Fairy Tales and Long Tails: Gruesome Truths & Origins (Part I)

I’ve always been a huge fan of fairytales, folk stories, ancient legends, long-winded myths, and heck, even gossipy limericks. These are tales that we have all grown up with in, and storytelling has always been one of those parts of life which is always around us in one form or another.
I’d like to start a series of pieces looking at these fairytales, myths and folk stories, and present a theme for each piece. For this week, a look at how fairy tales were really meant to be told, without the censor’s cut. These stories, handed down from each generation to the next are full of violence and shocking details, and some classic stories which we all recognise may surprise us with the x-rated content they feature, and which have been removed from today’s versions.

1. Self-mutilation, attempted murder and teen angst
Contrary to how the Disney Powers That Be tells it, The Little Mermaid does not have a happy ending at all, and is in fact a little sadistic in tone. The nameless Mermaid, as told in earlier versions by the legendary storyteller Hans Christian Anderson, sacrifices her tongue for the pain of walking on two legs, which will feel as if she is walking on sharp swords with every step (not to mention the fact that she is completely mute so cannot express her dainty-walking pain). And if that’s not enough suffering, the object of her affections , the charming (yet admittedly, dim-witted) princey, isn’t even aware of her existence, nor notices her mooning at him, never mind her long-winded quest to get him to kiss her. The story finally culminates with the unsuspecting Prince taking a bride elsewhere, and the Mermaid being given the ultimatum to either kill her love and ‘let his blood run over her feet’ to become a mermaid again, or otherwise run out of time and turn into the froth on the sea. Although she comes close, our heartbroken heroine simply can’t bring herself to kill her beloved, and sacrifices herself by flinging herself in the sea. In the meantime, our prince and his new wife sleep peacefully on, blissfully ignorant of the attempt on their life.

2. More self-mutilation, sibling rivalry & arranged marriages
Cinderella, before she becomes the beautiful, lucky winner of Who Wants to be a Princess is forced to suffer countless abuse, carry out chores and generally doesn’t get paid for her troubles. Cinderella is a very recognisable story which has been told across several cultures, and although there has been several versions and variations, the general concept of the story remains the same. What is often edited out, however, is one quite bloody detail, involving Cinderella’s stepsisters. These two girls are just as determined to become princey’s wife, and each even go to the extent of slicing off their toes and heels to force their mutilated stumps to fit into the dainty, size zero shoe. The prince is soon alerted, however, by the trail of blood that they leave behind, and in some versions, some spoilsport pigeons also alert the prince and peck out the girls’ eyes to blind them. Yikes. Meanwhile, Cinderella goes on to live her life of luxury. In a slightly more sinister version of this story, the young Cinderella is described as having murdered her first stepmother in a bid to get rid of her so her father can marry her housekeeper. Bet she regretted that when the new housekeeper moved in with her daughters, and when she got the laundry list from them.

 3. Possession, shopping and dirty dancing
The Red Shoes is a story which some of us may have already heard of, although it is not one which Disney deemed suitable for PG audiences. The story follows a young, orphaned girl who lives with her blind (or perhaps, just near-sighted) aunt, who allows her to buy some sensible Mary-Janes, but forbids her to buy those shiny spanking-new red dancing stilettos she instead falls in love with. Our little clever clogs (see what  I did there?), however, tricks her aunt into paying for the red shoes, by showing her one of her old pairs, and decides to celebrate by going out dancing with the new pair. But it turns out that Aunty was right and they were the devil’s colour, because our heroine finds she just can’t stop her feet dancing. In the end a passing woodcutter (or executioner) who is taking a break from his hard work of cutting helps the poor girl out by, yup, cutting her feet off. In true Evil Dead style, these shoes (and the feet in them) up and carry on dancing away and are rumoured to still be dancing away to this day.

4. Beauty contests, paedophilia and cannibalism
The beautiful Snow White is one of many stories featuring women clashes and rivalry because they want to win Fairytale-Land’s Next Top Model. Snow White’s questionably-intentioned ( let’s face it, ‘evil’ is a such a strongly harsh word, and she is pretty hot) stepmother, being the sneaky, more experienced shrew that she is, conspires to get her competition out of the way. Hiring a huntsman to not only kill Snow White (I’m guessing because of jealousy over skin colour), the queen orders that he brings back her heart (or other vital organs in various versions) – for the purpose of eating it. Savagely unusual eating habits for this one.
Another point of contention in this tale is Snow White’s age – in the Grimm’s Brothers’ version, she is described as being only seven years old at the start of the story, which not much detail on just how much time passes over the course of the tale. Needless to say, this puts a different, more sinister light on the prince who is passing by who decides that this is the wife for him (unless he’s an eight-year old prince which makes it less disturbing). Taking the comatose Snow-White away with him, with questionable intentions about what he intends to do with her (I’ll leave that to your imagination), it’s a good thing Snow White with the Red Lips wakes up. And it’s not the mythical, magic kiss which wakes up Snow White, but rather an accident on the part of the prince’s horse, who trips and dislodges the poisoned apple from our fair skinned heroine.
But all’s well ends well, as Snow White and her husband to be legitimise their (unnatural, fetish) love with marriage, while the evil queen is forced to suffer a fate which could have been thought up by Jigsaw of the Saw series – being forced to wear iron hot shoes and “dance until she fell down dead.”

That’s all for now, although there are several more stories with disturbing parts which we never knew about, which wll follow soon in a second part (to make this nice and bite-sizey for you to digest), which will be posted soon. Can any of you think of any more stories which were censored/Care-Bear-fied for the young innocent?

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2 thoughts on “Fairy Tales and Long Tails: Gruesome Truths & Origins (Part I)

  1. I’ve come across some of the more horrid versions of these stories before. Pretty much all of Hans Christians Andersons stories upset me as a child, but the one about the red shoes always upset me the most – I never could see what the girl did that deserved having her feet chopped off (my penchant for red shoes doesn’t help).

    There seems to be a lot of chopping off/burning/mutilating of feet in these stories, something about controlling women who become too independent? Most of these stories seem to be a first attempt at instilling cultural norms in the very young – boys should be brave and good, girls should be gentle and good and do what they are told. Actually, perhaps my little horrors need more of this kind of brainwashing…

    Others I can think of with more gruesome elements are Snow White and Rose Red, Bluebeard (there are some REALLY nasty versions of that one), The Pied Piper (the idea of the children being taken away forever like that has always haunted me as did the poor lame boy that got left behind alone).

  2. Aha, you’ve touched on two of my future posts for this series! I strong agree that there is a lot of patriarchy instilled in these stories (especially the Disney versions), and it is always women rather than men who are (violently) forced into some form of submission. There’s a whole load of layers that can be looked at here.
    Second topic you touched on was the other stories like Snow White, which I’ll be covering soon too.
    Also, I think that if you look at the morals reflected in a lot of these stories, they serve a purpose but not always the one we expect (eg. Red Shoes could be about unnecessary expenditure just as much as it is about listening to your elders etc.)

    But more to come!

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