Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Original Gruesome Fairy Tale

Moral Lessons Vs. Happy Endings

Everyone is familiar with the modern day Disney version of most fairy tales, but did you ever wonder where they came from?   Most were precautionary tales told to heed warning  to impressionable children.  They were meant to be gruesome and frightening, many ending with a moral lesson.  Of course, over time the stories changed to fit the evolving need of the culture.  Fairy tales have been altered from their original script, but still are used to communicate ideals, image and general norms of modern society.  

A village is overrun with rats, which carried and spread a horrible disease.  A man arrives dressed in a patchwork of colors and offers to rid the village of the vermin. Desperate and fearful, the people agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it – and of course, he does.  Similar to the modern version, he plays music on his pipe and draws the rats out of the town.  However, when he returns for payment – the villagers refuse.  In the much darker original, the piper decides to teach the villagers a lesson for breaking an agreement and cheating him.  He leads the children to a river where they drown, all except for a lame boy who cannot keep up.

In the French version, the little girl is a well-bred lady.  She graciously accepts false instructions to her grandmother's house from a wolf.  Foolishly riding hood takes the advice and ends up being eaten.  The moral being, do not naively take the advice of strangers.

In this delightful original tale, the Queen asks for Snow White’s liver and lungs, which she plans to serve for dinner!  Also, instead of a magical kiss, Snow White is brought back to life by the jostling of the prince's horse.  I mustn't forget that the evil Queen's punishment for her scheming is to dance to death in red hot iron shoes!

My particular favorite tells of how the nasty stepsisters cut off parts of their own feet in order to fit them into the glass slipper – hoping to fool the prince.  The prince is alerted to the trickery when two pigeons peck out the stepsister’s eyes.  The girls spend the rest of their lives as blind beggars while Cinderella gets to live at the prince’s castle.

This reads more like a horror tale, than a fairy tale!  Long ago, it was told that a young woman is put to sleep because of a prophecy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince, which wakes her up.  In the original, the king sees her asleep, is overcome with desire, and rapes the comatose woman.  Nine months later she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep).  One of the children sucks her finger, which removes the piece of flax that is keeping her asleep.  When she comes to, she learns she has been raped and is the mother of two children.

Instead of a beautiful young girl, Goldilocks is actually an old hag who jumps out the window when the bears wake her up.  The original version has two endings on record.  First, the hag breaks her neck when she leaps out the window.  The second ending includes the hag being arrested for vagrancy and sent to the “House of Correction.”

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