Those Disney endings where the prince and the princess end up blissfully married don’t always happen in the original stories. To make sure kids go home happy, not horrified, Disney usually has to alter the stories. Read on for the original endings to a couple of Disney classics (and some more obscure tales).
Don’t break out your violins for this gal just yet. All that cruelty poor Cinderella endured at the hands of her overbearing stepmother might have been well deserved. In the oldest versions of the story, the slightly more sinister Cinderella actually kills her first stepmother so her father will marry the housekeeper instead. Guess she wasn’t banking on the housekeeper’s six daughters moving in or that never-ending chore list.
In the original version of the tale, it’s not the kiss of a handsome prince that wakes Sleeping Beauty, but the nudging of her newborn twins. That’s right. While unconscious, the princess is impregnated by a monarch and wakes up to find out she’s a mom twice over. Then, in true Ricki Lake form, Sleeping Beauty’s “baby’s daddy” triumphantly returns and promises to send for her and the kids later, conveniently forgetting to mention that he’s married. When the trio is eventually brought to the palace, his wife tries to kill them all, but is thwarted by the king. In the end, Sleeping Beauty gets to marry the guy who violated her, and they all live happily ever after.
At the end of the original German version penned by the brothers Grimm, the wicked queen is fatally punished for trying to kill Snow White. It’s the method she is punished by that is so strange – she is made to dance wearing a pair of red-hot iron shoes until she falls over dead.
The Little Mermaid
You’re likely familiar with the Disney version of the Little Mermaid story, in which Ariel and her sassy crab friend, Sebastian, overcome the wicked sea witch, and Ariel swims off to marry the man of her dreams. In Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale, however, the title character can only come on land to be with the handsome prince if she drinks a potion that makes it feel like she is walking on knives at all times. She does, and you would expect her selfless act to end with the two of them getting married. Nope. The prince marries a different woman, and the Little Mermaid throws herself into the sea, where her body dissolves into seam foam.
Now here are four more fairy tales you might not be familiar with, but you might have trouble forgetting.
The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughter
What It’s Like: Cinderella, with an incestuous twist
The King’s wife dies and he swears he will never marry again unless he finds a woman who fits perfectly into his dead Queen’s clothes. Guess what? His daughter does! So he insists on marrying her. Ew. Understandably, she has a problem with this and tries to figure out how to avoid wedding dear old dad. She says she won’t marry him until she gets a trunk that locks from outside and inside and can travel over land and sea. He gets it, but she says she has to make sure the chest works. To prove it, he locks her inside and floats her in the sea. Her plan works: she just keeps floating until she reaches another shore. So she escapes marrying her dad, but ends up working as a scullery maid in another land… from here you can follow the Cinderella story. She meets a prince, leaves her shoe behind, he goes around trying to see who it belongs to. The End.
The Lost Childen
What It’s Like: Hansel & Gretel meets Saw 2
This French fairy tale starts out just like Hansel & Gretel. A brother and sister get lost in the woods and find themselves trapped in cages, getting plumped up to be eaten. Only it’s not a wicked witch, it’s the Devil and his wife. The Devil makes a sawhorse for the little boy to bleed to death on (seriously!) and then goes for a walk, telling the girl to get her brother situated on the sawhorse before he returned. The siblings pretend to be confused and ask the Devil’s wife to demonstrate how the boy should lay on the sawhorse; when she shows them they tie her to it and slit her throat. They steal all of the Devil’s money and escape in his carriage. He chases after them once he discovers what they’ve done, but he dies in the process. Yikes.
The Juniper Tree
What It’s Like: Every stepchild’s worst nightmare
Cannibalism, murder, decapitation… freakiness abounds left and right in this weird Grimm story. A widower gets remarried, but the second wife loathes the son he had with his first wife because she wants her daughter to inherit the family riches. So she offers the little boy an apple from inside a chest. When he leans over to get it, she slams the lid down on him and chops his head off. Note: if you’re trying to convince your child to eat more fruits and veggies, do not tell them this story. Well, the woman doesn’t want anyone to know that she killed the boy, so she puts his head back on and wraps a handkerchief around his neck to hide the fact that it’s no longer attached. Her daughter ends up knocking his head off and getting blamed for his death. To hide what happened, they chop up the body and make him into pudding, which they feed to his poor father. Eventually the boy is reincarnated as a bird and he drops a stone on his stepmother’s head, which kills her and brings him back to life.
Penta of the Chopped-off Hands
What It’s Like: Um…you tell us
These old fairy tales sure do enjoy a healthy dose of incest. In this Italian tale, the king’s wife dies and he falls in love with Penta… his sister. She tries to make him fall out of love with her by chopping off her hands. The king is pretty upset by this; he has her locked in a chest and thrown out to sea. A fisherman tries to save her, but Penta is so beautiful that his jealous wife has her thrown back out to sea. Luckily, Penta is rescued by a king (who isn’t her brother). They get married and have a baby, but the baby is born while the king is away at sea. Penta tries to send the king the good news of the baby, but the jealous fisherman’s wife intercepts the message and changes it to say that Penta gave birth to a puppy. A puppy?!
The evil wife then constructs another fake message, this time from the king to his servants, and says that Penta and her baby should be burned alive. OK, long story short: the king figures out what the jealous wife is up to and has her burned. Penta and the king live happily ever after. I can’t really figure out what the moral of this tale is. Chopping hands off? Giving birth to a dog? I just don’t get it. Help me out here, people.
[by Stacy Conradt, Laurel Mills and John Green]