Miscellaneous Musings: Fairy Tales

Lately I’ve been thinking about fairy tales.

Some of them are lighthearted, while others aren’t stories that I’d necessarily share with young children because of how violent or disturbing they can be.

I started reading  modern fairy tales of them when I was about seven or eight. There was something magical about Cinderella dancing the night away at the ball or Ariel wishing that she could spend the rest of her life with the handsome human prince that she had saved from drowning. I loved the fact that the good characters always won in the end and the naughty ones would be made to pay for the suffering they had caused. There’s something quite satisfying about that.

After a year or two, I discovered the original versions of these stories and read as many of them as I could get my hands on. Some of them were much scarier than Disney had ever lead me to believe.

Cinderella’s stepsisters sliced off pieces of their feet into order to force them to fit into Cinderella’s tiny, glass slippers in the unsanitized version of her tale. The wicked stepmother also met a grisly end, although exactly how that happened changed from one culture’s version of it to the next.

The Little Mermaid’s original ending was also very different from the Disney film. Instead of living happily ever after with her prince, Ariel died after she refused to hurt him in order to get her mermaid tail back . Her body was turned into sea foam and her spirit was promised a permanent place in Heaven if she did good deeds for humanity for 300 years. As soon as I read that scene, I decided that Ariel must have succeeded in her final mission. There was no way I could imagine her spending hundreds of years looking after humans and not eventually being given some kind of reward for it.

While some of these stories definitely frightened me, I liked the fact that they were more realistic and unpredictable. Not everyone in real life is rewarded or punished for the things they do. Sometimes awful things happen to wonderful people, and sometimes lovely things happen to people who have caused a lot of pain in the world.

It was entertaining to read them and wonder if the main character and the prince would actually end up together once I realized that this wasn’t always how plots worked in the past.

These days I’m not fussy about what kinds of fairy tales I read. Sometimes I like the dark ones where a happy ending definitely is guaranteed to anyone. On other days, I’d much rather know in advance that everything will eventually work out beautifully before I start reading.

What are some of your favorite fairy tales? Would you rather read the dark, original versions or the retellings that usually give all of the main characters a happy ending?


  1. I’m not really a fairy tales kind of person. I read a lot of them as a young child but once I discovered the joys of Stephen King, fairy tales held little appeal. I never really thought about what the original stories that Disney used were like but those dark versions sound quite interesting.

    • Some of the original fairy tales honestly sound like what Stephen King would write if he was going to retell a story like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Based on what you wrote, I think you might like them a lot.

Speak Your Mind