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10 Fairy Tales That Were Way Darker Than You Realized as a Kid


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The Little Mermaid
The original Little Mermaid didn't have such a happy ending. © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis
The original Little Mermaid didn't have such a happy ending. © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis

Film critic Richard Corliss praised the 1989 Disney film version of "The Little Mermaid," the tale of a prince named Eric who falls in love with Ariel, the beautiful half-human sea creature, as "a model of buoyancy and poignancy." But the source material, an 1837 story by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen is considerably darker.

In the film version, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula the sea witch, who converts her temporarily into a human in exchange for her singing voice, which the witch puts inside a seashell. In Andersen's telling, the witch silences the little mermaid by cutting off her tongue. And unlike the movie, the original story doesn't end happily ever after. Instead, the little mermaid loses her prince to a human bride and smiles at him one last time as she and her sisters rise slowly to heaven.


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