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The Truth About Fairy Tales

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Mar 10, 2011 | 7:44am EST

Red Riding HoodWe all need fairy tales. We read them or watched them as children and they serve as little idealistic beacons of hope once we reach adulthood. Then there are those who worry that all this exposure to happily ever after can warp our brains and leave us unprepared for the harsh reality that life has to offer. It's where that harsh reality meets fairy tales that we find these terrifying adaptations of things we'd only ever seen attached to happy little rosy-cheeked children and idyllic forest scenes like this month's Red Riding Hood. Red takes the story of a little girl with her basket and cape who narrowly escapes the big bad wolf and gives her out-of-control hormones and swaths the story in blood and death. It makes sense though; the story is about a wolf that eats the girl's granny at its core. That got us thinking. Some of the fairy tales that we regard as pristine and innocent are actually pretty brutal at heart. In fact, these five tales are vicious in their original forms. Here's how these stories could take a turn for the dark and dastardly if told the way they were written originally.

The Little Mermaid

"If she can't have him, no one can."

The Little MermaidWhat you think you know: Ariel surrenders her beautiful singing voice so that she may walk on land with her love, Prince Eric, but the sea witch beats her to the altar forcing the princess to break up the wedding before the sun sets and she returns to mermaid form. She bests the sea witch and marries Eric and they live happily ever after.

The ugly truth:

The Little Mermaid is given legs, but it feels like she's walking on daggers whenever she uses them.

He's just not that into her. The Prince marries a princess he was betrothed to, not the sea witch in disguise, and the Little Mermaid is left single and heartbroken.

The real consequence is that she'll turn into sea foam without the Prince's love, so her sisters give up their hair to bring her a special knife from the sea witch. If she brutally murders him with the knife, spilling his blood on her human legs, she gets to return to the sea as a mermaid.

Luckily for the Prince, she can't do it, so she returns to the sea as sea foam and lives the rest of days as a spirit of the air. Yeah, that's just as good as marrying a freaking Prince. Right.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

"The fairest one gets the last laugh."

Snow WhiteWhat you think you know: The young princess sparks jealousy in her stepmother, the queen, who sends a huntsman to kill her and bring back her heart in a box. The huntsman sees her beauty, lets her live, and allows her to escape to the dwarfs' house. The famous magic mirror betrays that Snow White lives and the queen tricks her into eating a poison apple, pushing her into death-like sleep. The Prince finds her, kisses her, breaks the spell and they live happily ever after.

The ugly truth:

The evil queen actually prepares and EATS the deer's heart the huntsman brings her, thinking that she is eating Snow White's heart. Evil and gross.

The Prince's kiss doesn't actually save Snow White, simple physics does. When the dwarfs are carrying her coffin, they stumble, bumping her body around and dislodging the piece of apple stuck in her throat and ta-da! She's alive again. No romance required.

Snow White's not as sweet and perfect as we've been led to believe. When she weds the Prince, they force the queen into an excruciating punishment: she must don a pair of heated iron shoes and dance in them until she is dead. How's that for the fairest of them all?

Cinderella

"Life may be hell but she's not gonna take it anymore."

CinderellaWhat you think you know: Cinderella is forced into a life of endless chores when her father dies and she's left to her stepmother's care. When her fairy godmother casts a spell, she gets the chance to meet the prince, they fall in love and she runs away leaving her glass slipper behind. He searches the kingdom for her, finds her and marries her. Aww.

The ugly truth:

The step sisters are so desperate to beat the prince's glass slipper system that they actually cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the shoe so that they may marry the prince in her place. Talk about DESPERATE.

Like Snow White's evil queen, the step sisters face a sinister fate. As they attempt to deceive the prince, two pigeons peck out their eyes and they live the rest of their days blind and begging while Cinderella sits in the lap of luxury. That's what happens when you're bitchy...apparently.

Sleeping Beauty

"She went to sleep and woke up in a nightmare."

Sleeping BeautyWhat you think you know: The beautiful princess Aurora (all of the people adorah) is cursed by Maleficent when she's born, forcing her parents to put her into hiding in the forest. The sorceress finds her anyway and lures her to the spindle where she pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep until her prince finds her, kisses her, brings her back to life and marries her.

The ugly truth:

In earlier versions of the tale, it was not the prince's kiss that woke Sleeping Beauty. Instead, she was raped while sleeping, bearing two children, one of whom sucks the poisoned splinter out of her hand, waking her. Wake up, your life is awful.

Other earlier versions have Sleeping Beauty again bearing two children -- this time legitimately -- but when the prince leaves his ogre mother (yes, OGRE) attempts to eat the two children and Sleeping Beauty. I guess you can't really complain about your mother-in-law anymore.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

"It may just be the last mistake she'll ever make"

GoldilocksWhat you think you know: Goldilocks happens upon the three bears' home where she eats all of their porridge and sits in all of their chairs, then takes a nap in their beds. The good-natured bears are miffed when they come back to find her in their house, and she's so scared that she runs away and never trespasses again. Lesson learned.

The ugly truth:

Originally, Goldilocks wasn't an adorable little blonde girl. She was a vagrant old hag. Now there's really no way to feel sorry for her breaking and entering and using all the nice bears' things.While some tales have the girl or woman escaping and vowing to never trespass again, more gruesome versions have her jumping out the window and snapping her neck, getting impaled on a church steeple, and getting sent to a correctional facility. All that for some lousy porridge and a place to nap? Sounds like a high price for minimal comfort if you ask me.

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