10 Creepy Details Glossed Over By Modern Versions Of Fairy Tales

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In the upcoming film Snow White and the Huntsman, that classic fairy tale receives a modern rejiggering complete with a guest appearance by Thor and (hopefully) a golem made out of poison apples.

This flick represents just one retelling in a long history of folklore being retold and remolded for a new audience. Here are ten actual fairy tale plot nuggets frequently downplayed or just plain forgotten, such as the time Little Red Riding Hood ate her dead grandmother's teeth.

Top image: J. Scott Campbell's hornball idiosyncratic fairy tale artwork.


10. Rumpelstiltskin commits suicide like a deranged gymnast
It's common knowledge that after the miller's daughter-turned-queen guesses Rumpelstiltskin's true name, he's tremendously unhappy and disappears thanks to some unspoken magical restraining order. But in Margaret Hunt's 1884 translation of the Brothers Grimm, the impish gold-spinner leaves this plane of existence in a truly conversation-stopping manner:

"The devil has told you that! the devil has told you that!" cried the little man, and in his anger he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard with both hands that he tore himself in two.

The story then abruptly cuts off at this point, leaving the reader wondering how the Queen cleaned a bisected dwarf out of her royal carpet.


9. Goldilocks is a wizened criminal
Robert Southey's 1837 adaptation of the folktale of The Three Bears was published prior to the addition of Goldilocks to this fable. Instead, his version used an "impudent, bad old woman" who broke into the Three Bears' home. Her demise:

Now the windows were open because the Bears, like good, tidy Bears, as they were, always opened their bed-chamber window when they got up in the morning. Out the little old woman jumped; and whether she broke her neck in the fall; or ran into the wood and was lost there; or found her way out of the wood, and was taken up by the constable and sent to the House of Correction for a vagrant as she was, I cannot tell. But the Three Bears never saw anything more of her.


I love the fact that this story occurs in a universe where sentient bears and human legal structures coexist seamlessly. Southey's logical sequel to this story should have been The Three Bears 2: Bear Police.

8. The Frog King has the magic beat out of him
True love's kiss doesn't always break amphibious curses. No, some earlier versions of The Frog King saw the princess chuck the needy croaker against the wall as hard as possible. Other iterations had the slippery sovereign transform after being burnt or decapitated, because nothing dispels dark magic quite like cruelty to animals.


7. Beauty's jealous sisters conspire to see her eaten alive
The 1757 version of Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont contained Beauty's two unpleasant sisters who plotted to see Beauty digested by the Beast while the former was on sabbatical from the latter's magic castle. As you may remember, this emotional terrorism didn't make the Broadway musical:

"Sister," said the oldest, "a thought just strikes my mind; let us endeavor to detain her above a week, and perhaps the silly monster will be so enraged at her for breaking her word, that he will devour her."

"Right, sister," answered the other, "therefore we must show her as much kindness as possible." After they had taken this resolution, they went up, and behaved so affectionately to their sister, that poor Beauty wept for joy. When the week was expired, they cried and tore their hair, and seemed so sorry to part with her, that she promised to stay a week longer.


6. Hansel and Gretel had homicidal parents
Everyone remembers the trail of breadcrumbs and the gingerbread house, but it's often glossed over that Hansel and Gretel's parents dump them in the forest because the family's starving to death during a famine. Their mother concocts this scheme, and by the time the children return from their candy cottage hostage crisis, she's inexplicably dead. Maybe she died of malnourishment, perhaps it was an acute case of "Reader's Antipathy."

5. The Princess' lament about the pea
Without a time machine, we have no way of getting into Hans Christian Andersen's head, but I'd really like to know what dastardly Freudian maelstrom was a-swirling in his brain when he penned this paragraph:

"Oh!" said the Princess. "No. I scarcely slept at all. Heaven knows what's in that bed. I lay on something so hard that I'm black and blue all over. It was simply terrible."


4. The prince from Rapunzel attempts suicide, goes blind
Upon learning that Rapunzel has been shorn and exiled from her tower by the evil sorceress, the noble prince tosses himself to his doom, instead goes blind when he falls face-first into the brambles, and wanders the wilderness, subsisting on grass and roots. He regains his sight after Rapunzel fires some magic tears squarely into his eyes, a miracle that requires meticulous aim.


3. The Little Mermaid is in constant pain, contemplates murder, dies
Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 original tale of The Little Mermaid was completely devoid of calypso-singing crustaceans and a conventionally happy ending.

Instead the protagonist mermaid trades her tongue (it's chopped off) and fins for human legs that feel like they're constantly being stabbed with knives.


After the prince marries another woman, the mermaid considers stabbing him to death so that his blood will magically transform her back into an icthyosapien.

She rejects this plan, melts into sea foam, and becomes a "daughter of the air" favored by the Christian God (as opposed to Poseidon or Cthulhu). And as in the Disney version, any penis castles are left up to the audience's imagination.


2. Cinderella's evil stepsisters mutilate their feet
We all know that Cinderella's nasty relations try to hoodwink the prince by cramming their feet into the glass slipper. What you may not remember is that these two hellcats chopped off their toes and heels to win his affections. Also, the prince wouldn't have noticed the blood gushing from the slipper if a duo of chatty pigeons hadn't informed him otherwise. ("Rook di goo, rook di goo! There's blood in the shoe. The shoe is too tight, this bride is not right!") Moral of the story: A.) the prince was a halfwit; and B.) that shoe looked and smelled like an abattoir by the time Cinderella tried it on.


1. Little Red Riding Hood cannibalizes her grandmother
As with most popular folktales, there are regional variations to Little Red Riding Hood. In Italy and Austria, you may encounter Little Red Hat, a version that is still giving children nightmares to this day.

Here, the wolf is replaced with an ogre, who imitates Little Red Hat's grandmother while feeding the moppet her grandmother's remains. Red mistakes granny's teeth for rice, flesh for steak, and blood for wine. She's then gobbled alive after disrobing and jumping into bed with the monster. Remember children, don't trust anyone ever, particularly your loved ones. They will only be the death of you.


See also: The madness of Struwwelpeter.


Images: Warwick Goble, Arthur Rackham/Public Domain Books, Rutgers University, Edmund Dullac/CC.