For those of us who grew up on Disney's cinematic fairy tales, going back to read the traditional tales captured by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen can be quite a shock. Who knew that the Little Mermaid not only wasn't named Ariel, but her feet ached and bled with every step? Who realized that Cinderella's sisters engaged in self-mutilation to fit into that teeny shoe? What Disney's screenwriters (and the masterminds of the Princess franchise) won't let you know is that fairy tales are far more morbid than anything that can be marketed to sell toys and CDs and the “happily ever after” is, quite often, death. With a release of Rapunzel (Brothers Grimm) on the horizon and news of The Snow Queen (Andersen) in the works again, we took a look at a few of the storytellers other works that have yet to be Disney-fied.
“The Rose Elf”
Hans Christian Andersen
An evil brother thinks that he's committed the perfect crime after he kills his sister's boyfriend following the lovers' tryst in a forest. Things work a little too well, though, when his sister succumbs to a broken heart. Since there's no such thing as a perfect crime, the happy ending is a simple plot of revenge exacted by jasmine, bees and a tiny elf. They can do more damage than you might assume.
Possible Disney version: Taking its cue from General Hospital, the boyfriend isn't really dead. Instead of wasting away alone and unloved, the girl pines for the boy-presumed-dead by over-singing a ballad destined to make its way into every school talent show for years to come. The evil brother meets his demise, but it's done in the most inoffensive way possible, and the boy and girl become prince and princess of fairyland.
When Death's your godfather, you can go from being a poor child to the most celebrated physician in the land. But, much like in Francis Ford Coppola's famed trilogy, you can't cross the godfather, even if there's the life of a hot, single princess at stake.
Possible Disney version: Death has a change of heart when he realizes that every young doctor needs a Barbie doll at his side, especially one who comes with a title attached to her name. This could be the story that launches the Disney Prince line of Pez dispensers and children's CDs.
“The Red Shoes”
Hans Christian Andersen
Who knew that something as fashion-forward as a pair of red shoes could cause so much trouble? When Karen ditches her dying guardian to go to a ball, her red shoes become attached to her feet and she just can't stop dancing. Even after an executioner cuts off said feet, they continue to groove.
Possible Disney version: Karen manages to learn the perils of vanity without losing her feet. Instead of finding happiness in death, she learns that the strange man she keeps encountering as she dances is a prince and, lo and behold, her princess fate is sealed.
“The Maiden Without Hands”
If there's one thing we can take away from fairy tales, it's that one should never make a deal with a stranger. Take, for example, the poor miller who exchanged what he thought was an apple tree for great riches. As it turns out, the wizard did not want the tree, but, rather, the miller's daughter. In order to save his own life, the miller then proceeds to cut off his daughter's hands at the wizard's request. There is a happy ending to this story, one involving a handsome king too, but it comes after multiple maiming attempts, a series of misunderstandings thanks to the wizard and starvation.
Possible Disney version: The maiden splits before her dad can cut off her hands and the wizard engages in a pursuit. The king has been Disney-fied as a prince and rushes to the rescue of our damsel in distress. They get married, she becomes a princess and they release a CD of duets featuring the voices of Josh Groban and an American Idol also-ran.