Neil Gaiman says, “Fairytales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. ” I’m sure most of us must have listened to fairytales as a child. And what’s more we used to completely believe in them. Some of us still do. And believe me, I’m not saying that they’re wrong. All I’m saying is that they lead us to believe in a rosier reality than there actually exists.
But, as many people would tell you, fairytales were not always meant to be this fanciful. Originally, the fairytales were supposed to be a highly realistic portrayal of the reality. Don’t believe me? Look at the original versions of some fairytales you might know (in form of a more romantic version, of course.)
Hansel And Gretel
The original version of this simply inspiring tale is quite brutal. It was Hansel and Gretel’s evil stepmother’s plan to leave them in the forest, because they were adversely affected by a famine. When Hansel came to know about this plan, he decided to leave breadcrumbs on their path, hoping to use them as markers to return home. But, as we all know, the breadcrumbs were eaten by birds. The children then come across a witch, who tempts them into her gingerbread home with the sly plans of torturing them to her benefit. But Gretel managed to push the witch into her oven, following which, they take her belongings and return home. When they’re finally home, they find that their stepmother is dead due to starvation.
The seventeenth century version of this fairytales is similar to the version we’re familiar with only as far as that the princess pricks her finger on spindle and this results in her 100 years long sleep. The King who finds her is out hunting when her accidentally finds her and overcome by lust, rapes her. She then gives birth to two kids (while she’s still unconscious!), one of whom frees her from the curse by sucking the splinter out of her hand. Her rapist already has a wife, but he burns her alive, in hopes of marrying Talia. But we find that the wife tried to kill Talia’s children and eat them, so everything is balanced.
Little Red Riding Hood
This originally French tale has a very eerie ending in multiple variations. Some writers claim that the actual evil is the wolf, who leaves Red’s grandmother’s flesh on the bed (for her to eat), leading her to commit cannibalism. On the other hand, some versions, predictably end in the wolf raping Red Riding Hood after burning her clothes in fire.
Just like these three, multiple other fairytales have been toned down over time to make them suitable for children. While this might certainly be the right thing where children are concerned, what we need to know is that everything in life is not a rosy as it looks on the outside.