It is quite common knowledge that the family-friendly fairy tales we know are descended from something much darker, but do we really know all of the gory details? In honour of Halloween and our favourite German siblings, we wanted to take a trip into the depraved depths of the Grimm brothers minds! We read English translations of two of the most well-known fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, and noticed quite a few differences between these versions and the Disney versions we are familiar with!
Contrary to popular belief, this story was not initially created by the Grimm brothers, it has its roots in a 1697 story called ‘Cendrillion’, by Charles Perrault, whereas ‘Aschenputtel’ (Cinderella in German) wasn’t published by the Grimm Brothers until 1812. Although Grimm’s ‘Aschenputtel’ (along with Perrault’s ‘Cendrillion’) is the origin and inspiration of the Cinderella we know today, Grimm’s story is quite different from the one we are familiar with in a number of respects. Firstly, there is no Fairy Godmother in Grimm’s tale, Aschenputtel’s magical clothing and golden (not glass) slippers for the ball are provided by a bird in a tree that Aschenputtel planted over her mother’s grave- and watered with her own tears. A bit more depressing than a Magical Fairy Godmother singing Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!
Furthermore, Aschenputtel’s animal helpers aren’t quite as friendly as the mice we see in the well-loved Disney version… In fact, Aschenputtel’s bird friends actually peck her step-sisters’ eyes out, condemning them to a life of blindness for their cruelty towards her!
A pivotal part of the Cinderella fairy-tale is when the Prince tries to find an absent Cinderella by using a shoe she lost as she fled from the ball to identify her. Grimm’s tale actually has the Prince set up a boobytrap to ensnare Aschenputtel, smearing the palace steps with Pitch, causing her shoe to get stuck and left behind! This proactive approach to pursuing Aschenputtel via shoe entrapment is definitely the least disturbing thing that happens to Aschenputtel’s golden slipper in this tale. In a family-friendly version of Cinderella, the Ugly Stepsisters attempt to trick the Prince into thinking they are the one he seeks by trying to force the glass slipper on their feet. Unfortunately, their feet are too big, so the attempt is abandoned. However, the Stepsisters in Grimm’s tale are not to be deterred by a too small shoe, and (encouraged by their mother) one sister removes her toes, whilst the other carves off portions of her heel! We can definitely see why this particular detail didn’t quite make it into the Disney movie!
Snow White is another fairy-tale made familiar to us by the Disney film, but it too has a darker origin story in the Grimm Brothers. However, on the whole, the Disney Version of Snow White is a lot more faithful to Grimm’s version that the Disney’s Cinderella is to its German counterpart. The Disney version still includes a lot of the violence and questionable behaviour of the origin story, albeit a toned-down a few notches!
As we might remember, Disney’s evil Queen orders Snow White’s murder, and requests heart to be brought to her as proof of her demise. This is actually even more gruesome in the Grimm universe, with the Queen requesting that Schneewittchen’s (Snow White in German) liver and lungs be brought to her, which the Queen then eats, believing them to be the entrails of her step-daughter!
Grimm’s Schneewittchen seems to be more gullible than the Snow White we are used to, falling for her step-mothers disguises and evil plots three times, rather the solitary hit via poisoned apple we see in Disney’s adaptation. Grimm’s Schneewittchen initially buys a corset from her disguised stepmother, who laces it up tight enough to cut off Schneewittchen’s breathing and leaves her for dead. She is revived when the dwarfs return and cut her free. She then falls for a similar disguise and is poisoned by a
In regards to the means of Snow White’s revival, it is hard to say which rendition is more disturbing. Although in Grimm’s tale, the Prince doesn’t kiss Snow White’s corpse as Disney’s Prince does, instead he (as a complete stranger) asks to purchase her body from the dwarfs! As the Prince’s servants are carrying away her corpse for reasons that may or may not be nefarious, the bite of
Grimm’s version then ends, not with happily ever after, but with Schneewittchen’s evil stepmother attending the wedding and being forced into burning hot iron shoes and made to dance until she drops dead, presumably as some kind of wedding party entertainment!
Do you know any fairytales that have much more gory origin stories? Let us know on our social media pages!