The Gruesome Origins of 5 Popular Fairy Tales

#2. Sleeping Beauty: Coma Sex

The Version You Know
Sleeping Beauty is the story of a young Princess who is cursed by an evil witch so that she will prick her finger on a spindle and die on her 15 birthday. The old woman does this because she wasn't invited to the party celebrating the girl's birth, where other good fairies/wise women are bestowing gifts upon her. Fortunately, one still hasn't given her a gift, and so tempers the curse--the Princess won't die, she'll just fall asleep for 100 years. We guess she did what she could, but still, a pretty major downer for the party.

Of course the King orders all spindles burned, plunging the kingdom into a fashion nightmare, but with the inevitability of fairy tale logic bearing down on her, the princess manages to find the one working spindle in the kingdom, and pricks her finger on her 15 birthday. She falls asleep for 100 years, until a dashing young Prince comes along in timely fashion and kisses her, breaking the spell. Everyone lives happily ever after.

What Got Changed
The first major departure in this from the version we know today is when the Princess pricks her finger on her 15 birthday. In earlier versions the Princess instead gets a piece of flax caught under her fingernail which pricks her and puts her to sleep. This might seem like a small difference but it becomes important when you consider the other major, and unsettling, change to the story.

Previous versions of the tale have the Prince who finds Sleeping Beauty think she's so damn beautiful he just goes ahead and has his way with her right then and there. Yes, while she's still comatose.

If that's not disturbing enough, the rohypnol-style coupling leads to a pregnancy, and the Princess gives birth to twins, all while asleep. One of the babies, seeking momma's milk, sucks on her finger and dislodges the flax, waking her, at which point we imagine she had a few questions.

#1. Cinderella: Mutilation, Sex, More Mutilation

The Version You Know
When they talk about "Fairy Tale Endings," they're almost certainly referring to this story. Or possibly some sort of football game. This is the dream of every little girl (and some little boys) that one day they too can rise up from the dirt and become a pretty pretty princess. You all know it; the step-mother and step-sisters who hate the beautiful Cinderella, and make her work all day, until one day a Fairy Godmother shows up and gives Cinderella pretty clothes and a pumpkin coach and sends her to the ball where she falls in love with the Prince.

But at the stroke of midnight it all ends, and she runs home, leaving only her glass slipper behind. The prince searches the land, finds Cinderella, the shoe fits, and they live happily ever after.

What Got Changed
This one goes way, way back, having been told across cultures for thousands of years before being made into numerous Hollywood movies. The identity of the Fairy Godmother changes often, and in fact she only showed up in Perrault's version, along with the pumpkin coach and the mice attendants which were all used in the Disney version. There's even a Chinese version of the story from around 850 AD, where "Yeh-Hsien" is given gold, pearls, dresses and food by a giant talking fish.

A famous difference in many versions of the story is the "glass slipper." Authorities on fairy tales (who you tend not to see at parties) disagree about whether Perrault's slipper was made of glass or fur, as the words in French (verre and vair respectively) are pronounced almost the same. It's kind of important, because if the Prince was wandering the land looking for a lady with the perfect "fur slipper" ... well, it doesn't take Freud to figure that one out, and suddenly the Prince doesn't look so noble.

One thing Perrault left out that the Grimm's delighted in putting back in was the violence. The sisters, desperate to fit into the slipper, mutilate their own feet, cutting off the toes and heels all described in exquisite Germanic detail. When the Prince eventually realizes Cinderella is the one for him, birds peck out the sisters' and mother's eyes for their wickedness.

You can probably understand why Disney went with Perrault's version for an adaptation.

Learn about the horrors behind some other stories you grew up with in The The 5 Creepiest Urban Legends (That Happen to be True) or, read famous pornography describer Mike Swaim's blow by blow account of a sex tape far more terrifying than anything contained in any tale or legend.

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