Growing up, we heard of different fairy tales where we pick up important lessons from our favorite characters’ adventures: braveness, taking risks, and love. These stories are oftentimes magical and would lead to a happily ever after. However, they aren’t really as happy as we think. Check out these stories behind our favorite famous fairy tales, which will make you thankful that you didn’t have to endure them as a kid:
The Little Mermaid
What we know: “I want to be where the people are; I want to see ‘em dancin’ walking around on those (what do you call them?) Oh – feet…” Ariel is a mermaid who dreams of becoming human and falls in love with a handsome prince, Eric, after saving him from a shipwreck. Eric promises she’ll find the girl who sang to her. She makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula to turn her fins into human legs and feet, even if it means she’ll lose her voice. The sea witch gives Ariel 3 days to get a true love’s kiss from Prince Eric for her to permanently become human. After different trials and defeating Ursula, Ariel still became permanently human, thanks to her father’s approval of their marriage.
The real story: Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the same name pretty much has the same premise, but the mermaid loses more than just her voice in her deal with the sea witch. In Andersen’s tale, every step the mermaid takes with her human feet felt like walking on shattered glass, and if she doesn’t get true love’s kiss by a certain time, she would die. And she doesn’t end up with the prince — he ends up marrying someone else. The sea witch tells her that she can turn back into a mermaid again if she kills him. But she doesn’t have the heart to stab the prince and his sleeping wife and instead, throws the knife and herself into the sea. She turns into sea foam and becomes a spirit of the air.
What we know: In the Disney film, we know Aurora as a beautiful princess who was cursed by evil fairy Maleficent. According to the curse, she will prick her finger on the spindle on her 16th birthday and die. Afraid of the curse, Aurora’s parents send her off to live with her three fairy godmothers. However, the curse still unfolded itself and Aurora falls into a deep slumber, only to be awakened by the prince’s kiss.
The real story: Sleeping Beauty, originally known as Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, is a 17th-century Italian tale about a princess named Talia. Like the Disney version, the original has a tragic prophecy as well. But the rest of the story is truly horrifying. It’s not a prince that “rescues” her but a king. While in her deep sleep, Talia is raped, gets pregnant, and gives birth to twins. She only wakes up after one of the twins sucks the splinter from her finger. She falls in love with the married king and in anger, the queen asks for the twins to be kidnapped, cooked, and fed to their clueless father.
What we know: After the death of her father, Cinderella is left with her stepmother and two stepsisters who made her their maid. With the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella is able to attend their kingdom’s ball where she wears the most beautiful gown and glass slippers. However, the magic only lasts until midnight and she’s forced to leave in a hurry, leaving one of her glass slippers behind. The prince then searches the whole kingdom, asking every woman to fit the glass slipper and they finally found Cinderella.
The real story: In the Grimm Brothers version, Cinderella doesn’t have a fairy godmother, but a magical tree by her mother’s grave where she prays every day. She didn’t lose one of her slippers because she was in a rush — it was all the prince’s doing. The ball wasn’t a one-night event, but a three-day affair. On the last day, the prince has the stairs covered in pitch to make Cinderella stick to it when she tries to run away. Then it gets gruesome. Determined to marry the prince, Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their toes and heels, to squeeze their feet into the slipper. The doves notify the prince of the blood-covered slippers, leading him to Cinderella. The stepsisters try to befriend her, but ended up having their eyes pecked out by the same birds.
What we know: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Snow White is the kingdom’s fairest lady, so the jealous queen asks for Snow White to be killed in the forest and have her heart taken as proof. But the huntsman fails to do it and Snow White ends up fleeing to the woods, where she befriends and lives with seven dwarves. Disguised as an old lady, the queen tricks her into eating an apple that sends her into a deep slumber. It was only a prince’s kiss that broke the curse.
The real story: The Grimm Brothers version pretty much has the same story but the queen asks for Snow White’s lungs and liver. Since the huntsman failed to kill Snow White, he brought a boar’s lungs and liver instead and the Queen ate them, thinking they’re the princess’ organs. It took the Queen three attempts to kill Snow White with the same poisoned apple and she’s placed in a glass coffin. The prince insists on taking Snow White and while transporting her, one of the carriers trips and dislodges the apple in Snow White’s throat. On the day of their marriage, they invited the queen and forced her to dance in burning-hot iron shoes until she died. In other versions of the tale, Snow White was enslaved and abused by the dwarves.
What we know: Pinocchio all taught us one big lesson: never lie unless you want your nose to grow longer. He is a wooden puppet that was brought life by a fairy. He believed that he can become a real boy if he proves himself to be unselfish and brave. However, he falls into a series of mischievous adventures and ends up joining a puppet show. Pinocchio falls into gambling, drinking, and gets trapped in an island. He still ends up being a real boy though, after he changed his behavior with the help of Jiminy Cricket who acted as his conscience.
The real story: Pinocchio is based on Carlo Collodi’s novel, The Misadventures of Pinocchio. Collodi wanted to teach kids the consequences of their bad behavior and portrayed Pinocchio as a mischievous and cruel kid. In the book, he ends up killing Jiminy Cricket with a mallet after he’s given good advice. As punishment, he was tortured in different ways.
Beauty and the Beast
What we know: Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cursed prince who turned into a Beast and Belle, a beautiful maiden who was imprisoned in his castle. To break the spell, the Beast — who has grown distant and temperamental over the years — must learn how to love before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls. We were enchanted by singing household items that turned out to be the Beast’s servants and the important lesson that love conquers all.
The real story: Beauty and the Beast is based on the story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. There are no singing household items in the original and Belle has two older sisters. As a prisoner in the castle, Belle is only allowed to visit home once a week. But her sisters grew envious of her luxurious of Belle’s life in the castle. As a way to break them apart, the sisters came up with ways to make Belle stay longer at home to upset the Beast.
Little Red Riding Hood
What we know: A girl wearing a red cloak travels to the woods to bring food to her sick grandmother. Along the way, she meets a wolf who distracts her by asking her to pick flowers. The wolf then rushes to the grandmother’s house, eats her, and dresses up as her just in time of the girl’s arrival.
The real story: The Grimm Brothers story has the same premise but the grandmother and girl live after being rescued by a hunter. He cuts the wolf’s belly open the women emerge unscathed. In other versions of the story, Red Riding Hood allows the wolf to eat her grandmother so she can have her properties. Another version also suggests that Red Riding Hood slept with the wolf in exchange for having her life spared.
What we know: In Disney’s movie Tangled (2010) Rapunzel is a princess with long golden hair. She’s trapped in a tower by an evil witch who uses the magic from her hair to keep her youth. Rapunzel is rescued by a prince who climbed the tower using her long locks. She cuts her hair short that killed the witch and they lived happily ever after.
The real story: The prince encountered more hardships in the Grimm Brothers story. The prince impregnates Rapunzel and in anger, the witch cuts her long hair and leaves her in the desert. When the prince returned to the castle, he’s met by the witch who told him he’ll never see the princess again. In despair, the prince jumps out of the tower and pierces his eyes in the thorns, making him blind. For the next years, he wanders the streets as a poor blind man until he met Rapunzel again, who gave birth to twins. Fortunately, her tears have healing powers; the prince was able to see again and they return to his kingdom.
What were your favorite fairy tales growing up? Tell us below!