Earliest recorded versions of popular Fairy Tales (I)

Earliest recorded versions of popular Fairy Tales

It is a commonly known fact that the first original versions of fairy tales were usually quite disturbing and gore. They have been ‘cleansed’ throughout the years, especially after being adapted for animation by Walt Disney.

As I explained in a previous post, fairy tales or folk tales, were originally transmitted orally by talented story tellers in an attempt to entertain the common people and help spread its thoughts and frustrations. Hence as they were passed from one story teller to the next, their content got changed more or less drastically throughout the past centuries.

So here are some of the changed features I have found from famous fairy tales we all know and love! It is interesting to note that many of these usually unknown elements have direct connections to the beliefs and traditions of primitive societies, hence original folk tales.

Snow White

Shocking revelations of Sneewittchen (Little Snow White) in the 1812 edition of the tales of the brothers Grimm: a queen wishes for a child which she delivers later, but then becomes jealous of her beauty and decides to kill her. The shocking notion of infanticide is then amended in the edition of 1819 where it is suggested that Snow White’s mother died in childbirth and that the king remarried. Another taboo subject of snow white is the queen eating what she believes is the liver and lungs of the princess. It comes from the idea that what you eat makes you what you are in ancient beliefs, hence the queen believes this act will make her as beautiful as snow white. Many other elements of the 1812 edition include: the bodice lacing and the poisonous comb (both are the queen’s efforts to kill snow white but each time, the dwarves arrive in time to either untie the bodice or discard the comb from snow white’s hair). As well as the piece of apple which lodges itself into the princess’s throat: when the prince finds her, he decides to take her with him and during the journey his clumsy servant stumbles and thumps Snow White on the back, effectively dislodging the apple. (Disney’s version has Snow White as a commoner rather than royalty so that her triumph at the end is won by merit rather than privilege, the dwarves are hard working and prosperous miners who demonstrate the effectiveness of the capitalist system).


A gore feature from the Grimm’s tale is the queen’s punishment. When she attends Snow White’s wedding, she is not killed but rather forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until she drops dead. The brothers Grimm also mention that the young princess is only seven years old at the beginning of the story and although it is not said how much time has passed during her unfortunate adventures, it seems highly likely that the heroin is incredibly young when the prince finds her.

The tale really is about the dangers of vanity. In the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman, it is interesting to note that the filmmakers decided to keep the idea that eating the princess’s heart will procure the queen with eternal youth and beauty. Although she obviously does not get the heart, her intentions of eating it were clearly stated. And I strongly believe this detail is quite important to the whole story; although it is a form of cannibalism, it corresponds to ancient beliefs and it seems logical that the queen would want the heart to consume it.


Peitzman. L., 2013. 6 fairy tales and their dark adaptations. Buzzfeed [online blog], 25th January. Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/fairy-tales-and-their-dark-adaptations [Accessed 2013]

Temple.E., 2012. The Disturbing Origins of 10 Famous Fairy Tales. Flavorwire. [online blog]. 8th November. Available at: http://flavorwire.com/344667/the-disturbing-origins-of-10-famous-fairy-tales [accessed 16th April 2014]


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