-Pushpamithra, I Year B.A. English
Almost all of us have grown up reading/ listening to fairy tales or watching Disney movies, and some of us still do. Disney gives us the “happily ever after” versions of these stories, but how many of us know the actual story?
Here’s a look at the truth behind these famous, much-loved stories:
Let’s start off with the least gruesome one. The story is the same as shown in the movie but they’ve retold the story to make it a happy one. In the real version, after the prince returns to his kingdom with snow white, they hold a wedding ceremony and snow white’s stepmother is invited. The queen went to attend the wedding without knowing that the bride was actually her step-daughter. When she arrived, she was shocked and snow white and the prince present her with red, hot iron slippers which she was made to wear and dance with, until she died.
Cinderella is a story that has so many variations that it’s hard to know which one is the original. The earliest one known is the story of Rhodopis about a greek slave girl who married the king of Egypt. The most popular, however, is the ‘Histoires ou contes du Temps Passe’ by Charles Perrault which was adapted into a movie. Here too, the story starts the same way. The mother dies, and the father marries a wicked stepmother who has cruel daughters. The only difference is that it is not a fairy godmother who helps Cinderella, but a few doves and other animals in her house. The twist to the story comes at the very end. The stepmother, who is so obsessed with gaining the throne, forces her other daughters to cut off their toes and heels in order to fit their feet into the glass slipper. Finally, during Cinderella’s and the Prince’s wedding, the doves peck her stepsisters’ eyes and made them blind. Not the happiest of endings, is it?
The Little Mermaid, written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, is a story about a young mermaid who had two wishes: to have a human soul and go to heaven (as mermaids do not have souls, they can live for hundreds of years and turn to foam when they die), and of course, marry her prince. The story starts the same way with her saving the prince but when she goes to the witch, she not only sacrifices her voice but also her tongue for the price of human legs which would feel like walking on knives and cause her incredible pain all the time. She was also given a condition that if the prince falls in love with anyone but her, she will die the day after their marriage. When she washes up ashore, the prince finds her and starts falling in love with her but suddenly some other princess appears to ruin it. The prince, believing that the princess was the person who saved him, marries her. At this point, the little mermaid’s older sister gets worried about her and gives her an enchanted silver knife which they got in exchange for their long, beautiful hair and tells her that if she pierces the prince’s heart with it and if his blood touches her legs, she’d get her tail back and would be able to get back to the sea. The little mermaid, reluctant to kill the person she loved, turned into sea foam and died. The only good part: she became an ethereal earthbound spirit, a daughter of the air for her selflessness. She was given a chance to obtain a human soul by doing good deeds for mankind for 300 years. Well, at least her wish to get a soul came true. (or did it? Let’s be honest: serving mankind for 300 years is too much)
Lastly, Beauty and the Beast! It was written by the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. In the original, the father has three sons and three daughters, and he loses all his wealth due to his ships sinking in the storm. He hears news that one of the ships survived so he goes to enquire after it. He asks his children what they want, when his youngest, Belle wishes for a rose. After this, the story is as we know it and ends the same way as Disney shows it. However, the original story doesn’t end there. Belle wanted her family to live in the castle and invited them. But her jealous sisters took this as an opportunity and killed her by drowning her. The witch who cursed the prince brought Belle back to life and cursed the sisters this time, turning them to stone and says that the only way to reverse it is when someone falls in love with their stone statues.
It’s quite evident why these fairytales were not told as bedtime stories to kids, after all. Maybe happy endings and love are all that’s needed for a ‘Happily Ever After’.