Everybody vaguely remembers the nursery rhymes and fairy tales from childhood. But it wasn’t until I began retelling these stories to my own children that I really realized how messed up these stories and songs really are.
I’m not talking about the “Disney-fied” happily-ever-after versions. There are no talking mice or dress making sparrows in the original texts. Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers (Jacob and Wilhelm) Grimm were some dark individuals.
Remember at the end of Cinderella when the stepsister’s foot wouldn’t fit inside the glass slipper so she cut off her toes so that it would? No? How about that part where after Cinderella’s wedding to the prince, doves swooped in and pecked out the eyes of the stepsisters?
Like I said, dark.
Remember Alouette? It goes: “Alouette, gentille alouette, alouette je te plumerai.” Well, two years of French in high school may not have taught me much, but I did learn enough to know that “Alouette” is French for “Lark” and “je te plumerai” means “I will pluck your feathers.” The chorus then goes on to name what body parts they should pluck first, traditionally starting with the poor bird’s head.
Peter, Peter Pumpkin-Eater put his wife in a pumpkin shell. I’m not even sure how that works, but it doesn’t sound good. Rock-a-bye baby’s lyrics talk about a baby (along with the cradle) falling out of a tree and Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague. The plague!
In Snow White, the witch was killed by being forced to dance at the Prince’s wedding while wearing red-hot iron shoes, Rumpelstiltskin tears himself in two after being denied the princess’ first-born child. Let’s just say that in the original, the prince didn’t just kiss Sleeping Beauty. Consent was apparently a grey area back then …
Even if we go a bit more modern, stories are always being reshaped for the current generation. Back when I heard Disney was planning an animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I remember feeling very confused.
They know Victor Hugo wrote that, right? You know, the guy who wrote Les Mis? How is this possibly going to get a happy ending? Well, it turns out happy endings are totally easy to give, provided you ignore the source material entirely.
Instead of Phoebus marrying Esmeralda with Quasimodo’s blessing, Frollo hangs Esmeralda. Quasimodo does manage to kill Frollo but then starves to death by refusing to leave Esmeralda’s discarded body.
When The Little Mermaid traded her fins for feet, it wasn’t just her voice she gave up — walking was excruciatingly painful. To make matters worse, if the prince married someone else, she would die and turn into sea foam. Spoiler alert: the prince married someone else.
The Sea Witch then gives her a dagger and tells her that if she stabs and kills the prince — and drips his blood onto her feet — she could return to the sea. But yeah, that didn’t work out so well either.
Will I still read these stories to my kids now having realized how twisted some of them really are? Sure. Why not? In the end, they’re just stories.
Except Sleeping Beauty. Because that one is really, really messed up.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.