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The Fascinating Histories Behind Your Favorite Fairy Tales

Society & Culture  (tags: Fairy Tales, History, stories, tales )

- 2544 days ago -
It's a little disconcerting to know that the real stories behind the fairy tales that made your eyes go all sparkly as a child were originally tales of rape, self-injury and forced abandonment. But the inspiration behind these stories simply resonated....

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Jennifer B (85)
Monday May 2, 2011, 12:26 am
Ugh I wish I hadn't read that. I will never be able to watch one of those movies again.

. (0)
Monday May 2, 2011, 1:49 am
Did you ever read the dark fairy tales , such as the one about Sleeping Beauty?

Turned out her prince got off on corpses.

The other fairy tales were just as horrific..

There was a whole book of those dark tales. I gobbled them. I'm bad. lol

Nancy s (448)
Monday May 2, 2011, 2:09 am
If you look closely at Disney movies there are alot of sexual innuendos and violence especially in the Little Mermaid!

Sharon B (127)
Monday May 2, 2011, 2:54 am
Sleeping Beauty was an eye opener.. thanks

Rajee S (138)
Monday May 2, 2011, 3:16 am
Makes me think differently!!! I wish I hadn't read this....I loved my fairy tales.
Noted with thanks.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 2, 2011, 4:20 am
Thanks, Anna. I like the darker versions as many of these stories were originally used for warnings for children.

Cristina M (137)
Monday May 2, 2011, 4:26 am
When I read the original Cinderella I was almost scared, like reading Stephen King. Very dark tales some of them. Thanks Anna.

Regina P (67)
Monday May 2, 2011, 7:42 am
Nnoted. Very interesting. Thanks Anna

Vikram C (394)
Monday May 2, 2011, 7:54 am

Myraida D (136)
Monday May 2, 2011, 8:20 am
When i was a kid i did not "tolerate" normal stories. I used to love stories but had to be original creations.I forced everybody to use imagination. Family and visitors.And they could not have venoms,bad animals, intentions to kill,bad familiy members on it etc.... True fairy tales!

Lydia S (155)
Monday May 2, 2011, 8:48 am
Anna , Thanks so much ! I have aways enjoyed reading the old fairy tales , So this was really interesting to me.

Fiona O (566)
Monday May 2, 2011, 9:59 am
Fairy tales are meant to teach a lesson. A very good example of incorporating a lesson into a story is found in Aesop's fables.

Rosie L (73)
Monday May 2, 2011, 10:41 am
interesting thanks

Staci G (16)
Monday May 2, 2011, 10:49 am
Thanks for sharing an interesting article.

Tanya G (27)
Monday May 2, 2011, 10:59 am
wow, fascinating alright.

Carol C (97)
Monday May 2, 2011, 12:51 pm
I'm shocked at Sleeping Beauty!

. (0)
Monday May 2, 2011, 12:55 pm
Have read about this before, but was nice to read it again, thanks!

Hartson D (39)
Monday May 2, 2011, 1:19 pm
The stories we tell our children. No wonder our leaders are screwed up.

Constance F (418)
Monday May 2, 2011, 1:28 pm
Nice Post, Anna. I actually took a class in the study of fairy tales in college, but more on the analytical and psychologocial aspects then the history, so this was very interesting information, at least to me. I know that Frank Baum who wrote The wizard of Oz was critical of the economic system of the US. Dorthy's ruby slippers were originally silver, and a statement against the market of gold. Also, consider the pretense of the wizard of Oz. Fun stuff when you dig down into it. Thanks again.

Debbie H (115)
Monday May 2, 2011, 2:52 pm
They weren't called The Brothers Grim(m) for nothing. Those were certainly dark times....but far more fascinating than the "politically correct", sugar-coated versions of today.

Debbie H (115)
Monday May 2, 2011, 2:55 pm
Sleeping Beauty's prince was a necrophiliac? My, my, my...That just won't do...

Dianna M (16)
Monday May 2, 2011, 3:20 pm
When you really think about it, most of our stories and fairy tales are pretty horrific. 'Hansel & Gretel'--that witch is a cannibal. Even '101 Dalmations'--Cruella De Ville would be condemned by PETA, and rightfully so. I wonder how badly scarred our children's psyches are by these stories? Or my own, for that matter.

Elvira S (82)
Monday May 2, 2011, 3:45 pm
I loved my fairy tales as a kid, didn't seemed to have suffered any harm....I think.

Past Member (0)
Monday May 2, 2011, 4:17 pm
It's interesting to compare some of the before and later versions. But I can't see why such information should throw one for a loop,. After all, then and now they're meant to teach lessons to youngsters.

(Although I'm shocked about Sleeping Beauty's Prince, because in my childhood fantasies I WAS the Prince. I hereby abdicate..!!!)

Fred K (34)
Monday May 2, 2011, 4:30 pm
Originals - like 'Rose Red and Snow White', 'Cinderella', and similar in original compilations, and later versions like 'ZARDOZ (yeah that Sean Connery in swim trunks movie) and 'The Little Red R3'... Both can be rather nasty. Both are also good fun. Keep up the great research and posting!

Oceana E (14)
Monday May 2, 2011, 4:49 pm
Very interesting.

Carol H (40)
Monday May 2, 2011, 5:13 pm
I knew some of what the article was speaking of. Why sould we be so shocked? Living was much more dangerous/violent in the 'old days' or is that now? Anyhow, of course things will evolve over time, just like languages, customs and religions.

Mary T (178)
Monday May 2, 2011, 5:16 pm
Thanks Anna very interesting.

Susan S (187)
Monday May 2, 2011, 6:46 pm
This version tells of the macabre and horrific side of the fairy tales. I once read a very interesting book about fairy tales according to feminist politics. They are often tales of women passively waiting for a prince to rescue them (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel etc.).

Tamie R (2)
Monday May 2, 2011, 7:02 pm
I, after eading some of the comments, do not want to read the article. I do not want to lose my ideals about my younger year fairy tales....

Edgar Z (47)
Monday May 2, 2011, 8:19 pm
When I was little boy I loved these fairy tales. These insinuations do not change absolutely anything all my fascination for them.
These fairy tales bring me the most wonderful memories of my childhood.

Shelly P (213)
Monday May 2, 2011, 8:47 pm

Heather E (32)
Monday May 2, 2011, 11:01 pm
Very interesting!

Anna B (66)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 2:41 am
Actually, all of these tales were originally intended for ADULTS! They were moralizing fables and metaphors, and certainly not designed to be told to small children at bedtime!

I always knew that the original stories - before they were bowdlerized and sanitized - were much, much darker and more gruesome. At home, we had some very old, Victorian, editions of H.C. Andersen's stories and certain other collections of "fairy tales", and I grew up with stories filled with blood, jealousy, murder, abandonment and eternal punishment and damnation.

If you are tired of the "prettified" Disneyesque versions of traditional folk takes, try these two collections, one by Angela Carter and one by Tanith Lee. Both collections of folk tales for adults are quite excellent:

"The Bloody Chamber (or The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories) is a collection of short fiction by Angela Carter. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1979 by Gollancz[1] and won the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize. All of the stories share a common theme of being closely based upon fairytales or folk tales. However, Angela Carter has stated:

My intention was not to do 'versions' or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, 'adult' fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories. [2]

The anthology contains ten stories: "The Bloody Chamber", "The Courtship of Mr Lyon", "The Tiger's Bride", "Puss-in-Boots", "The Erl-King", "The Snow Child", "The Lady of the House of Love", "The Werewolf", "The Company of Wolves" and "Wolf-Alice"."

"Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer is a short story collection of dark fantasy retellings of popular fairy tales by British author Tanith Lee. Contrary to what the title may suggest, it not only includes retellings of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, but also by Charles Perrault, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve or Alexander Afanasyev. The title story was nominated for a Nebula Award and a World Fantasy Award. This collection was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award."

Brenda T (0)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 3:25 am
Yes, I knew this already!

Walter F (45)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 3:45 am
Noted.Thanks Anna.I foud the Grimm brother stories more than grim when I was child ,they were very disturbing.

Jill V (416)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 5:16 am
Good grief! very interesting though...thanks Anna..

DobieMax W (15)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 6:22 am

Past Member (0)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 8:33 am
These folktales were grim long before the Brothers began compiling them on paper. They represent a time when famine, hunger, superstition, and war were common horrors of human life. If we do not try harder to manage our resources wisely and to fight climate change, these stories are likely to be portents of our not-so-distant future.

Toni C (508)
Tuesday May 3, 2011, 7:40 pm
Noted and thanks for the article. Brian, I believe you may be right. there are those today who, if they had their way, would love to transpose us back to that time.
Growing up in my Mennonite grandparents' house, I never had a lot of toys, but I was always allowed to have the little Golden Books of fairytales... and they're the reason I learn to read before ever going to school.

Elena A (34)
Wednesday May 4, 2011, 12:31 am
Wow :).Thank you for the info!

Parvez Z (7)
Wednesday May 4, 2011, 2:00 am
Interesting thanks

Arlene Z (0)
Wednesday May 4, 2011, 7:18 am
50 years ago, I cherished my antique Grimm Brothers fairy tale books. They were more complex, thought provoking and scary than anything else available. Recently, I bought another, slightly different copy at a garage sale, from a woman who warned "This book isn't right. The stories aren't at all like I know they should be, from the Disney movies. They are gruesome." Exactly!
If you enjoy the history of "children's stories", look into Mother Goose stories, too. Very political.

jane r (10)
Wednesday May 4, 2011, 9:17 am
There's always a backstory

Sue S (6)
Wednesday May 4, 2011, 2:09 pm
interesting but disturbing

Janis B (7)
Thursday May 5, 2011, 5:17 am
Fascinating but the Fairy Tale books we have are not the soppy crap from Disney and they were read by us a young as age 4. Not sure why everything is so sugar coated these days.

Nancy C (806)
Saturday May 7, 2011, 12:17 pm
As a pro dancer for 30 yrs, I had delved into "The Red Shoes" by Hans Christian Anderson. Originally the synopsis goes..."A peasant girl named Karen is adopted by a rich old lady after her mother's death. She grows up vain. Before her adoption Karen had a rough pair of red shoes, and now she tricks her adoptive mother into buying her a pair of red shoes fit for a princess. Karen repeatedly wears them to church, without paying attention to the service. She ignores the anger of her adopted mother and disapproving stares that even the holy images seem to express at her wearing red shoes in church. Her adoptive mother becomes ill, but Karen deserts her, preferring to attend a party in her red shoes. A mysterious soldier appears and makes strange remarks about what beautiful dancing shoes Karen has. Soon after, Karen begins to dance and she can't stop. The shoes take over; she cannot control them and they are stuck to her feet. The shoes continue to dance, through fields and meadows, rain or shine, night and day, and through brambles and briars that tear at Karen's limbs. She can't even attend her adoptive mother's funeral. An angel appears to her, bearing a sword, and condemns her to dance even after she dies, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before she hears the angel's reply. Karen finds an executioner and asks him to chop off her feet. He does so but the shoes continue to dance, now with Karen's amputated feet inside them. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches, and teaches her the criminals' psalm. Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes, Karen decides to go to church in order for the people to see her. However her amputated feet, still in the red shoes, dance before her, barring the way. The following Sunday she tries again, thinking of herself at least as good as the others in church, but again the dancing red shoes bar the way. Karen gets a job as a maid in the parsonage, but when Sunday comes she dares not go to church. Instead she sits alone at home and prays to God for help. The angel reappears, now bearing a spray of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for: it is as though the church comes home to her and her heart becomes so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on sunshine to Heaven, and no one there mentions the red shoes."

Nancy C (806)
Saturday May 7, 2011, 12:20 pm
PS I'm no longer dancing!!! But I'm certainly not in heaven...with the caveat that I have glimpses!

William Ford (1)
Sunday May 8, 2011, 4:58 pm
We can change from old tales into new tales what we like to say.

Koty L (982)
Monday May 9, 2011, 8:09 am
Thank you for publishing it!

Lika P (130)
Thursday May 12, 2011, 12:32 am
It sounds like the taboo fantasies of a time long, long ago got turned into children's stories, except that you can't have such gory things to tell your kids... I think it's interesting.
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