

3. In the original version of "The Princess and the Frog" by the Brothers Grimm, the princess doesn't kiss the frog to transform it into a prince. Instead, she hurls the frog against a wall with great force, breaking the curse and restoring the frog to its princely form.

4. In the original "Little Mermaid" novel, the mermaid experiences constant excruciating pain, feeling as if she is walking on sharp knives with her newly acquired legs. The prince, for whom she dances despite the agony, eventually marries someone else, leading the mermaid to take her own life.

5. In the original 1812 version of "Rapunzel," Gothel discovers Rapunzel's visitor in the tower because Rapunzel's pregnancy is causing her clothes to become tighter. This element was deemed inappropriate for children and subsequently removed from later editions.

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6Dark Pinocchio Journey

Dark Pinocchio Journey

The original ending of "Pinocchio" was intended as a cautionary tale, with the young puppet facing execution by hanging from a tree for his misdeeds. Additionally, in the original novel, Pinocchio spends several months as a donkey, performing in a circus until he breaks his leg, gets sold, and ultimately drowns in the ocean. However, the puppet inside survives, trapped in the form of a dead donkey, until a school of fish devours the decaying flesh.

7. In the original story of "Peter Pan," the Lost Boys do age, even in Neverland. The reason the group always consists of children is because, if they don't die by other means (which is common), Peter "thins them out." The author never clarifies whether this implies execution or banishment.

8. Maui from Maori mythology, who inspired the character in Disney's "Moana," transformed into a worm to enter the Goddess of Night's vagina and bestow immortality upon humanity. However, he met his demise when she awakened and crushed him with her obsidian vaginal teeth.

9. The origins of the "Jack and Jill" story or poem can be traced back to France. The figures Jack and Jill represent King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, respectively. Jack (Louis XVI) lost his crown and was beheaded, followed by Jill (Marie Antoinette), who suffered a similar fate. The words and lyrics of the Jack and Jill poem were altered to create a more child-friendly story with a happy ending.

10. The early volumes of Grimms' Fairy Tales received widespread criticism for being deemed unsuitable for children. As a result, they changed the character of the "wicked mother" in some of their famous stories, like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, to an "evil stepmother."

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11Rumpelstiltskin's Brutal Ending

Rumpelstiltskin's Brutal Ending

In the original 1812 version of Grimms' "Rumpelstiltskin," when the imp's name was revealed, he surrendered and vanished. However, in the 1857 edition, the Grimms wrote a new, more brutal ending. In this version, the defeated imp, in an act of despair, tears his own body in half after planting one foot in the ground and grasping the other.

12. Scheherazade, the storyteller from "One Thousand and One Nights," shared her tales (Aladdin, Sinbad, etc.) with the monarch to prevent him from marrying and killing a new virgin every day, seeking revenge for his first wife's betrayal. By the time they met, the monarch had already executed 1001 women.

13. The Swedish fairy tale "Varulven," or "The Werewolf," features a pregnant maiden being pursued by a werewolf-like creature. A hero comes to her rescue, riding his horse so forcefully that it collapses and dies upon arrival. The tale ends abruptly with the discovery of a fragment of the maiden, such as a piece of her arm.

14. The tale of Hansel and Gretel may have originated during the Great Famine of 1315-17. The scarcity of food led to parents abandoning their children, possibly explaining why Hansel and Gretel became lost in the forest. The presence of a cannibalistic witch in the story reflects the extreme measures people resorted to, including cannibalism, during the famine.

15. In the original version of the German fairy tale "The Goose Girl," the deceitful maid is subjected to a gruesome punishment. She is stripped naked, placed in a barrel embedded with nails, and dragged through the streets until her death.

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16Bluebeard's Curiosity Warning

Bluebeard's Curiosity Warning

The French folktale of "Bluebeard" revolves around a wealthy nobleman who ruthlessly murders his wives and stores their bodies in a secret room. The story serves as a cautionary tale about curiosity and the consequences of disobedience. The term "bluebearding" has even come to describe the crime of killing, seducing, and abandoning a series of women.

17. The Little Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen tells the story of a young girl whose enchanted red shoes compel her to dance incessantly. Eventually, in a desperate attempt to stop the uncontrollable dancing, her feet are amputated. Hans Christian Andersen named the spoiled protagonist after his own half-sister Karen and drew inspiration from an anecdote about an entitled customer his father dealt with.

18. In the original version of "The Three Little Pigs," the wolf succeeds in catching and devouring two of the pigs, but the third pig outsmarts him by boiling him alive in a pot of water.

19. The original story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" diverges significantly from the popularized version. In the original tale, an old woman named Silver Hair enters the house of bachelors instead of bears. She not only eats their porridge, breaks their chairs, and sleeps in their beds but also impales herself on the sharp steeple of a church and dies.

20. In the original French fairy tale "Little Thumb" (also known as "Tom Thumb"), the parents of the seven brothers plan to abandon them in the woods due to their poverty. Tom Thumb outsmarts them by leaving a trail of pebbles and breadcrumbs to find their way back home. However, the parents later attempt to abandon them again, this time in the desert.

21Tam's Fish Sauce

Tam's Fish Sauce

In a Vietnamese fairy tale similar to 'Cinderella' called "Tam and Cam," the protagonist Tam seeks revenge on her abusive stepmother and stepsister. She boils the stepsister into fish sauce and serves it to the stepmother as an act of revenge for the physical and emotional abuse they inflicted on her.

22. One of the few historically reliable accounts of Pocahontas describes her entertaining settlers by performing naked cartwheels.

23. The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz series was once a man named Nick Chopper. A witch cursed his axe, causing it to gradually dismember him. Each severed part was replaced with a metal counterpart until he became entirely made of metal. When he encounters his surviving human head, they argue over which one is the real Nick.

24. Dina Sanichar, a feral child found in a cave in Bulandshahr, India, served as the true inspiration behind 'The Jungle Book.' Raised by wolves, Dina struggled to adapt to human society for 20 years, unable to learn how to walk or talk. He developed an addiction to smoking and eventually died from tuberculosis.

25. The fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper" features a grasshopper who spends the summer singing while the ant diligently works to store up food for winter. When winter arrives, the starving grasshopper begs the ant for food, but the ant rebukes him. This fable inspired Disney's film "A Bug's Life."

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