We explore the spine-chilling origins of a few popular children's fairytales and uncover the shocking true stories behind them.
If you grew up familiar with classic children’s fairytales and now read them to your little ones at bedtime, you may be surprised to discover that the real stories behind these fables about princesses, wolves and evil stepmothers are far more sinister and shocking than the watered-down modern versions printed on the glossy pages today.
Professor Jack Zipes, a retired professor of German at the University of Minnesota and an expert on fairytales and their origins, believes folk tales exist to help people to pass on tips for survival to the next generations.
He says, “I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts.”
We explore the dark origins of a few popular children’s fairytales and uncover the shocking true stories behind them.
Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out
The Grimm brothers’ gruesome version of this popular story tells of a girl named Aschenputtel, whose mother has passed away and her father remarries a cruel sadist with two equally horrible daughters of her own.
Aschenputtel (Cinderella) asks her father for a simple twig from one of his many business trips, which she then plants over her mother’s grave and waters it with her tears of sorrow, making it grow into a magical tree that can grant her wishes.
After attending not one, but actually three royal balls, she keeps playing hard to get with the prince – who is totally infatuated with her – so he sets a trap which causes Aschenputtel to lose one of her gold shoes behind.
Her two stepsisters desperately try to fit in the shoe so they can marry the prince, so one of them actually cuts off her own big toe and the other slices off a part of her own heel, but they both end up bleeding all over the place.
The prince eventually marries Aschenputtel and her over-protective feathered friends peck out the eyes of her stepsisters.
Twisted moral of the story: Alfred Hitchcock was right – birds are very scary creatures indeed.
Sleeping Beauty was violated in her sleep
One of the earliest versions of this classic tale was published in 1634 by Giambattista Basile as Sun, Moon, and Talia, and is about a princess named Talia who gets a flax splinter in her finger and mysteriously falls into a deep sleep.
A king who is out hunting in the woods one day chances upon her and decides to have his way with her while she is unconscious, then goes on his merry way.
She falls pregnant and eventually gives birth to twins (while still asleep!) and one of the babies somehow sucks the splinter out of her finger, which makes her wake up.
Princess Talia and her two children, named Sun and Moon, eventually end up at the baby daddy’s estate, but his wife is so jealous with rage that she actually attempts to have the little ones killed and cooked to be fed to the unsuspecting king.
But he discovers his wife’s evil plot so ends up burning her alive and then lived with Talia and their children happily ever after.
Twisted moral of the story: Apparently a good night’s sleep is even more effective than getting an epidural.
Keep reading for more shocking true stories behind classic children’s fairytales.