Fairytales and Happy Endings

I love happy endings. Well of course I do, I’m American. I have been told many times in Switzerland that is so typically American. All the fairytales I heard as a child always had happy endings, too. Obviously I’m not alone in my feelings, media caters heavily to people like me. So much, in fact, that I didn’t even know I was being catered to. I was shocked to find out that the fairytales I knew were a far cry from the original versions.

My favorites were by Disney. He retold and made animated fairytale films that exemplify what I mean. “Cinderella”, “Snow White”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Little Mermaid” to name a few. In fact, probably all of the Disney fairytales have been changed. Here are two examples that show what I am talking about.


I believe the original version by Charles Perrault and the Disney version run along similar lines. The right girl gets the prince in both versions. The Grimm brother’s version is somewhat disturbing. To get their foot to fit into the shoe, one of the stepsisters cuts off her toes and the other her heel. To make things worse, the prince doesn’t even notice the bloody feet and has to be told by two pigeons. The pigeons then take revenge to the next level. At the beginning of the wedding they peck out one eye of each sister. After the ceremony the other eye. My guess is that would be pretty distressing to witness something like that at a wedding (or anywhere, for that matter).

Disney conveniently leaves out what happens to the stepsisters and concentrates on the happy ending.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Another lovely story with happy, feel-good songs from Disney. Again, some nasty, dark stuff happening in the Grimm brother’s version. The wicked queen stepmother contracts a hunter to kill Snow White. As proof she is dead, she wants her lungs and liver. The hunter can’t kill her and brings back a boar’s lung and liver as proof of the deed. Believing they are from Snow White, the queen eats them! She finds out Snow White isn’t dead and continues to try and kill her.

She finally gets her on the third try with a poisoned apple. A prince comes by and talks the dwarfs into letting him take the sleeping woman. A very strange thing to do, but I guess true love has no boundaries. Anyway, while he and his men are carrying Snow White away, someone trips. The sleeping woman falls to the ground. The poisoned apple is dislodged from her throat. She wakes up, they fall in love and marry. Awww. Not really that bad, right?

This would be the perfect place to end the tale but not for the Grimm brothers. The queen can’t get away with all that meanness and not be punished! The wicked queen is invited to the wedding and actually shows up. She is then forced to put on burning-hot iron shoes and dance in them. That gives new meaning to dance until you drop.

Happy Endings

Very often these tales are told to children as bedtime stories. I’ll let you decide which ending you think more suitable to induce a peaceful sleep. “… and they lived happily ever after.” Or “Then they put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. She was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead.”

I think it’s pretty obvious which ending I prefer, but who am I to say? After all, these and most (if not all) of the fairytales I heard as a child where the watered-down, happy ending kind. I asked my husband if he and other Europeans were aware of the fairytale discrepancies. He said they were and they didn’t bother him. He said he could sleep better knowing the bad people got what they deserved. In the American versions the bad guys are still alive and lurching in the shadows.

Either way you look at it; sleep tight, sweet dreams…

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