Set in far-off enchanted kingdoms, fairy tales invoke a sense of wonder. Powerful kings, wicked queens, monsters and all manner of magical beings are among the memorable characters that inhabit these classic stories. To some extent, these tales map the terrain of the human psyche. They resonate with the archetypal hopes, dreams and fears that reside in the collective unconscious.
But many well-known and dearly loved fairy tales aren’t as sweet and uplifting as they might seem. In fact, many of them originated in dark and violent imaginations. And by current standards, some of them verge on taboo. The following ten classic stories – now sanitized for modern audiences – indeed had darker origins. They originally depicted cannibalism, torture, sexual assault, bodily mutilation, infanticide and bestiality. So much for happily ever after.
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Disney’s 1937 animated masterpiece immortalized the tale of Snow White, “the fairest of them all.” After fleeing from her jealous stepmother the wicked Queen, she hides out in the woods with seven friendly dwarves. However, the Queen finds her and tricks her into eating a poisoned apple. Snow White falls into a deathly sleep – until a handsome prince awakens her with “love’s first kiss.”
Naturally, the saccharin Disney animation leaves out several grisly details from the original Brothers Grimm story. For one thing, the Queen employs a hunter to kill Snow White and cut out her lungs and liver. He can’t do it, however, so he delivers the lungs and liver of a wild boar instead, which the Queen triumphantly eats. At the end of the story, the Prince forces the Queen to wear red-hot iron shoes that cause her to dance to death.