Don’t you just love a Disney fairy tale happy ending? The Little Mermaid got her voice back and married the man she wanted to. Cinderella slipped out of her glass slipper and the prince searched the land until he found the young maiden who owned the slipper, Sleeping Beauty was in a deep sleep after pricking her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and a kiss from a prince woke her up and they all lived happily after. Well, in this week’s history article, we will examine the true history of these fairy tales.
Did you know that Sleeping Beauty wasn’t kissed by a prince and awoken? She fell asleep after getting a piece of flax stuck under fingernail and as she slept, a king came by and “had relations with her; without her permission”. Sleeping Beauty then gave birth to two children all while she was asleep and one of the babies sucked the flax from under fingernail and she woke up. When the king’s wife found out about it, she tried to feed the babies to the king without him knowing and the king killed his wife so he could be with Sleeping Beauty.
In the original story of the Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, she had her tongue removed by the sea witch so she could have legs. However, each step she took was very painful, as if she was walking on broken glass. She could not tell the prince who she was and if he married someone else then she would be turned into sea foam. The prince did marry someone else but the mermaid’s sisters tried to save her by cutting off their hair and trading it to the sea witch for a dagger. If the little mermaid killed the prince with the dagger and dripped his blood onto her legs, she would return to her mermaid form. However, she couldn’t bring herself to kill the prince so she did in fact return to the sea as sea foam.
In the Brothers Grimm classic tale of Cinderella, she never had a fairy godmother but instead prayed daily by her mother’s grave and when the prince had the ball, Cinderella was brought three dresses by some doves that her mother had sent from beyond the grave. They helped her get dressed and she did have to leave the ball by midnight. Her slippers were made of gold and not glass and she stepped in some pitch that the prince had spread on the stairs and lost one of her slippers. When the prince arrived at the Cinderella household, the eldest stepsister had cut off her toes to make the slipper fit and the other stepsister cut off the heel of her foot to make it fit. However, the doves told the prince about the blood in the slipper. Finally, Cinderella tried on the slipper and it fit perfectly. They were married and when the stepsisters attended the wedding, the doves returned and poked out their eyeballs.
In our final fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin, the story is all pretty much the same where a miller tells the king that his daughter can weave gold from straw so the king imprisons her and tells her to prove it. That is when the imp appears and says he can do the gold thing if she promises to give him her first born child. Well, she married the king and they had a baby and when Rumpelstiltskin came calling for it, she couldn’t give it up. The imp then gives her one more chance and says if she can guess his name, she can keep the baby. Well, she followed him home that night and heard him singing about his name and the next day, she told him his name. Rumpelstiltskin was very upset and stamped the ground so hard that his right leg went through it and he grabbed his left leg and pulled it so hard that he ripped himself in half.
So, the next time you watch a Disney fairy tale, just remember that there is probably a morbid history behind the story.