Grimm’s Fairytales turn 204: Disney vs the gruesome Grimm Brothers’ folklore


On the 20th of December 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a book of folklore and fairytales named Children’s and Household Tales, or in German, Kinder- und Hausmärche.

The researchers and linguists collated the often gruesome stories they published, from German tales and folklore passed down verbally through history. While the Grimm Brothers didn’t create the stories themselves, their historic research allowed epic narratives of wonder, awe, horror, and violence, to live on and be relished across the globe.

The Grimm Brothers published a total of 86 stories in their first volume, many of which have since been translated into light-and-fluffy Disney purified films.

In celebration of the Grimm Brothers’ 204th Birthday week, Bloomeration has put together a list of some of the major differences between the gruesome Grimm Brothers’ Folklore and the Disney film adaptations.

Major Changes between Grimm Brothers’ Folklore and their Disney Adaptations

Cinderella (Aschenputtel)

You mightn’t remember the Disney version of Cinderella featuring sliced off toes or eyeballs pecked from their sockets – that’s most likely because, for some bizarre reason, the family friendly company decided to leave that part of the fairytale out.

While Disney’s tale stayed true to the wickedness of Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, they did make a few drastic changes to the Grimm Brothers’ telling.

In the Disney version, Cinderella’s father is dead. This makes for far less horrifying circumstances than in the Grimm’s fairytale, where Cinderella’s father is alive but couldn’t care less about the way his daughter is treated. In fact, Cinderella’s father is so cruel in the Grimms Brothers’ story that he is quoted as telling the Prince, “There is only a deformed little Cinderella from my first wife, but she cannot possibly be the bride.”

While Disney’s Cinderella is granted wishes from a fairy godmother, Grimm’s Cinderella has her wishes granted in a more emotionally distressing way. Cinderella is given her every whim from a white bird that comes to her when she prays beside a Hazel tree. The Hazel tree grows over her mother’s grave and is watered with cinderella’s tears.

Believe it or not, while the Disney version has the stepsisters try on the glass slipper with no prevail, the Grimms tale goes a step or two further. The stepmother tells her two daughters that in order to increase their chances of the shoe fitting and in turn marrying the prince, they must deform themselves by cutting off parts of their feet. One daughter chops off her toes and the other slices down her heels. But, when a bird points out that it is rather unusual for feet to drip with blood, the prince catches on to their trickery.

While the Disney tale ends with a happy ever after – and minimal physical injury – once again the Grimm’s fairytale takes a darker turn.

Cinderella marries the prince and is treated to a lavish wedding, where her two annoying stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by birds. Ouch.

Rapunzel

Is it possible to have pregnancy cravings so intense that, as a result, your baby is snatched up by an evil enchantress? If you are in a Grimm’s fairytale, sure!

While Disney’s Rapunzel is messed up in its own right. (I mean, It is about a girl who is stolen by a witch in order to retain her youth.) Disney’s version is nothing compared to its predecessor, which includes gruesome imagery such as a Prince being thrown out of a tower window, face first into a bush thorns.

In the Grimm Brothers’ twisted retelling, a woman falls pregnant and has a ridiculously strong craving for a herb that, inconveniently, lies in the garden of an evil enchantress. In a bid to keep his wife happy, the woman’s husband steals from the enchantress’ forbidden gardens. However, it isn’t long before he is caught herb-handed.

To his surprise, the enchantress offers to provide the man’s wife with all the herbs she desires, at a price. They have to give their child to her on the day of its birth.

While most ‘normal’ people would refuse this insane offer, in his terror, Rapunzel’s father cowardly consents to give his daughter away.

In the Disney tale, Flynn Rider helps Rapunzel escape her tower of captivity, and together they blissfully sing and explore the kingdom the witch had taken away from her.

In the Grimm brothers’ retelling, a Prince hears Rapunzel’s alluring voice as she sings, and falls madly in love. The Enchantress becomes so enraged when she discovers the Prince has been climbing up the tower to see her captive, that she grabs Rapunzel’s golden hair and chops it off.

But the enchantress’ wrath doesn’t stop there. She abandons Rapunzel in the middle of a desert and tricks the Prince into climbing up Rapunzel’s chopped off hair and into the tower window. When the Prince makes his way to the top, he is flung from the tower and falls headfirst into a thorn bush. The sharp thorns pierce his eyes on impact, blinding him.

Believe it or not, the Grimm’s tale does, in fact, have a happy ending. The lost blind Prince staggers through the woods for quite some time before he comes across a desert where his love (and her two children) now reside. When the pair reunite, Rapunzel sobs in her Prince’s arms. Her tears magically cure her love of his blindness, and after a lifetime of turmoil Rapunzel, and her Prince live happily ever after.

Something tells me these folktales have on obsession with magical tears and painful eye injuries.

Little Snow-White 

I bet the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Snow White isn’t the devouring of internal organs or death from hot iron shoes. Disney’s Snow White may feature multiple murder attempts and a poisoned apple, but the Grimm’s telling once again takes the cake for the most messed-up story

In the Grimm Brothers’ story, Snow White is put on her evil stepmother’s hit list the moment a magic mirror decides that the young fair-skinned girl has surpassed her in beauty.

Having died during childbirth, Snow White’s mother has been replaced by a jealousy-ridden stepmother who, not only wants Snow White dead but also wants her lungs and her liver brought back to the palace so that they can be cooked and devoured.

When the stepmother’s hitman goes after his target, Snow Whites beauty takes him by surprise and causes him to take pity on the girl, who runs to safety. Instead of retrieving Snow White’s insides, the man brings back an animal’s internal organs, which, assuming they belong to the deceased Snow White, the evil stepmother consumes.

When she finds out that the hit-man has failed her, and that Snow White lives in a house amongst seven dwarves, she tries to murder her another three times. Despite a constant warning from the dwarves not to open the door, the daft girl just can’t help herself.

The first time Snow White opens her door to her disguised stepmother she is strangled with a Bodice and survives. The second time Snow White opens her door to her disguised stepmother she is poisoned by a comb, but yet again survives. Finally the third time, she opens the door and takes a bite from an apple offered to her by her, you guessed it, disguised stepmother, and falls into a death-like slumber. (I honestly think the first strangulation must have caused some damage to her brain.) 

While the Disney version sees Snow White saved with true love’s kiss by her crush the Prince, the Grimm Brothers’ version is a whole lot less romantic. Instead of meeting before her “death”, the prince comes across Snow White’s lifeless body after already being placed inside a glass coffin. He asks the seven dwarves if he can buy the coffin from them, but they refuse. He then pleads with the dwarfs to give him her coffin because he has…fallen in love with her (Ew), to which they feel pity for the bloke and oblige.

Instead of being brought back to life with true love’s first kiss, one of the Prince’s clumsy servants trips over a bush while holding Snow Whites coffin, and causes a piece of poisoned apple to dislodge from her throat, waking Snow White from her slumber.

Upon her waking, Snow White and the Prince announce their wedding. After forcing Snow White’s stepmother to wear burning hot iron shoes and dance in them until she dies, the pair live happily ever after.

Hansel and Grethel (Hänsel und Gretel)

You may remember the parents from Disney’s version of Hansel and Grethel and think, they weren’t that bad. Well, be prepared, because the parents from Grimm’s Hansel and Grethel retelling aren’t just bad, they are the literal worst.

In Disney’s adaptation of Hansel and Grethel, the stepmother gets mad her two stepchildren for letting a donkey into their house. As a punishment, she sends them out into the woods to fetch berries. Seems fair enough, right? Unfortunately, The children end up getting lost and try as they might they just can’t find their way back to their home. In Disney’s tame tale, the stepmother is so distraught when she realises the children have gone missing, that she can’t control her weeping.

In Grimm’s version of events, the family dynamic is a little different. The stepmother will do anything to rid herself of her husband’s two burden children, who are eating all of her food. While in bed, she tells her husband that she wishes to leave his children in the middle of the forest the next morning, as they are simply too poor to afford to feed them.

While the father does not agree with his second wife’s wishes and even voices his fear that his children might get mauled by wild animals, he puts aside his feelings and helps his second wife.

The pair force the children into the depths of the woods – leaving them there with a mere slab of bread.

When the children follow Hansel’s trail of pebbles back home, their father is overcome with relief, their stepmother, however, is furious. Once again the woman convinces her husband to drop his children off in the forest, this time even deeper so that have no chance of finding their way back.

In the Disney tale, when the children eventually free themselves from the evil cannibalistic witch who lures them to her home in the forest and tries to eat them, they are welcomed back by their parents with open arms.

In the Grimm Brothers’ version, the children’s nasty stepmother is no longer alive, which means their father is also free to welcome them home with open arms.

After the children come back with the witches’ riches and presumably undertake a lengthy therapy session, they and their father live happily ever after.

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