Thursday, January 19, 2012

fairy tales

I have been enjoying a new TV show this year called "Once Upon A Time". The premise is: the evil queen (from Snow White) has put a curse on all fairytale characters and brought them from Fairytale Land (or wherever they lived) to our world (in Storybrooke, Maine) and none of them remember who they were. Snow White is an elementary school teacher, Jiminy Cricket is a psychiatrist, Red Riding Hood is a waitress at her Grandma's Bed and Breakfast diner, and the evil queen is mayor of the town.

Each week they focus on a different Storybrooke character and flashback to who they were and what their story was in Fairytale Land. Last week we saw Hansel and Gretel's story. And something was brought to mind that I never really focused on when I heard these stories as a kid. The blind witch with the candy house? She's a cannibal. Good lord, she wants to cook the kids in her oven and eat them. Why did this not give me nightmares as a kid?

It got me thinking about all fairy tales I heard when I was young. Almost all of them are actually quite disturbing. But either Disney made them G-rated and took the bad/scary stuff out, or it just didn't hit me how crazy the stories were. They're just stories and hey, I'm a kid! Let's go ride bikes!

Let's look at some famous fairytales and review the real story:

* The Little Mermaid - when she goes to get legs from the Sea Witch, not only does she give up her voice but she is told it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords. And if the prince doesn't marry her, she doesn't just turn back into a mermaid. She DIES. And guess what? The prince doesn't marry her. He ends up marrying someone else. But as a last chance to live, her sisters bring her a knife the Sea Witch gave them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid kills the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again and live. But because she still loves him, she cannot do it. As dawn breaks she throws herself into the sea and her body dissolves into foam. Um, WHAT?

* Sleeping Beauty - When Aurora (who originally had brown hair - suck it, Disney!) pricks her finger on the spindle and "dies", seven good fairies put everyone to sleep for 100 years. After a hundred years, a prince who had heard the story of the enchantment approaches the overgrown branches and thorns in front of her castle. And they just OPEN and make way for him! Really? No dragon to fight? And he doesn't even kiss her to wake her up. He trembles upon seeing her beauty and falls on his knees before her. She wakes up, followed by everyone in the castle who all continued where they had left off. Um, girlfriend was asleep for 100 years. She is at least 100 years older than the prince. Weiiiird. (P.S. The story continues where they get married and have two kids. The prince's mom is part-ogre and sends Aurora and her children into the forest and then tells her cook to kill them and prepare them for eating. What is WITH all this cannibalism?!)

* Rapunzel - Before I start, I must say that I love the movie Tangled. It's seriously in my top 10 even though it just came out a year and a half ago. The original story is a bit different. A prince hears Rapunzel sing in her tower and watches Dame Gothel climb her hair. When Gothel leaves, he asks Rapunzel to let down her hair which she does (skank?). He visits her every night and they eventually start sleeping together. Dame Gothel sees Rapunzel getting pregnant (even though Rapunzel doesn't know what's happening to her because she's been so sheltered) and cuts her hair and banishes her into the wilderness. Dame Gothel uses the hair to lure the prince up and then he freaks when he sees her and leaps from the tower and is blinded by the thorns below. Awesome.

* Cinderella - there's no fairy godmother in the original story. When the stepmother and step-sisters go to the ball, a white bird drops a silver gown and silk shoes to Cinderella outside. The ball is actually 3 nights and she goes every night. She keeps leaving before midnight and so the third night the prince has the entire stairway smeared with pitch. The third and last night, she loses a golden (not glass) shoe in the pitch as she runs down the stairs. Then it gets fun - when the prince goes around to find the owner of the shoe, one step-sister cuts off part of her heel so her foot would fit the slipper. The other step-sister cuts off a toe so she'll fit. *vomit* Obviously, it fits our girl Cinderella and at the wedding, doves from heaven fly down and strike the two stepsister's eyes, leaving them blind. Ack! Along with cannibalism, there seems to be a lot of blinding going on in these stories.

* Red Riding Hood - a talking wolf? Ahhh! I'd run. But RRH stops and chats with him like it's no big deal. He runs ahead and does the whole swallow-Grandma-whole-and-dress-like-her bit. He's so clever. RRH will never notice! And she doesn't at first. (Idiot.) But when she finally does, he eats her in one bite. Then along comes a hunter who cuts open the wolf and RRH and Granny emerge, living and unscathed. They fill the wolf's body with heavy stones. The wolf awakens (did he not wake up when he was, you know, CUT OPEN and two living people climbed out of him?!?) and tries to flee, but the stones cause him to collapse and die.

* Snow White - it goes something like this. The Evil Queen who can't stand the thought that Snow White is prettier than she is, calls a huntsman. "Hey, you! Burly dude! Take my step-daughter out to the woods and kill her. To prove to me she's dead, bring me her lungs and liver. I'm hungry and I want to eat them. Hop to it, boy!" He loves Snow and can't go through with it so he lets her go. He then brings the queen the lungs and the liver of a boar, which is prepared by the cook and eaten by the queen. (I'm seeing the pattern here)

The queen is so pissed when her magic mirror tells her S.W. is still alive. So she tries to kill Snow herself. Try #1 - she comes by the dwarves' house disguised as a peddler. She offers colorful laces and laces Snow White up so tight that she faints, causing the Queen to leave her dead on the floor. However, Snow White is revived by the dwarves when they loosen the laces. Try #2 - the Queen dresses as a different old woman and brushes Snow White's hair with a poisoned comb. Snow White again collapses, but again is saved by the dwarves. Try #3 (success!): the Queen makes a poisoned apple, and in the disguise of a farmer's wife, offers it to Snow White. When she is hesitant to accept it, the Queen cuts the apple in half, eats the white part and gives the poisoned red part to Snow White. Snow eats the apple and immediately falls into a "deep stupor". When the dwarves find her, they cannot revive her, and they place her in a glass coffin, assuming that she is dead.

A prince traveling through the land sees Snow White in her coffin. He instantly falls in love and begs the dwarves to let him have the coffin. The prince's servants carry the coffin away. While doing so, they stumble on some roots and the movement causes the piece of poisoned apple to dislodge from Snow White's throat, awakening her. Are you kidding me? All she needed to do was cough? Land sakes alive. No kiss required in this story either. Oh and here's the fun ending. The Evil Queen goes to Snow and Prince Charming's wedding and as punishment for what she tried to do, she's given a pair of heated iron shoes. They force her to step into them and dance until she drops dead.

I can't believe we read these stories to our kids.

Here's what we can learn about fairy tales:

* cannibalism was a popular pastime
* step-mothers are evil
* chicks can sleep and be dead at the same time
* it doesn't matter if you're a good guy or bad guy. You might be blind at the end of your story
* the Brothers Grimm were CAH-RAZY


. said...

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Stacy said...

Love the insight Sarah! Thanks for doing the research.