Those Odd Fairy Tales

I remember my mother reading me fairy tales before bedtime. Many of the stories depicted handsome princes and beautiful damsels who would triumph over villains and then live happily ever after. But rereading the tales today, I am surprised at the graphic violence and the very odd behavior of some characters. Also many of the fables leave a lot of unanswered questions.

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And this was before the princesses became hipsters.

Here is a summary of a few of the oddest fairy tales:

In the fairy tale Rapunzel, a couple is expecting their first child. The wife craves a vegetable growing in the neighbor’s garden. So the husband sneaks in to steal some. Unfortunately he is caught by the neighbor who is an evil witch. The witch tells the frightened husband that he can have all of the vegetables he wants but the couple must give her their child when it is born. The man, who apparently wasn’t wearing his big boy pants, agrees.

The witch treated the girl, Rapunzel, well until she turned twelve. Then, for no apparent reason, she locks her in a room at the top of a tower. The tower had no stairs or door, just a window. When the witch wanted to see Rapunzel she would tell her to let her hair down and the witch would use it to climb up. I don’t mean to overthink this but human hair only grows six inches a year, so when Rapunzel was twelve her hair couldn’t have been more than six feet long. Couldn’t she have just climbed out of the tower? Also, there is no mention of how she bathed or went potty. Anyway, after a year or two, a handsome prince heard her singing and went to investigate. The prince then began to visit Rapunzel every day by climbing up her unwashed hair just as he had seen the witch do. It never occurred to anyone to bring a ladder.

When the witch found out, she banished the girl to a desert and caused the prince to go blind. The prince later runs into Rapunzel with the twins that she gave birth to in the desert. Upon seeing the prince, Rapunzel began to weep and her tears ran into the prince’s eyes and his sight returned. They, of course, lived happily ever after. Wait! TWINS? How did that happen in this children’s story? She and the prince weren’t married and she was only thirteen or fourteen. How old was this guy? And how did he know they were his kids? Many questions go unanswered in this tale.

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At least she knows now when THEIR life will begin.

In Hansel and Gretel a woodcutter hasn’t enough food to feed his family. So his wife, the children’s step-mother, tells him to take the kids deep into the forest and leave them (in the original fable it was the children’s mother that wanted to get rid of the kids. In later versions it was changed to a step-mother so as to be less disturbing to most children although it then became even creepier for step-children). The dad protests that animals will tear them to pieces. But he does it anyway thus giving up any chance of becoming father of the year.

Hansel and Gretel are then captured by a witch who plans to cook them and eat them. Fortunately, Gretel is able to push the witch into the stove where she “began to howl frightfully” and was “burned up miserably.” They then steal the witch’s jewels and somehow find their way home. Upon arriving home, instead of notifying Children’s Protective Services, they give their father the jewels even though he had just tried to kill them. This fable should be rated PG-13 as some material is not suitable for children.

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No wonder they ended up as witch hunters.

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a jealous queen decides to have her step-daughter killed because a mirror has told her that the girl is now lovelier than she is. But the assassin she hired warns Snow White of her step-mother’s murderous intentions. So the girl flees to a cabin where she meets the seven dwarfs who, to be politically correct, shall be referred to as little people. The little people, upon hearing of her plight, tell Snow White,” If you take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew, and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean, you can stay with us and you will want for nothing”, (except sleep). Maybe she should have taken her chances with the evil step-mother rather than work as an indentured servant for these guys.

Eventually her step-mother finds Snow White and poisons her. Fortunately a handsome prince finds Snow White and revives her. He also decides to immediately marry her. Courtships are short in fairy tales. The prince seems to have fallen in love with her based solely on her beauty. For all he knew she could have been the biggest bitch in the kingdom.

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It’s almost like it’s a Disney thing.

In the original fable, the step-mother attends the wedding where she is forced to wear red hot iron slippers and dance until she drops dead. It appears that Snow White wasn’t all that sweet and innocent.

In, The Princess and the Pea, a prince wants to marry a princess, but he and the old queen insist that she must be a “real” princess. So when a girl shows up at their castle claiming to be a princess, the queen has her sleep on top of twenty mattresses under which she has placed a pea. The next morning the girl complains that she slept horribly because she had been lying on something hard. So the prince decides that she must be a real princess and marries her.

What was he thinking? He just married the biggest complainer in the kingdom. Can you imagine the tongue lashing he would get if he left his dirty sword and shield on the kitchen table? He would never hear the end of it. And I’m sure that he would never stop hearing things like, “You’re always off with your friends on some stupid crusade instead of spending time with your children”. You just know he was NOT going to live happily ever after.

I’m not sure why parents felt that reading these fairy tales to their children at bedtime would help them fall asleep. It seems like they were more apt to scare them to death especially if they had a step-mom. Children with step-mothers must have slept with one eye open after being read these fables.

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Fortunately, modern cartoons offer appropriate entertainment for children.

John Wade, a frequent contributor to Unhinged Magazine, is a retired Chief Financial Officer who lives in Wildwood, Missouri.

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published with permission of the author