When we first started to compile this list, we intended on sticking only to well-known fairy tales, revealing the darker sides that are often swept under the rug. But there were a couple of obscure tales so dark and juicy, we just had to share...
Cinderella is undoubtedly the great-grandmother of fairy tales, but somehow she still manages to be a hottie. Grrrr. Over 700 variations have been collected in nearly every language worldwide (including several in One Thousand and One Nights), though a loose first century version recorded by Greek historian Strabo is often considered to be the oldest written version of the tale.
Most tellings are fairly tame morality plays, but those wonderful Grimm Brothers of the 19th century saw fit to make their version (Aschenputtel) fit for 69FoP's more demanding readers, and made theirs a really gruesome morality play.
After a lot of other major differences (in the version we're most familiar with) the evil step-sisters must try on a gold slipper. The first Evil Step is encouraged by her mother to slice off her big toe to make the shoe fit. While the prince is initially fooled by this, some rappin' birds point out the torrents of blood gushing forth, and the prince takes her back. Evil #2 is convinced by Mommy Dearest to cut off her heel to fit the slipper, with the exact same results.
Once the prince finally gets his head out of his ass (don't take that part literally, folks) and marries Cinderella, the step sisters follow along in the precession--hobbling, no doubt--hoping to gain favor with, y'know, whoever. Unfortunately for the duo, Cinderella's command-pigeons had Eyeball salad on their menu, leaving the poor step sisters "condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood."
- LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Unlike Cinderella, the Grimms actually tamed down their version of Little Red Riding Hood, sending a friendly hunter to rescue poor Red and Gramma. On the other hand, Charles Perrault (the man who so cheerfully fluffed up Cinderella with a Fairy Godmother and mice and pumpkins) allowed Red to be eaten alive. The End.
And what moral was to be learnt, praytell? Well, let's just say Monsieur Perrault did indeed make the cloak red to be symbolic; and, at the time of writing, a common way to describe those who recently lost their virginity was to say they'd "seen the wolf."
Earlier 14th century oral versions from France are slightly more sexually overt, often ending with the girl being eaten after she is told to burn her clothes and climb into bed naked with The False Grandmother. (Though occasionally she's able to show her own resourcefulness and slip away, claiming she needed to make a pit-stop at the outhouse.)
However, the tastiest part of the oral tradition is that the wolf usually served up Gramma's leftovers to the famished Little Red once she got to Gramma's house. No wonder she had to make a run for the latrine.
- SLEEPING BEAUTY
So, you remember the time a passing king came by and raped the comatose Sleeping Beauty--named Talia, who knew?--only to have her bear two children that eventually sucked the cursed flax that put the beauty to sleep from the finger one baby mistook for a nipple, finally waking the well-rested Talia, right? Maybe a few of you in the back?
'Cos that's how it went down in "Sun, Moon, and Talia" in Giambattista Basile's 1634 collection of fairy tales, Pentamerone. And Basile wasn't content to leave off after Talia woke up either, like that pussy Disney. Oh no--
It doesn't take long for the king or his queen to find out about the new family, and in no time the queen plots revenge. She orders the children to the court, and tells the cook to prepare them for the king's dinner. Instead, the cook prepares two lambs; but, thinking the cook followed her orders, the queen joyfully taunts the king as he eats.
Shortly after, Talia's shrieks draw the king to the courtyard, where the queen has commissioned a huge bonfire in which to throw the (now) screaming beauty. After the queen reveals her cannibalistic plot, the king has her and a traitorous secretary pitched into the fire instead. The cook quickly explains that he ain't served no longpig to the king, and reunites the kids with the happy new couple so all of 'em can live happily ever after.
- SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES
Quick, name the original Seven Dwarves: Let's see, there's Grumpy and Sleepy 'n Bashful 'n Donder 'n Dixon's gotta be in there somewhere, too, right? Not exactly...try Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick and Quee. Of course, those names are from the 1912 play, where they were first named, since the Brothers Grimm couldn't be bothered with such petty details.
What the Grimms did bring to the tale of Snow White is a lot more of the ol' ultraviolence. Take for example the whole heart for proof thing the queen demands (which is still pretty gruesome). The Grimms take it a step farther, having the wicked queen dine on it for dinner. (In various versions, she asks for any number of other organs on which to sup, too.)
Once the evil queen realizes she's been duped, she disguises herself three times, and twice manages to kill Snow, until those pesky dwarves get involved and reverse the damaged. By the third try, the queen decides to go with old faithful, the Poison Apple, which works until the prince comes along and falls in love. (And it's still the dwarves that wake her!)
Saving the best for last, the brothers send the wicked queen off dancing--in red-hot iron shoes! In the tamer versions she merely drops dead of a heart attack, but most stay true to form, making her shimmy.
- THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
While the other fairy tales have been based in fiction, The Pied Piper of Hamlin has its mysterious origins in fact, making it all the more tragic and definitely creepier.
Something happened to the children of Hamelin in 1284--perhaps widespread death, perhaps a mass "kidnapping" or pilgrimage, or perhaps Nebraska was holding its first audition for Children of the Corn that year.
Whatever happened, it wasn't rats--they didn't enter into the folklore until 1559--but most accounts do refer to a "Pied Piper." And again, whether this Pied Piper merely represented death or was an actual historical figure is hotly debated (at least among those who get off on that kind of thing).
Most versions agree that it was 130 children lost to Hamelin, though yet again, even the definition of "children" is questioned. Some think it could be interpreted as "children of the city," which could then include able-bodied men and women among those lost.
- THE LITTLE MERMAID
While the editors of 69FoP don't feel Disney did such a bad job on their version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, it could've been a pretty awesome horror show if they would've just stuck to the original story a bit more.
The first detail Disney forgot to include was the pain factor. Drinking the Sea Witch's potion was agonizing, but paled in comparison to the torture she would feel while using her new legs. And it wouldn't just be the pain of constantly walking over swords--her feet would bleed, too!
Apparently Prince Eric and a human soul were worth such a hefty price, as The Little Mermaid guzzled down the potion. So how did Eric repay her incredible sacrifice? By making her dance and then marrying another princess, which negated the terms of the Sea Witch's contract.
Heartbroken and doomed to die at dawn, she is offered the option of killing Eric and his new bride with a special knife, which will allow her to return to mermaidhood. Unable to kill the new couple, the Little Non-mermaid dives into the sea (basically committing suicide) and dissolves to foam...but then rises with "the daughters of the air" in Anderson's retconned happy ending.
- THE FROG PRINCE
Kissing a frog is pretty damned gross, even if you are gonna get a great LSD trip afterward. In fact, it's a lot more gross than the violent events that triggered the prince's shapeshift in the original versions, but we'll tell you about 'em, anyway.
The king's youngest daughter becomes disgusted at the thought of the frog eating from her plate and sleeping in her bed, so she picks it up and hurls it angrily into the wall--and that transforms the croaker back to the prince.
Why, for God's sake? According to Wikipedia, "The violent act of the princess, throwing the frog against the wall, is a common folkloric trait of undoing shapeshifting magic." So back in the day, kids were basically encouraged to throw little animals into wall, hoping a magic prince would fall out. Makes one wonder how many dreams were shattered along with the family pet?
Of course, in variations on this tale, the heroine ends up decapitating Mr. Toad to trigger the change. (An even better version is set in France, where the frog becomes hungry. The princess takes him to the kitchen, then is seen dining on frog's legs a short time later.)
- HANSEL AND GRETEL
There are dozens of minor variations to the current forms of the tale, so some of you might think Hansel and Gretel are betrayed by their biological parents, while others of you will be sure their evil step-mom talked their dad into leaving them in the woods.
Both ways are right, but in the original 1812 version of Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmärchen, the natural parents were the evil pricks. (Though the Grimms changed it to the bitchy ol' stepmom soon after.) Okay--yawn--but where's the gore? Well, we gotta explore the related stories for that.
Hop-o'-My-Thumb shares many of the same plot devices as H&G, though there are seven children and the mysterious house is owned by an ogre. Putting on his best Jigsaw mask, Lil Hop tricks the ogre into slashing all of his daughters' throats before Hop leads his brothers to safety.
But in The Lost Children, the young duo (Jean and Jeanette, imaginatively) must face the devil himself. After the devil builds a sawhorse from which to bleed Jean, the kids trick the devil's wife into getting up there, then make proper use of the sawhorse by slashing her throat.
- THE JUNIPER TREE
Chances are you don't know this Grimm tale, so please allow us to acquaint you. It has all the cheesy elements and story continuity of a soap opera, but all the blood and sneaky conniving of a Hannibal Lector flick, so it kinda works out.
It starts when a new mother is so happy at the thought of her little bundle of joy that she dies. But don't worry--dad goes from burying her to remarried in less that 50 words, so it wasn't too traumatic on him.
The only problem is that the new stepmom hates the little squirt so much she decapitates him, then tricks her daughter Marleen into believing she did it. On top of that, stepmom makes "pudding" out of the body, and Dad wolfs it down with complements.
Feeling guilty, little Marleen collects the bones and places them under the same Juniper tree his mother was buried under. This sparks a Michael Bay-style fx spectacle, from which a bird eventually flies out. The bird turns out to be the boy, who gets hold of a millstone, which he uses to crush the evil bitch and regain his shot at happily ever after.
- GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS
Who woulda thunk Goldilocks could've unearthed such deep, dark secrets if she would've just opened the right closet? First is her strange case of Benjamin Button-ism, since she started her illustrious career as an old "foul-mouthed," "ugly" "vagrant" in 1837 and didn't become a little girl until twelve years later; she didn't become Goldilocks 'til 1904.
Another interesting tidbit is that the bears were just three bachelors living together--we'll let you draw your own conclusions about that--but they still came in small, medium and large rugs.
But, to get to the meat of the tale, a special edition versified by some old biddy for her nephew in 1831 had the grump old biddy from the story end up impaled on the steeple of St. Paul's Cathedral.
In the oral traditions, the bears got pretty pissy with the intruder, trying to drown her, throw her in the fireplace or fall back on the old church steeple punishment. But there is one versions that seems to make more sense than the rest--the bears simply fall back on thousands of years of instinct, and savage her. (This way, they get to eat their porridge, too!)
- FITCHER'S BIRD
Another one you probably don't know about, but should, is Fitcher's Bird. In it, a sorcerer dresses like a beggar to kidnap young women then take them back home, which is a pretty fancy-pants place...except for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre room.
Once he gets the oldest of three sisters home, he leaves after giving her an egg and the keys to the house, telling her she can go into every room but one. (Guess which.) Of course she checks out the room and falls into a large, gory basin--the Saw franchise so wants to use this place for a set, lemme tell ya--and the sorcerer returns. He sees blood on the egg, knows she went into the room, and then this graphic bit of fairy tale mayhem occurs:
"He threw her down, dragged her thither by her hair, cut her head off on the block, and hewed her in pieces so that her blood ran on the ground. Then he threw her into the basin with the rest." Soon after, the second sister suffers the same fate, and the third sister finds herself in the house before you can say Rumpelstiltskin (mostly because Rumpelstiltskin doesn't appear in this story).
The third sister peeks in the room, but keeps her egg clean and manages to put her sisters back together again. Fuck Humpty, though. Anyway, she passes muster with the sorcerer, who proposes immediately. She then has the cojones to demand a dowry of gold and silver be delivered to her father by the sorcerer (carried on his back!), and sneaks her sisters on board. The sisters send help, all of whom set fire to a houseful of people once the third sister gets out, disguised as Fitcher's Bird.
- THE THREE SISTERS
Speaking of three sisters you probably haven't heard of, the Basile's Pentamerone offers this long forgotten tale of The Three Sisters. It's slightly less gory than Fitcher's Bird, but still worth a mention.
Lucky little Nella was happily married to a prince who came to visit on a crystal road every night, until her jealous older sisters smash the road to jagged fragments, which mortally wounds the prince on his nightly journey.
Nella sets off to rescue her husband, spending the night in a tree. She happens to hear a couple of ogres mentioning that their fat would cure the prince, so she climbs down and slaughters the ogres, loading up on their lard.
After she saves the prince and their love is made public, the prince has her awful sisters dumped into an oven and cooked alive as the rest of them go on to happily-ever-after-style lives...
- THE WILLFUL CHILD
We'll leave you now with Grimms' shortest and perhaps strangest story, The Willful Child. It's short, sweet and to the point, and is only a little disturbing on the surface. But if you dig in and start thinking about it...
It's hard to paraphrase the story in fewer words than with which the Grimms told the tale. Basically, a stubborn, bratty child died. When they tried to cover the brat, one of her arms popped out, sticking up like a sore...well, you get it. Nothing they did would put it down, until the mother came back and punished it by whipping the child's hand one more time, so she could finally rest in peace.
Just take a moment to imagine the slow horror settling over little Janey's parents as the funeral home director asks them to give Janey a couple of whacks, so's she can be buried proper.
Or on the flipside, you think you've finally escaped that sniveling little twerp once and for all, but then the parson shows up, telling you the twerp is reaching out from the grave, so you gotta quit the champagne and dancing to go look after that brat again...