Fairy tales become such a big part of our childhood, from bedtime stories, to our games, and the countless Disney princess film that become a part of our everyday existence from a time before we can remember. As parents, many of us groan or offer a friend a supportive and sympathetic nod when someone utters the phrase, “My kid is going through a princess phase”.
Thankfully Disney and other purveyors of children’s entertainment have upped their games in terms of quality princesses who are also heroes that can inspire our children even though, let’s face it, they clearly still have some work to do. Princesses are becoming braver, stronger, and more human, but most still possess many stereotypical feminine and unrealistic body images.
Think some of the storylines behind the most popular princesses seem outdated? Most people don’t know exactly how much editing was completed in the wonderful world of Walt Disney. Many plotlines and entire premises are far darker, and more macabre than you could ever imagine, better fit for the plotlines of a Hollywood Horror than what is produced for the viewing pleasure of young and impressionable children. These are the dirty and dark secrets that were covered up by Disney, because some of these princesses and their original stories aren’t so innocent.
15 Sleeping Beauty Is Pregnant And Alone
The real story of Sleeping Beauty is more like an unfortunate after school special about consent than the romantic version involving a spinning wheel, fairies, and a dragon slaying prince. In the 1634 story written by Giambattista Basile the prince can’t wake up the princess who is in a deep sleep caused by some sort of enchanted flax splinter in her finger. So, like any good old guy he decides to rape her and then hits the road back into the arms of his wife. Beauty slumbers soundly, completely unaware that she’s pregnant, with twins, and doesn’t wake up until after she gives birth and one of her children sucks on her finger. Later the prince’s wife tries to murder Aurora and her children, but her father, the king, being such a stand-up guy, intervenes and lets Aurora marry the man who raped her in her sleep.
14 The Little Mermaid's Broken Heart
While the ending of the Disney version of The Little Mermaid is bitter-sweet when Ariel leaves her ocean friends to be with Prince Eric, it’s nothing compared to the cruel fate that other versions of the story give her. In one version, when the prince falls in love with someone else the mermaid may live and become a mermaid again if she kills the prince and lets his blood fall onto her feet. When she can’t do it, she throws herself into the sea, dies, and then turns into nothing more than sea foam. Why did the prince fall in love with someone else? Because the fine print of her arrangement to temporarily become human involved constant pain in her feet like she was walking on knives. Moral of the story – always read your contracts in detail.
13 Snow White Has Wedding Revenge
Disney hasn’t been the kindest to stepmothers, often portraying them as vain, gold digging sociopaths, but the princesses are shown as sweet, kind, and often naïve counterparts to this dynamic. Many original versions of fairy tales shown have a far crueller comeuppance planned for those who wrong the fair princess, that are a lot more tortuous than their quick and dirty cartoon deaths with the camera cutting away. In the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White the witch doesn’t die under a rock, as Walt Disney would have you believe, instead she is punished for trying to kill the fairest in the land. The evil stepmother is sentenced to dance in heated iron shoes at Snow White’s wedding, that is until she faints from the pain and then dies.
12 Elsa Was A... Dude?
This story is very different than its remake. First off, The Snow Queen is not a misunderstood hero like the Elsa we’ve all come to know and love, she’s pretty much a villain. In the original version, siblings Kai and Gerda were BFFs, that is until a piece of enchanted mirror gets lodged into his eye and heart making him only see the negative in everything and everyone. That winter he tied his sled to the Snow Queen’s carriage and vanished. His sister Gerda was convinced he was still alive and went searching for him, eventually finds him almost frozen, and is able to free him with her tears, that melt his frozen heart. So basically the characters we know from Disney are an amalgamation of a number of characters from the original story, except for Hans, who was added in by Disney so we all have someone to hate.
11 Cinderella's Army Of Birds
Cinderella as we know her is sweet and kind. Both humans and animals love her, but in the Charles Perrault version of the story good Ol’ Cinderelly uses her influence over animals like some sort of black magic to put forward a path of revenge against all of those who have crossed her. In the original story, the stepsisters will do anything to fit into the glass slipper, in fact one of them cuts off a toe and the other the back of her heel to better fit into the signature shoe. Cinderella gets even by having her bird friends peck out their eyes for their misdoing, during her wedding reception, as some sort of twisted entertainment. Oh, and Cinderella gets the last laugh on her evil stepmother - she murders her by breaking her neck when she slams it in a chest.
10 Pocahontas Dies At 22
Pocahontas isn’t a made up person, she was for real and had a terrible life that is nothing like the one filled with song and romance as Disney would lead you to believe. Her real name was Matoaka, although she is also called Pocahontas, and she was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, living in the area that is now Virginia. When the natives took Jon Smith, who had no romantic tie to Matoaka, she saved his life, but the story between the two of them ends there. Matoaka herself was later taken for ransom by American settlers. She was eventually let go, and at the age of 17 she married an Englishman. She died at just 22 years old, although no one can confirm what caused her untimely death.
9 Rapunzel's Booty Call Gone Bad
In the original Grimm Brothers story, parents exchange their daughter’s future to a witch for some Rapunzel plant for a salad (now that’s commitment to healthy living). The witch comes back for Rapunzel when she is 12 and locks her in a tower with no doors, just a window. When a passing prince hears her singing, he climbs her hair and they make arrangements to hook up later that night. When he comes back for Rapunzel he finds the witch there, who pushes the prince out the window and he falls on some thorns that blind him. When he hears Rapunzel’s voice after months of roaming around blind he finds her, and her two children, and her magic tears give him back his vision. They live happily ever after, but we’re guessing this is because it was in a time before paternity testing.
8 Belle Is Not Fit For A Beast
It isn’t just in real life that a meddling mother-in-law believes that the person her son has chosen to be his partner is good enough for her child. It also happens in fairy tales. In the original story of Beauty and The Beast, Belle agrees to marry the beast, but he remains a beast for a little while longer. The beast later transforms while the two sleep, and the very next day Belle wakes up beside the man of her dreams. Later, the prince’s mother comes for a visit with a fairy in order to thank Belle for freeing her son, but makes sure that she makes her disappointment known about Belle being a simple merchant’s daughter and not of a higher class, and that she will never be good enough for her little boy.
7 The Frozen Tragedy
There is an interesting fan theory that connects tragedy in three Disney films together: The Little Mermaid, Tangled, and Frozen. Remember that shipwreck in The Little Mermaid? The one where Ariel saves Prince Eric? Some believe that this ship is the same disaster that orphaned Anna and Elsa in Frozen, and that the king and queen of Arendale were on route to Rapunzel and Eugene’s wedding when they met their demise. The king and queen never specify where they are going, just that they’ll be gone for two weeks. To add fuel to this theory, there is an Easter egg in Frozen that places Eugene and Rapunzel (post-hair cut) in Arendale for Elsa’s inauguration day, three years later, and almost exactly three years after the release of Disney’s film Tangled.
6 Princess & The Burnt Frog
Many people are scratching their heads about how such a smart, hardworking princess like Tianna ended up falling for her lazy, entitled “prince”. While she does educate him on some values that he’s otherwise lacking throughout the Disney flick, she doesn’t quite give him the tough love that he deserves or gets in previous renditions of the story. In earlier versions of The Frog Prince Naveen’s curse is broken with a little more force than we’re used to. His curse is only broken when his fair princess throws him against a wall with all of her might, in other interpretations he’s decapitated or his skin is burned instead of a kiss. We’re guessing this was a little too violent for the kiddie population.
5 Hercules Ended Meg
The original version of this story, based on Greek Mythology, has more twists and turns than most dramatic Soap Operas. Hercules comes into existence because Zeus has tricked Hercules’ mom into hooking up with him. Hercules is quite the violent person, not the jovial person Disney shows. As a child he murders his music tutor with a small harp known as a lyre, and that’s just the beginning of his murderous and violence fuelled life. Herc marries Megara, the daughter of the King of Thebes, but there is no happily ever after, since he goes mad and kills all of their children and Meg. He then goes on to marry three other women, all while enjoying many male friends with benefits. Hercules completes the same 12 tasks as he does in the film thanks to some murder guilt, but with an intense violence that Disney would never show.
4 Belle Has Evil & Jealous Sisters
In Disney, Belle is an only child and a book worm, whose mother died a long time ago. In the original story penned by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve after Belle is captured and discovers that the beast is a pretty solid fella underneath his rough around the edges appearance she convinces the Beast to let her go on a vacation to visit her sisters for a few days. When Belle’s sisters see her dripping with diamonds and get sick of hearing her talking about her life in the lap of luxury at the Beast’s castle, they talk Belle into staying with them longer. They hope that Belle delays her promised return to the castle, it will infuriate the beast and lead him to viciously murder Belle. That’s some serious mean girl behaviour. No wonder Disney sacked the sisters in their version of the story.
3 Mulan's Family & Gender Reveal Drama Is Made Up
Mulan is much more awesome and capable than Disney leads you to believe. The original story is based on the Chinese poem The Ballad of Mulan and the hero is thought to have lived during the Northern Wei dynasty with her story first shared in the 6th century. It's further interpreted from there into the play The Heroine Mulan, which the Disney film is, very loosely, based upon. In the play Mulan grew up from childhood with her father teaching her to fight. In the play, although her parents wish she wasn’t going to war, they fully support her choice. There’s also a time warp going on in the movie, since in the play Mulan is at war for 12 years. Oh, and the big gender reveal. It’s done by Mulan’s choice once she returns from the war, and instead of hating on her, her fellow soldiers are pretty supportive.
2 Nala's Fate of Doom
This film has had skeptics from the get-go. Some say that the film is a complete plagiarism of a Japanese cartoon, Kimba, The White Lion. Disney says the movie is loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. The only issue with this claim is that essentially everyone ends up dead at the end of Hamlet, including Simba (Hamlet) who dies from stab wounds from a poisoned blade. Nala represents the character of Ophelia who struggles between her role as an obedient daughter and between her romantic love, Hamlet (Simba). When Ophelia lies to Hamlet the dilemma she faces makes her go mad. Disney decided to spare everyone’s lives for their finale, making sure that these two star-crossed lovers made it through okay, and only the bad guys had a Shakespearean finale.
1 Merida Doing The Time Warp
Merida represents a Disney princess who explores the very complicated mother-daughter relationship, particularly during adolescence. While the story itself has Merida as a capable archer, the Disney version has taken a number of liberties that has historians scratching their heads. Male characters are shown wearing body paint, which would place the events in the late Iron Age, while the display of higher status women wearing coifs and wimples would place the story in the 14th or 15th century. As for the strength of Merida, that could be accurate, although there isn’t very much known about Medieval Scottish women. It’s believed that women appeared on battlements to help defend their land as far back as the 1330s. The whole bit about the bears, a lot less believable, since bears are believed to have become extinct in Scotland during prehistoric times.