The Grimm Truth About Fairytales

Dear Kids,

I am a devotee of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, a favorite well of inspiration for the Disney machine. Does it irk me when the Disney versions of the stories are so different from my beloved Grimm’s? A little. But, honestly, even the Grimm’s versions are re-tellings. Fairy tales belong to everyone. I just happen to like the Grimm’s versions best.

So, just for the record, here are your favorite Disney fairytales unwrapped and in their original Grimm glory. Brace yourselves.

'Cinderella with the white pigeons', an illustration from 'Household stories', by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Cinderella – In the original story there are no fairies or fairy godmothers, but there are extremely helpful animals. We’ll pick up the story after Cindy’s dad remarries the wicked stepmother with two wicked daughters who force Cinderella to clean the house and sleep in the cinders. One day the father goes to town and asks the three girls what they want him to bring back. The stepsisters ask for expensive things, but Cinderella asks for the first branch that knocks off his hat, which turns out to be a hazel twig. Cinderella plants the twig on her mother’s grave and waters it with her tears. Time passes and a hazel tree grows there. The king of the land announces a three day ball. Cinderella wants to go but her stepmother says she can’t until she picks up all of those lentils (cue dropping a can of lentils on the floor). Two white doves sent by Cindy’s dead mother help her clean up the mess in no time. The enraged stepmother drops more lentils on the floor and when those are cleaned up, leaves for the ball before Cinderella can catch the coach. Cinderella prays to her hazel tree/mom and the two doves drop a white gown and silk slippers down to her. She dances the night away with the prince, but comes home before midnight. The next night of the ball, the doves bring a silver dress and silver slippers. Again, Cinderella and the prince dance, and again, she leaves early. On the third night the doves bring a gold dress and gold slippers. This time the prince is ready for her and smears sticky pitch all over the steps. When she leaves the ball, she leaves a single shoe stuck on the stairs. When the prince comes around trying the shoe on all of the eligible maidens, Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to get the shoe to fit, each time fooling the prince. He is alerted to their trickery when the two doves chirp in his ear, “Look back! Look back! There’s blood on the track!” Cinderella’s father (yes, still alive through all of this), casually lets drop that the kitchen-maid is also an eligible young lady…you mean your daughter? Nice, Dad. Real nice. The prince immediately recognizes Cinderella and whisks her away. At their wedding, the stepsisters are bridesmaids (go figure). The two doves sent by Cindy’s mom pluck out one eye from each sister on the way in to the wedding and one from each on the way out. Now, that’s what I call wingmen!

Illustration by Walter Crane from 'Household stories', by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Rapunzel – In the original story a pregnant woman craves lettuce from the garden next door. Unfortunately, their neighbor is a cranky old witch. The husband sneaks over the wall and steals the lettuce (which is called rapunzel…get it?). The witch catches him and says he can only keep the lettuce if he gives her the newborn child. The husband thinks his wife will die without the lettuce, so he agrees. The child is born and the witch whisks her away to a tower, naming her after the aforementioned lettuce. Time passes and the child becomes a young woman. A prince happens upon the castle and, tricking Rapunzel in to thinking he is the witch, enters the tower and falls in love with her. He continues to visit her, but eventually gets caught. The witch is enraged! She blinds the prince and magically sends him and Rapunzel to opposite ends of the Earth. The prince wanders blindly for years searching for Rapunzel. Meanwhile, Rapunzel gives birth to their twins. She is walking on the beach one day when she sees a blind man stumbling along. She recognizes him and weeps for joy. Her tears restore the prince’s sight. Boom – Happily ever after.

Illustration by Walter Crane for 'Snow White'

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Snow White – This one isn’t too far off, actually. All the usual stuff happens; The first queen wishes for a daughter with lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow and – wouldn’t you know it – she gets her wish…then dies. Step-queen is evil and wants Snow White dead for the audacity of being prettier than her. The huntsman takes the girl in to the woods, but lets her go and fakes out the Queen with animal parts. Snow White starts rooming with seven small men – seems legit. Here’s where Disney loses us. The Queen tries three times to kill Snow White herself while in disguise. The first time she straps Snow White in to a corset and laces it too tight, but the dwarfs revive her. The second time she brushes her hair with a poisoned comb, but the dwarfs revive her and curiously do not invest in a home security system. The third time she uses the poisoned apple which gets lodged in her throat – and that, finally, does the trick. The dwarfs put her in a glass casket and leave her lying around in the woods. Like you do. Years pass and eventually a prince sees the lady in the casket, falls in love, and asks the dwarfs if he can have her. They relent and on transporting the casket, it is bumped and the apple is dislodged. Snow White wakes up – without a kiss. Mind blown yet? The happy couple invite everyone to the wedding – including the evil Queen, who is forced to wear hot irons on her feet until she dies. Harsh!


Illustrations from

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap) – Again, pretty similar until the end. A little girl in a red hat/hood/cape goes off to her sick grandmother’s house. She is tricked by a talking wolf in to picking flowers which is a stall tactic on his part. He rushes ahead, eats grandma, and lies in wait. Little Red Riding Hood arrives at the house and gives the wolf the twenty question treatment before she is also eaten. A nearby hunter hears the commotion and peeps in a window. He sees the wolf with a bulging belly asleep in the house. He quickly and quietly slits the wolf’s stomach and releases the as yet digested ladies. They all gather rocks and fill the wolf’s belly before the grandma sews him back up. They wake up the wolf and watch as he tries to run off but can’t because the rocks weigh him down. He dies instead and we all have a good laugh.

Illustration by Walter Crane from 'Household stories', by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Hansel and Gretel – A tale about a brow-beaten man without morals or a single stone to his manhood. The father in this story goes along with his new wife when she says the kids have got to go. Not only that, but he agrees to lead them in to the forest to die a horrible death at the tooth and nail of wild animals. Father of the year. Anyhow, it happens, but at least the kids are smart and they thwart the first attempt by leaving a trail of pebbles. The second time they leave a trail of bread which gets eaten up by birds and they find themselves really and truly lost. They stumble upon a life-sized gingerbread house and help themselves much to the delight of the evil witch who lives there. She locks up Hansel and makes Gretel clean house. She wants to eat the boy and feeds him sweets to fatten him up – which actually works, which just proves that some of us actually can’t diet to save our lives. She feeds Gretel actual food for some reason and she sneaks him a chicken bone so he can fake being thin (fake it till you make it, buddy!). This works until the farsighted witch gets bored or starved and decides to eat him anyway. Gretel feigns incompetence and the witch has to fix the fire herself. Gretel discovers her inner ‘oh no you didn’t!’ and shoves the old bitty in to the oven. The kiddos fill their pockets with the witch’s jewels (maintaining a perishable house ain’t cheap), take a ride on the back of a swan, and are home before you can say ‘negligent father’. Stepmom is mysteriously dead and the little family of three live happily ever after on the witch’s dime.

Illustration by Walter Crane from 'Household stories', by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose) – Here, at last, are your fairies, kids! A beautiful baby girl named Briar Rose is born to the King and Queen. Seven fairies are invited to be her godmothers. Unfortunately, they forgot a fairy, and, being a tad miffed at the oversight, she curses the little girl to die via finger prick on a spindle – a tad subtle for my tastes, but there you go. (Note: she does not appear in the story again. Sorry, Maleficent!). The seventh fairy attempts to fix the situation by casting her own spell wherein the princess will sleep, but not die. She will be awakened in 100 years by a king’s son. The King goes postal on all spinning wheels and makes them illegal. People still need clothes, though, so an old lady takes to spinning with a make-shift spindle in a tower of the castle. Wouldn’t you know it, Briar Rose is a curious little thing and she, a young lady now, discovers the old lady and her spindle. One thing leads to another and zzzzzz. The seven fairies decide to put the whole castle to sleep and cover it with a thick, ominous forest – jeez, talk about sheltered. 100 years later a prince stumbles upon the castle, hacks through the forest, sees the princess, falls in love, and – Bob’s your uncle – everyone wakes up. Here’s the part you’ve probably never heard. The two marry in secret because Princy-poo’s mom is an evil Ogre Queen. Plot twist! He doesn’t want to let her know about his wife until he becomes king. Several years and two kids later, he becomes King and finally introduces Briar Rose to her new mother-in-law from hell. Who immediately kidnaps her and the kids and orders them served to her for dinner. The kindly cook serves the Ogre Queen goats and sheep instead until she gets wise. The Ogre Queen prepares a tub of vipers on the front lawn and is about to throw Briar Rose and the kids in when her son shows up. He is less than thrilled (Seriously, Mom??). Ogre Queen escapes his wrath by jumping in to the tub of vipers herself and being consumed. And you thought you had mother-in-law issues?

Illustration by Walter Crane from 'Household stories', by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Household stories’, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

The Frog Prince (Iron Henry) – In the version most folks are familiar with, a princess drops her golden ball in a pond and the frog agrees to get it for her if she’ll kiss him – right? In the original version there is no frog kissing. Nada. It starts out the same with a pretty young princess doing a poor job keeping track of her ridiculously expensive play thing. It falls in the pond and up pops a talking frog offering his services. He will fetch the ball if she will let him be her companion; sit by her at the table, eat off her plate, drink from her cup, and sleep in her bed. Having no intention of keeping her promise, she agrees, then promptly runs off when the ball is returned to her. The next day the frog comes calling for his reward. The princess objects several times, but her father, the King, insists that she keep her promise. “That which though hast promised, thou must perform.” D’oh! So, the princess begrudgingly lets the frog sit next to her, eat from her plate, and drink from her cup. When dinner is over the frog is tired and asks to be lifted on to the bed. The princess loses her shiznit. She picks up the frog and chucks him at the wall. He hits the wall and falls to the floor a handsome prince. Wha-?? Yup. A far cry from a kiss, eh? Anyhow, the princess decides she likes him after all and she agrees to return to his kingdom with him. His fancy coach pulls up with his trusty servant, Henry. Henry was so upset when his master became a frog that three iron rings formed around his heart. He was so happy to see his master again that the rings burst one by one and his master thought the carriage was falling apart.

There you go. Go out immediately and get yourself a copy of all 211 really awesome, sometimes gross, and usually violent Grimm’s Fairy Tales. You’ll never regret it!


Categories: Kids | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Grimm Truth About Fairytales

  1. Ceil Fessler

    Wow Meg, who knew. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Grimm Fairy tale. Thanks for the update! I’m more used to the lives of the Saints.

  2. I’ve read Grimm’s, and gave a copy to my grandkids, but never knew the background before. I’m really impressed. Have also read Aesop’s Fables, as well as the lives of the Saints. Love them all.

  3. I love seeing how the stories have been altered over time and between places (I guess there’s still a lot of argument about which “original” version is the most original, too). That and seeing how the story of Snow White is reflected in a story of completely different characters from another part of the world – the same moral dilemma, but in a different setting.

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