When Disney turns an old fairy tale like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" into a movie, you can probably guess that they water down and dress up the original story to make it more friendly to modern audiences. What you may not realize is that stories like "Snow White" and "Beauty and the Beast" are actually ancient tales that have traveled across cultures and languages like a game of telephone. Or that along the way, the tellers put their own little twists on the tale.
Their insane, gut-wrenching, nightmarish twists.
#5. In Germany's "The Tortoise and the Hare," the Hare Dies Horribly
The Version You've Heard
In "The Tortoise and the Hare," which some of you may only know from one of its many cartoon adaptations, a humble tortoise and a pompous hare have a race. The tortoise is so slow that the hare decides to taunt him by showing off and fucking around for the entire race, but he ultimately gets too distracted by his own dickitry and ends up losing.
The moral of the story: A steady, diligent, hard worker beats a naturally talented asshole every time.
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But when the German authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm adapted the tale, they decided it should take a darker turn.
But in the German Version
First off, it's a hedgehog instead of a tortoise, and the pair agree that whoever wins the race gets a bottle of brandy and a gold coin. So right out of the gate, the writers decided that both of these woodland creatures needed to have reached the stage of alcoholism where they treat liquor as currency. SPOILER: All of this is going to culminate in the hare bleeding profusely from the neck. This is not a joke.
After the bet, the hedgehog runs home to his wife and dresses her up so that they look exactly alike, which says all sorts of things about their marriage, and then takes her with him down to the racetrack. Mrs. Hedgehog hides herself at the finish line, while her husband lines up on the starting point next to the hare. When the race starts, the hare easily dusts Mr. Hedgehog, but when Mrs. Hedgehog hears him approaching the finish line, she hops out and crosses it before him, presumably while asking what the hell took him so long.
Her love life had been good prep for lying about finishing.
Naturally, the hare's bullshit meter starts buzzing, so he insists that they run the race again. She heartily agrees (remember, Mr. Hedgehog is still back at the beginning of the course), and they restart the race from the finish line. The same trick works again, since when the hare rounds the track, there's his opponent apparently waiting for him. The hare demands that they race yet again, to the same result. And again. This process repeats itself more than 70 fucking times, until finally, on the 74th lap, a blood vessel bursts in the hare's throat and he collapses in the middle of the racetrack, gurgling out his last confused breaths as he drowns in his own blood:
"In the middle of the field, with blood flowing from his neck, he fell dead to the ground."
The real victims were the 327 kids he left behind.
So instead of "Slow and steady wins the race," the moral becomes "You can overcome any disadvantage with the magical power of lies!" Or maybe it's just "The best way to deal with arrogant bullies is to lure them into a forest under false pretenses and murder them."
#4. Russia's "Beauty and the Beast" Has a Suicidal Snake Monster
The Version You've Heard
You've probably seen the Disney movie: In Beauty and the Beast, a beautiful girl is held captive by a moody goat-horned werewolf lord, but is ultimately able to soften his stony heart and transform him back into a handsome prince. Love conquers all!
Love means never having to say you're sorry ...
for attacking someone's father, mental abuse, and imprisoning them against their will.
But in the Russian Version
In the Russian adaptation of the tale, called "The Enchanted Tsarevich," the prince is a three-headed winged snake demon, because if there's going to be a beast in this story, bitter Russian tradition demands that it be as bleak and horrific as the vodka-pickled depths of a Siberian winter. It starts when a merchant gets caught trespassing on the snake's land while picking a flower for his daughter, despite the fact that no part of that sentence makes any sense. The snake is furious, so the merchant agrees to send his daughter to live in the creature's magical castle, because what else could he do? He was trespassing.
Snakes take property lines very seriously.
The girl dutifully goes to live with Cobra Commander and finds that her every need is met. However, she is miserably lonely, because there's nobody else in the entire castle except for her and the snake, and snakes are notoriously bad hosts. To make matters worse, each night the snake monster gradually moves his bed closer to hers, like a vicious bonershark circling a capsized yacht.
Finally, the snake cuts the bullshit and slithers into her bed. The next morning, he allows her to go home to visit her family, but tells her that if she doesn't return to his castle by nightfall, he will kill himself. (Note to captors: This is not actually a good strategy for getting hostages to stay with you.)
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"It seemed like such a good idea at the time."
The girl stays out past the snake monster's deadline, but does in fact return, inexplicably. However, she finds that, true to his word, the snake has leaped to his doom. It's then that she kisses one of his dead heads (remember, he has three), and he magically transforms into a handsome prince.
"The Enchanted Tsarevich" seems to have been written to make young girls resign themselves to arranged marriages, under the guise that even the most horrible cold-blooded monster will become a prince if you just succumb to his sexual will. Also, threats of suicide are in fact a valid and genuine expression of love.
#3. Scottish Hansel and Gretel Make the Monster Murder His Own Family
The Version You've Heard
Hansel and Gretel are two young siblings who stumble upon a wondrous house made of gingerbread and candy. But inside the house is a flesh-eating witch who uses her gumdrop cottage to lure dumbass children to their doom. Hansel and Gretel manage to trick the witch into crawling into the oven, then slam it shut and roast her alive, because to be perfectly honest, she goddamn deserved it.
There are a bunch of stories like this, all probably variations of the same ancient tales of lost/curious children outsmarting and killing monsters ("Jack and the Beanstalk" is another one). These are already pretty gruesome stories -- cautionary tales warning kids about strangers without having to explain to them what pedophilia is. It's going to be hard to make this darker, considering it already involves a cannibalistic witch getting burned alive.
"I call dark meat."
But in the Scottish Version
In the Scottish tale "Molly Whuppie," a family decides that they have too many children and leave three of the daughters out in the middle of the woods to die. The three girls wander around until they discover a house where, instead of a witch, a family of ogres lives. The mother ogre tells them they are welcome to come in, but that her husband will be home soon and will probably kill them all if they stay. The three agree to roll the dice on Ogre Dad, even though the house is not made of candy. And here is where things take a turn for the traumatic.
You see, the ogres have three children of their own. Knowing that Ogre Dad is probably going to murder them in the night, the human girls trick the dad into thinking his own children are the visitors. That's right -- Ogre Dad slips into the room in the middle of the night and, due to the human girls' ploy, inadvertently strangles his own daughters to death like a shriekingly blood-hungry Shrek.
Considering how bad this franchise got, it would have been a mercy killing.
Are you picturing your mother reading this story to you at your bedside from a pop-up book? Anyway, now the human kids escape, which you will note they could have done before they sacrificed three innocent children, but Molly herself is recaptured by the ogre. And at this point, you know that you should be more worried for the ogre.
He asks his captive what kind of punishment she deserves, and she tells him to put her in a bag and beat her to death with the biggest stick he can find. Ignoring how oddly specific this is, he tosses her into a bag and leaves to find a girl-jellying club. While he's gone, Molly convinces the ogre's wife to get into the bag. When Ogre Dad returns with his giant murder stick, he bludgeons the bag into a soup rag, having once again been tricked into killing a loved one.
"We should try to keep this going. I heard he has a sister down the road."
Where the original stories all seem to be about stranger danger, this one seems to be teaching children that in dangerous situations, mass collateral damage is far better than retreat.