Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Tale of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have had a long history, both oral and written.  Today, fairy tales are fun, sometimes cautionary, tales for kids.  They're usually fun and romantic (think Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.)  And, thanks to Disney, they usually have happy endings.

See?  Don't they just look Oh-So-Happy?

But the truth is, Fairy tales were meant to teach lessons, and in a not so pretty way.  Let's look at Bluebeard, a fairy tale created to teach people (women in particular.  Fairy tales are ridiculously misogynistic) not to be overly curious.  Charles Perrault wrote one of the most known and it consisted of a woman who married a very rich man with a blue beard.  He had many wives before her but no one knew what happened to them.  He went on a trip and told her that she could enter any room in the house but one.  Curiosity got the better of her, and she opened the door to find all of his dead wives.  Bluebeard found out and told her that she would have to die because he disobeyed her.  Just before he killed her, her brothers showed up and kill him.  Not exactly a story they would turn into a fun loving Disney movie.

What a wonderful guy, don't you think?

Just because Perrault's was the most well know, doesn't mean that his was original.  Fairy Tales were oral stories, for centuries, before they were ever written down on paper.  And in fact, most of the tales we know and love today are very watered down versions of the original.  In one version of Sleeping Beauty, there are any where from 15-20 euphemisms for sex.  In Snow White, the queen dies from dancing in red hot iron slippers.  The Little Mermaid had her tongue cut out and was turned into sea foam.  Even Hans Christian Anderson, whose tales were thought to be some of the most original, weren't.  He stole a lot of his material from oral stories, or stories that he had heard in his youth.

So why are fairy tales so popular today?  And why are they so different?  A large part of that is Disney.  They've taken the stories, bent them to their needs and made them kid friendly (after all, seeing the evil queen from Snow White thrown off a cliff was scary enough.  Imagine if she had died from dancing in red hot shoes.)  Also, the perception of children has changed.  The Grimms changed a lot of the endings to their stories because kids were starting to be protected from that kind of thing.  Previously, children were exposed to a lot more than they are today.  There are very little gruesome ideas we expose our children to.

Fairy tales are fun and fun to learn about.  They're rich in history and you can trace them all over the world.  Every culture has them.  It's just an interesting way to see how we're all connected.

Edit:  This article was recommended by one of our readers, "The People Watcher."  It gives some more fairy tales and some of their original endings!  Thanks for the info!


  1. There is an interesting article on cracked.com about classic Disney movies based on R-rated stories. I think you might find it interesting--or at the very least it will confirm what you already know about some of the "original" endings to the stories.

    1. Thanks! I didn't know about the article, but it's a good read and goes a little more in depth about specific fairy tales than I did (though, you're right, I did already know about, and have read most of, those original fairy tales. :))

      I've updated the post to include the article. :)