The Dark Origins Of Some Of The Most Famous Tales

They’re tales we all know, but they started out so differently.

We all know the Disneyfied version of these famous stories but did you know they were originally very dark stories?

Snow White

The Grimm version of Snow White differs from the Disney version in several ways. The evil queen is not Snow White’s stepmother, but her actual mother. In the Grimm version, the queen sends huntsman to kill her and retrieve her liver and lungs which she intends to eat. Snow White is also not in a deep sleep as she is in the Disney version – she’s dead, that is, until the prince dislodges the apple from her throat. At Snow White’s wedding, the queen is forced to dance in iron shoes that have been cooking in a fire until she collapses, dead.

With a gruesome ending, the Brothers Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin tells the story of an imp who makes a deal with a miller’s daughter. Her father tells the king she can weave straw into gold (she can’t) so he puts her to it, saying he’ll kill her if she doesn’t do it by morning. The girl meets an imp and they make a deal: he’ll weave the straw into gold if she gives him her firstborn. When the child is born, she can’t give it up. He agrees to relent if she can guess his real name. The girl snoops at his house and overhears him singing it. Next day, she tells him his true name and, in a fit of rage, he drives his right foot into the ground then grabs his left foot and tears himself in two.

In the Grimm version, after ending up pregnant, the witch cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and magically transports her to a far away land where she lives as a poor, homeless beggar with two children she cannot support. The witch also manages to lure the prince up to the top of the tower and push him off, where some thorn bushes break his fall but also gouge out his eyes.

The Pied Piper
In The Pied Piper, a village is overrun with rats. A man is hired to rid the town of the vermin, and once he does, the villagers won’t pay up. For payback, the Piper takes it upon himself to rid the town of another nuisance: the villagers’ children. In modern versions, he leads the kids to a cave, where they hang out until he gets his money and then he releases them. In the original, he drowns them all in a river.
Little Red Riding Hood

In some original versions, the wolf arrived to the house early and chopped up the grandmother, putting her flesh in the pantry and blood in a wine bottle. He tells Red to have something to eat; she does, unknowing they are her grandmother’s remnants. Some also include the girl stripping naked, burning her clothes, getting into bed, and being eaten by the wolf. This is an allusion to a French euphemism for losing one’s virginity, -“elle avoit vû le loupe”, meaning “she has seen the wolf”. In an even earlier known version, Little Red cooks and eats her own grandmother first, shares wine glasses filled with her blood with the wolf.

Hansel And Gretel

The Hansel and Gretel story we are all familiar with, you know, the one about the evil stepmother who abandons her children to die in the forest where they stumble across a cannibalistic witch’s cottage from which they happen to escape, is pretty disturbing as it is. But in an early French version, the witch is the Devil, and the Devil wants to bleed the children to death on a sawhorse. They pretend not to know how to get on, and ask the Devil’s wife for assistance. They quickly slit her throat, steal all the Devil’s money, and run off.

The Frog Prince
In some versions, it’s not a kiss from the princess’s goodness that transforms the frog into a prince but chopping off his head, there’s also a version that he transforms after being burnt. In the original Brothers Grimm version, the princess slams the frog into the wall as hard as she can to turn him back into a prince.
The Three Bears

The original tale tells of an ugly, old woman who enters the forest home of three bachelor bears whilst they are away. She sits in their chairs, eats some of their porridge, and falls asleep in one of their beds. When the bears return and discover her, she starts up, jumps from the window, and is never seen again. Once Goldilocks enters the story, in one version she is actually eaten alive by the bears.

Beauty & The Beast

In Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle is actually the youngest child of six children (three boys, and three girls) and features Belle’s poor father first finding the mysterious castle and plucking a rose for his daughter. The Beast emerges, angry that after the food and drink he consumed he also takes the rose. The Beast agrees to spare his life on the condition that one of his daughters willingly take his place. Belle forces the story out of her father and goes to the castle. She stays there and the Beast continuously asks her to marry him. She keeps saying no until she finds him nearly-dead from heartbreak. Her tears over his body finally turn him into a prince.


In the original stories Hercules is renowned as a womaniser, while his father Zeus, king of the gods, raped Hercules’ human mum to get her pregnant. On top of that, Hercules was temporarily sent mad by his jealous step-mother Hera leading him to kill his two kids and eventually he burned himself alive on a funeral pyre.

In a Brothers Grimm version, Cinderella’s eldest sister, in an attempt to fit into the glass (golden, in their story) slipper, cuts off her toes. The second sister cuts off her heel. In both cases, two doves sent by Cinderella’s dead mother alert the prince of the sisters’ blood in the slippers. Though Cinderella was finally found to be the true owner of the slipper, during her wedding to the prince the doves return and poke her older sisters’ eyes out.

The Little Mermaid

In the original Hans Christen Anderson version, the little mermaid still gives up her voice for legs – but every step is agony, like walking on blades. and the day after the prince marries someone else, she’ll die and turn into sea foam. Hoping to win the prince’s heart, she dances for him, even though it’s agony. He claps along, but eventually decides to marry another. The mermaid’s sisters sell their hair to bring her a dagger and urge her to kill the prince and let his blood drip onto her feet, which will then become fins again. She sneaks up on him, but can’t bring herself to do it. So she dies, and dissolves into foam.


Pocahontas was an actual person who was the daughter of Virginia Native American chief, Powhatan. When John Smith was captured by the Powhatan tribe in 1607, Pocahontas saved him by placing her head over his before it was smashed to pieces on a rock. Although this helped build a good relationship with the English and Native Americans for a little while, that soon deteriorated because of the high demands the English made on the tribe. So, then Pocahontas was captured by the English, forced to convert to Christianity and then to marry the Englishman, John Rolfe. She never came back to America or saw her family again. By the way Pocahontas was 14 years old.


In Carlo Collodi’s original version, once Gepetto carves Pinocchio, the marionette runs away. He’s caught by the police who assume Gepetto has abused him and they imprison the puppet maker. Pinocchio goes back to Gepetto’s house that night and accidentally kills the wise talking cricket. He later gets hung from a tree and suffocates.


Aladdin is a Middle Eastern fairy tale in which Aladdin, then trapped in the magic cave, rubs a ring he wears and a lesser genie takes him back to his mother. His mother cleans the lamp and reveals a more powerful genie who gives Aladdin his wealth and palace. The sorcerer (not called Jafar) tricks Aladdin’s new wife, gets the lamp, and has the genie transport the palace to his home. Aladdin uses the ring genie to transport there, kills the sorcerer, and brings his palace back to where it was.


Chu Renhuo’s version of Mulan has the warrior come home from war to find her father dead, her mother remarried, and the khan calling her to be his concubine. As it’s all too much for her, Mulan kills herself.

The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame

In French author Victor Hugo’s novel Esmeralda is mistakenly charged with attempted murder, then tortured and hanged while baddie Frollo watches and laughs. Frollo is subsequently murdered by Quasimodo who shoves him off Notre Dame. And since he was totally in love with her, the hunchback sits by Esmeralda’s grave and stays there until he dies of starvation.

Peter Pan

In the original stories Peter would not only would he sometimes change sides during fights with pirates because he fancied it, but occasionally he would “thin” out the Lost Boys, if there were too many or they got too old.

Sleeping Beauty

Italian Giambattista Basile’s version of Sleeping Beauty – known as Talia in this version – who is put in a deep, magical sleep when she pricks herself with a flax splinter. After she goes into her mystical coma, her father abandons the castle, leaving her there. Years later, a different king enters the castle and finds Talia unconscious. Unable to wake her, the king rapes her, leaving her pregnant with twins which she gives birth to while asleep. She later is awoken only because one of the kids sucks out a splinter under her finger, she eventually wakes up and finds out she’s become a mother. The king later kills his wife (who tried to get him to unknowingly eat the children) to be with Sleeping Beauty.

The Jungle Book

The original Jungle Book was a short-story by Rudyard Kipling. In Kipling’s version, when Mowgli decides to return to polite society, polite society doesn’t want him back. The village Mowgli tries to return to re-banishes him to the wilderness, and the family that was kind enough to take him in gets tortured as sorcerers. In response, Mowgli recruits Hathi the Elephant for help. a bloodthirsty, scarred old elephant who likes nothing more than seeking revenge on humans for an old wound he received in a spike pit. Along with Bagheera and a bunch of wolves they destroy the entire village.

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