Last time I did Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Gingerbread Man, The Frog Prince, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Of course, these aren’t the only fairy tales we all know since I’m going to go over a few more in this one. Let’s just say that while fairy tales are said to contain fantastical elements or happy endings, sometimes neither is the case. And sometimes there’s a lot of violence thrown in as well. So now on with more fairy tales and their original versions I should talk about accordingly.
Little Red Riding Hood
How You Know It: Red hooded girl goes out into the woods with a basket of goodies to give to her sick grandmother. On her way, she is stopped by a wolf who asks her where she’s going. Too innocent to know better, she just tells him flat out. The wolf later takes a shortcut to the grandmother’s house, either swallows her or holds the grandmother hostage, and sits in her bed wearing her bedclothes. When Little Red arrives, she remarks on how unusual her “grandmother” looks until she says “Grandma, what big teeth you have!” In which the wolf replies, “All the better to eat you with my dear!” Wolf springs out while Little Red is either eaten or escapes. Yet, soon Little Red and her grandmother are rescued by a passing huntsman (or lumberjack) who kills the wolf, and they all live happily ever after.
The Original Version: The original Little Red Riding Hood first appeared in print as a story by 17th century French writer Charles Perrault (yet this tale may have been as old as the 10th century). And in that version, the story ends with the girl’s death followed by a moral such as, “Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.” This might mean that, “any stranger could be a pedophile, serial killer, and/or rapist.” There’s no woodsman who saves her at the last minute, there’s no grandmother, and the wolf lives, end of story. Also, in Perrault’s story, she didn’t have a red hood but a red cape, which was his artistic touch for original folk tale didn’t even describe what color Little Red’s cloak was (and the Grimm Brothers added the hood part though their version has a happier ending as well as a sequel in which Little Red and her grandmother kill another wolf themselves). Still, some of the early versions play this fairy tale as one of seduction with the wolf not just wanting to eat Little Red and in some earlier variants. And in early versions with a happy ending, the wolf is punished horribly such as the huntsman either cutting him open or filling his stomach full of stones. Oh, and in some of these, Little Red gets away from the wolf with no outside help from anyone.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
How You Know It: Town hires broke musician to clear local rat infestation with his unconventional methods in exchange to pay him back. Rat catching musician lures rats away with his musical chops but the townspeople reneged on their promise and refuse to pay him. In revenge, the Pied Piper uses his music on the local kids who follow him out of the town and who knows where and are never seen again.
The Original Version: This is a very old tale which may have roots from a true story of how Hamelin lost its children but in the original the kiddos are all drowned in the river. The earliest record from the town chronicles is in the entry from 1384 which says “It is 100 years since our children left.” Some historians believe that the plague killed all the kids while others speculate that they were forced to move due to overpopulation. There are even some who say that this story was an allegory to the disastrous Children’s Crusade (though this may not have consisted just kids but also displaced homeless people) and that the Pied Piper was Nicholas of Colonge. There are plenty of other theories out there as well.
Puss in Boots
How You Know It: Miller dies and his youngest son finds himself stuck with the old man’s anthropomorphic cat. Cat promises to make the guy rich if he buys him some boots. Once he has them, Puss makes several visits to the local king claiming to be a servant to the Marquis of Carabas, each time bringing gifts he caught himself. He soon has his owner play up the ruse by having him skinny dip in a river with Puss claiming that someone stole his clothes in front of the king and his daughter. Puss then has the country folk brought into his scheme by having the king tell the king that the lands belong to the Marquis of Carabas or else face certain death. He later goes to the castle in which he flatters and taunts the resident ogre into proving his powers by transforming into a mouse, whereupon Puss promptly kills and eats him. When the king arrives, he is impressed with the bogus marquis and his estate and gives him his daughter in marriage and everyone lives happily ever after.
The Original Version: The most familiar version of this story was “The Master Cat, or The Cat in Boots” by 17th century French writer Charles Perrault but the cat in the story wasn’t named Puss in Boots, it was just a fan nickname. However, this tale of the trickster cat is way older than what many people expect. The earliest version is actually by a Hindu priest from Kashmir whose 5th century compilation the Panchatantra has a tale following a cat similar to Puss but he fares much less well than Perrault’s version as he attempts to make his fortune in the king’s palace.
In 1553, the Venetian writer Giovanni Francesco Straparola had a tale “Costantino Fortunato” which also falls on similar lines of Puss in Boots except that it takes place in Bohemia, the young man is the son of a local woman, the cat is a fairy in disguise, and the castle belongs to a lord who conveniently perishes in an accident. The young man eventually becomes Bohemia’s king. Yet, we’re not sure whether this one had origins in oral tradition or Straparola just made it up.
Then there’s a similar Puss in Boots tale published in 1634 by Neapolitan Giambattista Basile, yet the young man is actually a beggar whose fortunes are achieved in the same manner as Perrault’s. Yet, the tale ends with the former beggar boy promising the cat a gold coffin at his death as an expression of his gratitude. Three days later, the cat plays dead to test his master and is absolutely mortified to hear his master tell his wife to take the dead cat by its paws and throw it out the window. The cat leaps up frantic to know whether this was a better reward for helping his owner to a better life and runs away, leaving the ungrateful bastard to fend for himself. It’s almost certain that Charles Perrault wasn’t aware of these previous versions.
How You Know It: Witch kidnaps abnormally long haired girl and shuts her up in a tower due to her dad stealing some of her garden plant to satisfy her mom’s pregnancy cravings. The only way to have access to the tower was to say “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” A smitten prince gets wind of this, climbs up to rescue her and the two live happily ever after.
The Original Version: The best known version is by the Brothers Grimm (though probably based on a story called “Petronsinella” by Italian Giambattista Basile though it contains more bawdy language and Mamoidselle La Force’s Persinette which has a fairy instead of a witch) yet this is quite different in which prince doesn’t rescue Rapunzel the first time he’s up there (yet he visits several times) but while they do make plans to elope, they also engage in less family-friendly activities as revealed later when Rapunzel complains to the witch about how tight her dress was getting around the middle (though the Grimms would change this). This would cause the witch to cut off the girl’s hair to lure the prince in and banished her to the desert where she lives as a beggar with no home, no money, and two little mouths to feed after a few months. When the prince came, the witch pushed him off the tower into a bed of thorns which left him blind. They wandered in the desert for some time (during which Rapunzel bore twin boys) before running into each other. Rapunzel would embrace him weeping in which her tears restored the prince’s sight and they all lived happily ever after.
It is said that the tale has some elements to the story of Saint Barbara such as having the girl locked in a tower, though Barbara’s ordeal was more or less honor-related abuse for defying her dad and it didn’t end well for her. Then there’s the 10th century Persian tale Rudaba which also has the “let down your hair” motif. Still, there are many older forms such as the Italian tale “Snow White Fire-Red” in which the prince is cursed by an ogress for breaking her pitcher in which the only girl he could marry was Snow White Fire-Red (the “daughter” of another ogress who like Rapunzel also has extremely long hair and lives in a tower but we’re not sure how she got there). Oh, and she’s a magic girl who enchants furniture as well as other tricks. The story ends when the other ogress curses her to make the prince forget her but she later helps break that one, too. Older forms of Rapunzel have similar variants like this one.
How You Know It: Miller boats about his daughter’s exaggerated domestic skills with the talent she could spin straw into gold in an effort to feel important. King catches wind of this and the girl finds herself locked in room and charged with the aforesaid impossible task with nothing but a spinning wheel and a royal death threat (yet, the king later says he’d marry the girl after he completes her task). Well, almost impossible when a weird little man suddenly shows up and offers to do the deed in exchange for a few favors such as her necklace, ring, and firstborn child. Once the girl marries the king and has a child, the weirdo shows up and tells her to pay up. Yet, the queen is rather unwilling to fulfill her end of the bargain for obvious reasons so the guy says that she could keep the kid if she can guess his name within the next three days. Frantic, the queen and her servants try to think up but finally a messenger does happen to catch the weird guy boasting about his name. The Queen guesses Rumpelstiltskin correctly and the little man’s plan is foiled.
The Original Version: Rumpelstitskin’s fate in the original story has him flying off the window on a spoon while the Grimms have him either simply leaving in a huff or tearing himself in two after stamping in a fit of rage. Still, this story has a lot of cultural variants. There’s also another Grimm tale called “The Three Aunts” which is about a girl in the same situation but instead of her firstborn child, the women just ask to attend her wedding as her aunts as well as ensure her that she won’t need their help again. Yet, the king did learn his lesson in that one once he saw what years of spinning did to these women.
How You Know It: A girl is born to a king and queen and all the fairies are invited to celebrate. Well, save one who shows up anyway and curses her to death by spindle touching while another just succeeds in softening the curse to sleep. However, despite the king and queen’s efforts to rid the kingdom, the princess ends up in a cursed sleep anyway (though sometimes the whole kingdom is put to sleep as well for a century). Soon the prince shows up, plants a kiss that brings her back to life and they live happily ever after.
The Original Version: While the best known version of this tale is the Grimm’s version which was probably the main inspiration for the Disney movie (sans the 13 fairies, magic frog, and a lot of dead suitors in the forest surrounding the castle), there are plenty of earlier variants. The earliest printed version was compiled by 17th century Neapolitan author Giambattista Basile whose retelling called “Sun, Moon, and Talia” would make Walt Disney look like a feminist. In this one, the princess falls in a magic coma not by pricking a spindle but touching a thread of hemp under her fingernail. Thinking her dead, her dad props her on a velvet chair and abandons her. Sometime later another king comes across that very castle while hunting and tries to check the place out. There he finds the sleeping princess, falls in love with her, carries her to the bed, rapes her, and leaves forgetting the whole affair. The princess wakes up when one of her infant twins sucks the splinter out of her finger (yes, she had twins while in her unconscious state.) Soon the king returns to see her again finds her awake and proceeds to confess that he was the kids’ father. Despite her not knowing anything about him other than as her rapist baby daddy, the two go on a weekend sex marathon in the hay, and the princess and twins move into the king’s castle but they are kept secret from his wife. The Queen soon finds out and orders the kids cooked and served to her husband but the cook hides the tots at his or her home and prepared a goat dish in its place. The Queen later sent for the princess just to have her thrown in the fire for having sex with her husband. Luckily, the king arrives, has his wife thrown in the fire, marries the princess, finds their kids and they all live happily ever after.
In the 17th century French writer Charles Perrault’s version of this tale has an epilogue in which the already married princess (who’s also a mother of two) has to deal with her jealous part ogre mother-in-law. She demands to have the wife and kids cooked and eaten but the cook hides them and serves animals instead. The queen proceeds to prepare a big pot of nasty venomous creatures to kill them but the prince arrives just in time, the queen falls into the pot and everyone lives happily ever after. In the Grimm version, this was a separate story called “The Mother-In-Law” in which the queen is just put to death. Also, in the Perrault version, the king and queen simply abandon the princess as soon as the fairy is done putting everyone else to sleep for 100 years and the princess doesn’t age a bit. Oh, and she wakes up when the prince merely enters her chamber when the 100 years are up averting the whole sexual assault thing.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
How You Know It: A queen wishes for a child with rose red lips, snow white skin, and ebony black hair. She gets her wish but promptly dies soon after Snow White’s birth and is replaced by a beauty obsessed wicked stepmother. She’s so obsessed with her own looks that she asks the mirror every day, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Of course, the mirror always says she is until one day it says that Snow White is which sends the queen into plotting her assassination. She orders a huntsman to do the deed and cut out her heart as a royal trophy. The huntsman is unable to do this so he lets Snow White go (and brings a pig’s heart to the queen instead). After some time in the woods Snow White falls with a bunch of dwarfs who let her stay as long as she does the housework. But the queen is undeterred so she disguises herself as a peddler and tries to kill her via poison apple. Snow White eats it and drops to the floor. When the dwarfs find her, they assume she’s dead and put her in a glass coffin where they keep watch. Soon a prince arrives and revives her with a kiss and they live happily ever after.
The Original Version: The Grimm version is the most familiar to us, yet the queen tries to kill Snow White in more ways than in the Disney movie. In the Grimm version, the queen asks the huntsman to bring Snow White’s heart to her so she could eat it yet the guy gives her pig parts instead. And when disguised as a peddler, she not only tries poison apple as an assassination method, but also tight corset lacing and poison comb. Snow White falls unconscious from these but the dwarves manage to revive her. The poison apple was just the only method that seemed to stick. Oh, and the wicked queen dies at her stepdaughter’s wedding where she is forced to dance to death in red hot shoes. Not only that, but the Grimm retelling was the first version of the tale to have the wicked queen as Snow White’s stepmother. In earlier versions, she’s her biological mother and took her daughter to pick flowers in the woods and abandons her.
As for Snow White, during most of the story’s action she is about seven years old and the prince doesn’t kiss her back to life. Rather he takes her home (despite thinking her dead) but on the way, the coffin is jolted and Snow White is revived after the bits of poison apple are dislodged from her throat. Also, when she stumbles at the dwarves’ home, her first idea doesn’t pertain to clean up after them. Rather, she eats their food, drinks their wine, and sleeps in their beds. When the dwarves come home, their place is a mess. There are also other cultural variants of Snow White as well including an Albanian one where she kills her stepmother and lives with 40 dragons.
Three Billy Goats Gruff
How You Know It: Three Billy goat brothers attempt to cross a bridge for greener pastures but has a bad tempered troll living under it. The youngest two go first but they shiver in the troll’s presence and only get off by saying that their brother would make a better dish than them. When the oldest brother ventures, he trounces the troll and throws him off the bridge so he and his brothers could cross it and eat the grass from the other side.
The Original Version: This is derived from a Norwegian folk tale compiled by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.
The Three Little Pigs
How You Know It: Three pigs move out of their mom’s house to find their fortune and all build places of their own. Soon the Big Bad Wolf comes on the scene with intentions to eat them and due to the first two pigs’ poor choice of building materials, their houses are burned down. Yet, when he gets to the third pig’s brick house, he tries to blow it down but couldn’t so he tries to get access through the chimney but the third pig thwarts him.
The Original Version: This story was written in the 1840s and unlike most adaptations, the wolf actually eats the first two little pigs. Also, the Big Bad Wolf is cooked to death in a pot of boiling water, thanks to the third pig.
The Fisherman and His Wife
How You Know It: Poor fisherman captures a magic fish and lets it go. When he tells his wife, she suggested asking the fish for a wish such as a nice house. The wife becomes ever more greedy and wishes for more and more things until the ticked off fish eventually reduces them to the same life the fisherman and his wife had before.
The Original Version: While most adaptations use his tale about how money can’t buy happiness and such, the original tale Grimm version has the fish grant the fisherman’s wife such wishes to be queen, empress, and even pope. Yet, the fish has enough when she asks to be equal to God and thus revokes everything granted.
The Little Mermaid
How You Know It: Mermaid falls in love with a human prince she rescued and exchanges her voice for plastic surgery from the sea witch. She and the prince get together and after some rough patches end up happily ever after.
The Original Version: Unfortunately, the Hans Christen Andersen version isn’t as happy as the Disney movie. For one, the mermaid doesn’t just exchange her voice for legs (by having her tongue cut out), but she also finds it painful to walk. If she could make the prince fall in love and marry her, she could be a full fledge human all her life. Yet, if the prince marries someone else, she would die. Also, the sea witch is a rather neutral character in this and her motives are simply payment. Though the prince may be charmed by the mermaid and takes her in, he ends up with someone else. While her sisters give the mermaid a knife to kill the prince, she can’t bring herself to do so and dies dissolving in froth.
The Girl Without Hands
How You Know It: Devil offers poor man wealth if he gives him whatever is standing behind his mill. Poor man thinks it’s an apple tree, but it’s actually his daughter. Devil tries to take girl but can’t because she’s so pure so he threatens to take her dad unless she allows him to chop off her own hands. She agrees and father does so. Oh, and there’s a bit about receiving silver replacements, marrying a king, and giving birth to an alleged changeling caused by a miscommunication, as well as regaining the hands she lost after the king found her seven years later.
The Original Version: In earlier variants the young girl chops off her arms to make herself ugly to her brother who’s trying to rape her. In another, the dad chops off the daughter’s hands because she refuses to have sex with him.