So we're talking about fairy tales this week. Back in the day, before the interwebs or television or even printed reading matter, people still told stories for entertainment. But the tales told to children were also meant to impart the rules of civilized society. Parents essentially created ‘fairy stories’ to teach their kids that most golden of golden rules – Don’t Be A D*ck.
Modern versions of these fairy tales have been sanitized in the hope of ‘sparing children’ the morbid nature of the originals. But the truth is, in their attempts to make these stories ‘acceptable’ for children, a lot of the time, folks have actually made them far more screwed up than the originals.
So, here’s my Top 5 Fairy Tales with their original endings, the lessons they were originally trying to impart, and the newly ‘sanitized’ moral.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Goldilocks finds a house in the woods. She breaks in, ruins the furniture, eats the food and then, being a particularly resourceful burglar, decides to have a quick nap. The house belongs to three bears, who come home, discover the thief and get understandably upset. In the modern version, Goldilocks wakes up and flees out the window. In the original? She gets nom-nom’ed by the bears.
New moral: Breaking and entering is totes cool; just make sure you have a decent escape route planned if the owners come home early.
Original moral: Don’t break into people’s houses or you’ll be eaten by frackin’ bears.
The Pied Piper – The town of Hamlin is plagued by rats. A minstrel with mad skillz rolls up to the mayor and says “I can deal with your rat problem in exchange for hard currency, chief.” Mayor says “I am totally down with that.” The piper busts out the pipes, and leads the rat horde to a nearby river where they all drown. The piper rolls back to the mayor and says “Pay up, big man.” Mayor says “Lol n00b, you already killed all the rats, we don’t need to pay you jack.” Piper says “Aight, if that’s the game you wanna play, playa.” The Piper busts out the pipes again, but entrances the village children instead. In the modern version, he seals them inside a cave until the mayor agrees to pony up the agreed sum. The piper then returns the kids. In the original? The piper leads the kids to the river, just like he did with the rats, and lets them all drown. BAM. (except for one little boy, who was lame and couldn’t keep up)
New moral: Don’t pay your contractors until they’ve conducted punitive action.
Original moral: Pay what you owe or the kids get it (and sometimes, being physically challenged ain’t so bad)
Little Red Riding Hood – A girl is on her way to her Granny’s. She stops to ask directions from a wolf. Like you do. In the original version, the wolf sends her on a roundabout journey, runs to Granny’s house, eats Granny, dresses in her nighty, then eats Red when she arrives. BUT!!! A kindly woodsman happens along, chops the beastie open with his trusty axe and pulls out Granny and Red whole and hale from his belly. In the original version? Red stops to asks the wolf directions and the wolf straight up eats her. No Granny. No woodsman. Just one fat happy carnivore and a very dead little girl.
New moral: Be as stupid as you like – there will always be a man with an axe around to save you. Oh, and also, being devoured by wolves is totally non-fatal.
Original moral: Don’t talk to strangers.
The Little Mermaid – A mermaid falls in love with a handsome Prince. In the Disney version, Arial goes through many trials and tentacled tribulations, finally becoming human and marrying the man of her dreams (who she doesn’t even know). In the original? She falls hopelessly in love, watches the Prince marry a human Princess and, offered the choice between murdering the Prince or suicide, she ends herself in despair.
New moral: Changing everything you are and giving up everyone you know to attain the affections of a dude you don’t even know is perfectly okay, especially if he’s rich.
Original moral: Wishing too hard for something you can never have will destroy you.
Sleeping Beauty – A beautiful princess is cursed to sleep forever by an evil witch. In the original, a handsome prince happens along and spies the beautiful girl fast asleep, kisses her lips and wakes her up. They live happily ever after, and it never occurs to Sleeping Beauty to front her man about his habit of molesting sleeping women he finds while out on his Sunday rides. In the original? The handsome prince, not being content with simple smooches, stone cold rapes her. Nine months later, she gives birth (still asleep) and one her babies suckling on her finger breaks the curse. She wakes up to find herself the violated mum of two kids. Presumably a big ‘WTF’ moment in her life.
New moral: Just lie back and snooze, my dear. The Prince will be along to violate/rescue you momentarily.
Original moral: I have NO IDEA what this one was trying to say. Don’t fall asleep around royalty?
So which versions teach better lessons? The original dark a depressing ones? Or the newly sanitized ones?
Jay Kristoff is the author of STORMDANCER, a dystopian fantasy set in steampunk feudal Japan, out in Spring 2012 through St Martin's Press & Tor UK.