Original Fairytale Endings Disney Didn’t Tell You About
Original fairytale endings can date as far back as the 10th century, which is a lot to consider seeing the amount of backlash from people saying live-action adaptation of fairytales should stay faithful to the original. Consider, The Little Mermaid has been trending lately because of the controversial casting of African-American singer and actress Halle Bailey as Ariel, who has pale skin and red hair. Some argue that the live-action adaptation must stay faithful to the original story, citing that Ariel comes from Denmark and that the story was written by a Danish author.
Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but, everybody knows that when it comes to fairytales, there is no such thing as “canon.”
The truth is, Disney has been changing characters, backstories, and endings since the 1920s to cater to new generations of viewers. Think the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is not going to be faithful to the original? Wait till you hear what the original story is really like.
The Disney version of “Sleeping Beauty” can be summed up in a sentence: a princess is cursed to sleep until she is awakened by a true love’s kiss. In reality, it is just one of the original fairytale endings that Disney decided was too disturbing for children, so they rewrote it.
The original version of the tale, written in 1934 by Italian author Giambattista Basile, is a lot more complicated. No, scratch that—it’s just horrible.
In Basile’s original fairytale ending, Sleeping Beauty is found already sleeping in an abandoned castle, not by a prince but a king, who proceeds to have sex with her while she was unconscious. In other words, he raped her, thought nothing of it, and returned to his wife, Maleficent.
Nine months later, Sleeping Beauty gives birth to a boy and a girl, all while still sleeping. Meanwhile, two fairies caring for the twins attempt to make them breastfeed from their sleeping mom, but the twins suck on her fingers instead. The twins suck the poison from their mom, and she finally awakens from her sleep. One day, the king returns to the abandoned castle and finds Sleeping Beauty awake, caring for the children. He tells her what had taken place and—surprise— they fall in love. Yikes!
The 2014 film version of Maleficent is already pretty dark by Disney standards, but the original tale was far more gruesome. In the Disney version, it was Maleficent who cursed the spindle that puts Princess Aurora to sleep. In Basile’s version, she was a married to the king, who happened to be a rapist. When Maleficent finds out about her husband’s infidelity, she tricks Sleeping Beauty into sending her children to her… and orders them to be cooked and fed to the king!
Fortunately, the cook felt for the children, hid them, and made lamb instead. Maleficent watched the king eat the dish, thinking it was Sleeping Beauty’s twins. Not satisfied, Maleficent also captured Sleeping Beauty and was about to throw her into the fire. Sleeping Beauty stalls by stripping naked, one article of clothing at a time—go figure. Eventually, the king catches Maleficent and orders the guards to burn her instead. The king finds out the children are still alive, marries Sleeping Beauty, and they live happily ever after.
Little Red Riding Hood
This has one of the more gruesome original fairytale endings ever written. In 1922, Disney came out with a short cartoon version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” based on a folktale that had been passed on from generation to generation, dating as far back as the 10th century. A story this old would naturally already have several permutations. In the original version, Red’s mother bakes donuts for her to bring to her sick grandmother. On the way, she runs into a wolf and she tells him where she is going. The wolf suggests she pick flowers for her grandma—this gives the wolf time to beat her to her grandma’s house, eat the grandmother, and wear her clothes.
When Red arrives at her grandmother’s house, the wolf eats her, too. In one of the more notable later versions written by Angela Carter and titled “The Company of Wolves,” the wolf is a werewolf who, disguised as a hunter, goes after a newly menstruating Red Riding Hood. The wolf eats the grandmother and is about eat Red Riding Hood as well, but instead, is seduced by the adolescent and ends up sleeping with her.
Beauty and the Beast
It’s a tale as old as time, originating from 17th century France. The original story of Beauty and the Beast was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, about a young prince who lost his father, and whose mother, having had to go to war to defend their kingdom, left him in the care of an evil fairy.
When the boy became an adult, the evil fairy tried to seduce him. When he refused, she turned him into a beast. That’s his sob story.
Fast forward to when he traps Belle in his castle—it seems he hasn’t learned a thing about love and free will. In this version, the Beast is also cursed with stupidity. Belle feels sorry for the Beast and ends up marrying him because she feels she owes him for giving her a life of luxury and has grown fond of him.
The Little Mermaid
This well-loved Disney tale was inspired by a Danish fairytale written by Hans Christian Andersen. First published in 1873, the original story was about a mermaid who saves a prince from drowning. She falls in love with him, but there is a catch: she lives under the sea and he is human.
It’s a long-distance relationship doomed to fail, but a Sea Witch offers a solution: a potion that would give the mermaid human legs in exchange for her tongue and beautiful voice. She drinks the potion, knowing that she would never be able to return to her home in the sea, and that she would only get a human soul if the prince falls in love and marries her.
If he marries someone else, she will die of a broken heart and turn into sea foam at dawn. She meets the prince and they start hanging out—but he is arranged to be married to someone else. The prince is married but, before dawn comes, the mermaid’s sisters bring her a knife from the Sea Witch. “Kill the prince, be free of the curse, and return to ocean life!” the sisters say. She, however, cannot do it, so she throws herself into the sea instead.
In its original fairytale ending, the Little Mermaid dissolves into sea foam and ascends into the atmosphere, where she is given a chance to earn a soul by doing good deeds for 300 years.