"Their horrific origins, which often involve rape, incest, torture, cannibalism and other hideous occurrences, are brimming with sophisticated and brutal morality."
Definitions of what exactly fairy tales are, are as diverse as the tales themselves.
Regardless of their origin or definition, many, including Maurice Sendak, Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Tolkien insist that fairy tales aren't inherently for children, although modern versions are often tweaked and relegated to them.
proviso: if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away."
These tales (and others long lost) were told or enacted dramatically and handed down from generation to generation. Because of this, the history of their development is somewhat obscured. Scholars believe these tales have ancient roots, even older than the Arabian Nights collection (compiled circa 1500 AD). The first famous Western fairy tales, however, are believed to have been told by Aesop (6th century BCE) in ancient Greece. Most of our modern fairy tales come from two sources: Charles Perrault's Mother Goose tales and from The Grimm Brothers.
A French poet, Charles Perrault, believed by many to be the father of fairy tales, gave legitimacy to eight well known tales (Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, Puss in Boots, The Fairies, Cinderella, Ricky with the Tuft, and Little Tom Thumb) in his fairy stories for children, Contes de ma mère l’oye (1697; Tales of Mother Goose). Perrault's tales, were intended for adults because no children's literature existed at that time. Blue Beard, for example, reads like a crime thriller. His original Cinderella, based on a true story, contains violence as well as the wicked stepsisters butcher their feet when attempting to fit the slipper the Prince had found.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm attempted to preserve the plot and characters of the tales as well as the style in which they were told. In the early 1800's Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected the often unforgiving life and stories told by central Europeans. They were determined to preserve the Germanic oral story telling that was vanishing and so traveled and collected the folklore of that region.
So here are some of the true stories behind some of our favorite fairy tales. For more, please see The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales (by Valerie Ogden posted at huffingtonpost.com November 5, 2014) and The Weird Truths Behind Fairy Tales by K. Thor Jensen:
Truths behind the story:
- Margarete had pale white skin and raven black hair, and lived with a jealous stepmother.
- The physical labor of the mining left many children deformed, and they were frequently referred to as dwarfs.
- The poison apple was offered by an old man who tainted fruits to the workers and other children because he believed they stole from him.
- Margarete's stepmother sent her to the Brussels court to get rid of her.
- Prince Philip II of Spain fell in love with her. His father, opposing their romance dispatched Spanish agents who poisoned her
|Little Jack Horner Poster by The Poster Corp|
The Pied Piper of Hamelin truths:
|Postcard found at wikipedia|
- In 1264 (some say 1284) a pied piper offered to rid the Germanic village of Hamelin of its rats.
- The elders refused to pay him for his efforts and so he enticed the village children to follow him. They never returned.
- Some believe the Piper led Hamelin's children to join the Children's Crusade leaving for the Holy Land where they perished at sea or starved to death.
|Illustration by Edmund Dulac|
- She was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt where she was noticed by the Pharaoh, Ahmose II.
- As a slave there was a festival she could not attend, but the god Horus, in the shape of a falcon, steals one of her slippers and drops it into the Pharaoh's lap. When he searches for its owner, he falls in love with Rhodopis.
Little Red Riding Hood was believed to have been first told in 14th century Europe. When Perrault rewrote this tale he was serving in the court of King Louis XIV whose bisexual brother Philippe would often dress as an older woman and attend female-only salons to seduce young women.
|Hansel and Gretel image found at lol-rofl.com|
Rapunzel - is the story of Saint Barbara and dates back to the third century. A wealthy merchant living in what is now Turkey had a beautiful daughter named Barbara whom he sequestered from suitors. When he traveled, he locked her in a tower. While it is uncertain if she grew long hair, she did turn to Christianity, which went against the pagan Rome. Upon his return, her father was ordered to behead her, which he did, but was then struck and killed by lightening.
For more information, please visit:
- The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales by Valerie Ogden posted at huffingtonpost.com November 5, 2014
- The Weird Truths Behind Fairy Tales by K. Thor Jensen
- Fractured Fairy Tales: Fun for All Ages, All Readers, and Common Core Standards
- J.R.R. Tolkien on Fairy Tales, Language, and Why There's no Such Thing as Writing "For Children" by Mary Popova
- Once Upon a Time: The lure of the fairy tale by The New Yorker, July 23, 2012
- Perrault Fairy Tales
- The Gruesome Origins of 5 Popular Fairy Tales by Stuart Layt posted February 28, 2008 at cracked.com
So much for the gruesome origins.
For a lighter side, please visit Fractured Fairy Tales: Fun for All Ages
In the meantime, please leave you own reflections and fairy tale favorites in the comments below.
As always, thank you for stopping by.