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


Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty awaits a kiss from Prince Charming in this illustration that sticks closely to the sanitized version of the story. © Lebrecht Authors/Lebrecht Music & Arts/Lebrecht Music & Arts/Corbis
Sleeping Beauty awaits a kiss from Prince Charming in this illustration that sticks closely to the sanitized version of the story. © Lebrecht Authors/Lebrecht Music & Arts/Lebrecht Music & Arts/Corbis

Disney's 1959 film told the story of a young princess whom a sorceress tries to doom, by casting a spell calling for her to die at age 16, when she pricks herself on a spindle. That curse can only be partially undone by a good fairy, with the result that the princess will slumber until awakened by the kiss of her true love, the prince to whom she has been betrothed [source: IMDB].

That's pretty much what happens in the Perrault and Grimm versions of the story as well. But they cleaned up the story from earlier versions, such as 14th-century France's "Perceforest," in which the prince returns to find the young woman lying in a bedchamber, nude and comatose, and can't resist the urge to have sexual intercourse with her. She becomes pregnant and has a child, all while remaining asleep. But her infant bites upon his mother's finger, mistaking it for a breast, causing the flax chip from the spindle to fall out and the young lady to awaken.

In another version, Gimbattista Basile's 1634 story "The Sun, the Moon and Talia," it's a king who impregnates the sleeping maiden, who gives birth to twins. When his queen finds out, she sends her cook to get the children, to kill and cook them, and serve them to her wayward husband as punishment. Fortunately, the cook can't bring himself to do it and serves lamb instead.

Author's Note: 10 Fairy Tales That Were Way Darker Than You Realized as a Kid

Before I researched this article, I have to admit that I'd never actually read any fairy tales, and that I really didn't know much about them. As a young child growing up in the 1960s, I was always more interested in science-fiction stories about rocket ships, moon bases and robots than fairies, elves, magic mirrors and wicked stepmothers. What little I knew came from the parodies of them, such as the "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment on "Rocky and Bulwinkle."

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