Photo by Katherine Daykin.

In the early 1800’s Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected stories that depicted the unpredictable and often unforgiving life experienced by central Europeans. These brothers, determined to preserve the Germanic oral story telling that was vanishing, poured over the folklore of the region. Fairy tales, gripping, magical and inspiring, are master narratives. Children subconsciously recall their messages as they grow older, and are forced to cope with real injustices and contradictions in their lives. Numerous fairy tales, and the legends behind them, are actually watered-down versions of uncomfortable historical events. These darker stories might be too terrifying for today’s little lambs, as well as some adults! Their horrific origins, which often involve rape, incest, torture, cannibalism and other hideous occurrences, are brimming with sophisticated and brutal morality. Here are a few truths behind the fairytales:

Cinderella: In a much murkier Grimm’s version, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters cuts off her toes in an attempt to fit in the glass slipper. The second sister cuts off her heel. Two doves sent by Cinderella’s mother from Heaven alert the prince of blood coming from the shoe to inform him of the falsity. Finally, after the shoe fits Cinderella, Prince Charming marries Cinderella. At the wedding, the doves return and poke out the eyes of the stepsisters and drive them to beg on the street.

Snow White: Snow White is a German fairy tale, which paints a much darker story than the one we know. In Grimm’s original version, the evil queen turns out to be Snow’s real mother who sends assassins to kill her and get her liver and lungs for her to eat, so she could become younger and fairer. Later in the story when the prince and Snow White get married, the evil queen is also invited to the event and is forced to dance until she dies of the hot iron shoes she is made to wear.

Sleeping Beauty: A sliver of flax under the princess’ fingernail kills her. Unable to face the ridiculous reality, her father, the king, lays her body on a bed in his estate. Later, another king who was out hunting finds the sleeping princess and struggles to wake her up. As he fails in his attempts, the king rapes and impregnates her. The unconscious princess gives birth to two babies and is only revived when one of the babies accidentally takes out the flax from her finger. The king who violated the princess is married to another woman but also strangely, madly in love with the princess. To get to the princess unhindered, he burns his wife alive.

Story by Jen Ruane.