The Rapunzel story, AKA “The Maiden in the Tower,” may have been informed by a number of sources, including an ancient Persian tale using the same long hair used as a ladder motif. Regardless of its origins, the gulf between the tone of the 19th century Grimm story and the modern retellings is wide. In the original tale, Rapunzel is stolen from her parents by an evil “enchantress” and then locked away in a tower on her twelfth birthday. The witch climbs up into the tower each day via the girl’s long golden hair. A prince spots this and convinces her to let him do the same. Within a few months, the witch is onto their tryst because Rapunzel is growing around the midsection. Keep her age in mind, folks. Oh, and the witch catches the prince and tosses him from the tower, blinding him.
4 Sleeping Beauty
The “original” Sleeping Beauty tale was written in the late 17th century by a Frenchman named Charles Perrault. But this story was directly based on several earlier folk tales that had a decidedly more sinister element to them than the now familiar story. In the older versions of the fable, the princess is awoken from her cursed sleep not by a prince’s kiss, but by the lips of an infant child … a child she had given birth to while asleep. See, originally the prince didn’t so much kiss the princess as he did rape her while she slept.
The Disney version of the Cinderella story cleaves closely enough to the original Brothers Grimm tale, at least initially. Cinderella’s mother dies and her father remarries a woman with two evil daughters, the poor girl is left to scrub the floors, she weeps a lot and so on. Then the fairy godmother gives Cinderella her shot at the ball, she meets the prince and so forth. The change comes when said prince tries to track down the lovely girl he danced with using the fabled slipper, which in the original story was made of gold, not glass. And in the original tale, the stepsisters don’t merely grunt and grumble as they try to force the shoe onto their feet … they hack off their toes to fit their feet into the damn thing!
2 Little Red Riding Hood
Leave it to the Germans to spin a tale of death, deceit and devoured children into something with a happy ending. In the original tale of Little Red Riding Hood, also known as “Little Red Hood” or sometimes just “Red Cap,” the wolf eats the girl’s grandmother and then dons her clothes. That same well known “My, what big eyes you have … what big teeth you have!” stuff is in there, but in the original tale, Ms. Hood can’t flee in time, and she too is eaten! Fortunately, a huntsman happens to be walking by who stops into the house, sees the sated wolf and decides to cut him open in case he has eaten anyone. From within the wolf’s bowels emerge grandmother and granddaughter, both stricken but both alive.
1 Hansel and Gretel
This German fairy tale is the worst offender when it comes to cruelty and abject horror. First, poor little Hansel and Gretel are deliberately abandoned by their parents not once, but twice! You wonder how things could get worse for two innocent children left to die in the forest because they were eating too much of the family’s food? How about an evil old witch who lures the kids into her shack with plans to eat them! Ah, but the kids outsmart the cruel old hag by shoving her into a roasting oven and burning her to death. Her agonizing screams are described in detail. Then they steal a stash of treasure the witch was hoarding and return home. Each twist of this tale is more twisted than the last.