Disney likes to change classic fairy tales around so that they’re suitable for a young audience. Most of the fairy tales we know and love came from a more sinister and dark place. Writers like Charles Perrault, The Grimm Brothers, and Hans Christian Andersen created tales that were meant to terrify people and encourage them to do be moral and good. While The Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault wrote similar stories (Perrault had the idea, the Grimms finished it), there are unique details that render them all the more complex.
Here’s a list of classic Disney stories we love with their sinister counterpart.
Story: The Ballad of Mulan based on the real life Hua Mulan
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Disney got a lot right with this one, but there’s no talking dragon and Mulan actually returns home to a broken family. She’s forced to become a prostitute and commits suicide. Definitely would not make a good children’s movie.
Story: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
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In Andersen’s version, the Snow Queen is more evil rather than misunderstood like Elsa. Kai and Gerda are best friends and Kai is the recipient of troll glass in his heart and eyes, paralyzing kisses, and brainwashing from the Snow Queen. It’s more complicated, but Disney completely turned it around with princess sisters!
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The Grimm story is just that… Grimm. There’s a magic tree that Cinderella calls to that shakes down her mother’s dress for the ball. In the end, Cinderella’s stepsisters can’t fit their big feet into the glass slipper, so one cuts off a toe and the other shaves off her heel. The story ends with the stepsisters’ eyes being plucked out by birds… courtesy of Cinderella. However, in Perrault’s version, the sisters live with Cinderella in the castle and get married off to high-ranking gentlemen.
Based on the true story of Pocahontas and some journal entries from Captain John Smith
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Well, Disney decided to make imperialism a love story… twice. Pocahontas and Pocahontas: Journey to a New World are incredibly inaccurate. Pocahontas and John Smith barely knew each other, she just saved his life. She would have been way too young to be in love with Smith. Pocahontas marries John Rolfe in exchange for her freedom and her name was changed to Lady Rebecca Rolfe. She died in her 20s of unknown causes.
5) The Little Mermaid
Story: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen
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In this version, the Little Mermaid, after she loses her tail, is forced to dance (while in pain) for the Prince. Unlike the Disney adaptation, the Little Mermaid is supposed to convince the Prince to marry her without her voice OR kill the Prince. She doesn’t do either, so she turns to sea foam.
6) Sleeping Beauty
Story: Sun, Moon, and Talia by Giambattista Basile
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The original story from the 17th century is Italian and in that story, the King cannot wake the princess because of a splinter in her finger and he ends up raping her. She ends up bearing twins who wake her up and suck the splinter from her finger. There’s some murdering that happens in there and then the princess marries the King that raped her. NO. NO. NO.
There are two other versions: La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault & Little Briar Rose by The Grimm Brothers, which is a bit closer to what Disney based its movie off of. In neither of these stories do fairies raise the princess in the woods. In the Grimm Brothers version, many princes die in the spiky hedge that surrounds the castle and in the Charles Perrault version, the princess isn’t woken with a kiss and the prince has an ogress for a mother.
Story: Rapunzel by The Grimm Brothers
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The Grimm Brothers’ story isn’t so pleasant and cheery. A couple longs for a child and the wife gets pregnant, but must eat the plant, Rapunzel, from the witch’s garden, or she’ll die. Basically, the husband steals the rapunzel and then the witch takes the child from them, named Rapunzel. She raises Rapunzel on her own and in the end, the prince falls from the tower into a bush and is blinded and eventually finds Rapunzel and their twins in the desert.
8) Snow White
Story: Little Snow White by The Grimm Brothers
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Snow White actually invites her stepmother to her wedding and she and Prince Charming watch as the stepmother is forced to dance in hot iron shoes. She’s not the innocent little girl that Disney portrays!
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