Fairy Tales -- The Quentin Tarantino Version....Kathryn Smith!

Fairy Tales. They’ve become stories for children — fodder for Disney and Dreamworks and all manner of media designed for the under ten set. I have to smile when I read articles talking about the ‘sexing up’ of these stories, or when books are marketed as ‘adult’ fairy tales. I smile because the authors of these stories, like Lila, know that fairy tales were originally adult stories — a lot sexier and darker than a singing lobster.

Here are a few examples: In Rapunzel, the prince visited the girl in the tower several times, and the evil witch never found out until Rapunzel complained of her clothes getting too tight. In this version, the witch — realizing her prisoner is pregnant — calls her a slut. In Sleeping Beauty, the prince did a lot more than kiss the princess to wake her up. In fact, in some versions she wakes up pregnant. Snow White’s wicked queen wanted the girl’s heart and innards (cut out by our once heroic, but now relegated to henchman, Huntsman) to put in a pie and eat. Makes me think of those old legends of ingesting a person to take their power. In this case, her youthful beauty.

Most of us are familiar with Cinderella and how in older versions the step sisters cut off bits of their feet in order to fit the slipper. That was the version my mother told me. Did you know that in those old stories, birds came and plucked the eyes out of the sisters and their mother at Cinderella’s wedding to Prince Charming? Makes you look at the Disney version a little differently, doesn’t it? Those singing cartoon birds suddenly seem Hitchcockian. It makes me wonder what really happened between Red Ridinghood and the Big Bad Wolf.

Cannibalism. Murder. Rape. Suicide. The original stories contained at least one, if not several of these themes, which the Grimm boys and their contemporaries toned down for child-friendly consumption. Think of them as the Tipper Gore of their day. Children were eaten. Lovers committed suicide over lost love, and throats were slit and bones ground to make bread with alarming frequency. I think of these original stories as the precursor to soap operas. There might have been a bit of a moral lesson, but these stories were mostly for entertainment, and dare I say it, titillation. There were about the darker side of humanity, and most of them were kept and passed on by women, which makes me wonder if gruesome tales like The Robber Bridegroom, in which a young girl is gotten drunk and then hacked to bits, isn’t the equivalent cautionary tale to what we tell young girls who walk home alone at night — only with more cannibalism.

QUESTION:  So what are some of your favorite ‘fairy tales from the darkside’?

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Great to have you at the PRINCESS BLOG PARTY, Kathryn! :)  I love your post—and you are absolutely right!  Fairy tales were originally written for adults and were definitely dark and in many cases twisted! 

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  • Those fairy tales were “grim” in more ways than one : 0

    “Hansel and Gretel is a fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm. The story follows a young brother and sister who discover a house of candy and cake in the forest and a cannibalistic witch.(Wikipedia)”

    That horrid hag of a wicked witch gave new meaning to “keep the homefires burning”! Moral of this story: When you stumble across a cottage made of candy…what seems too good to be true…could end up being the end of you!

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  • I always liked Rapunzel, and I was amazed at how many people didn’t know the original–that she was found out because she was pregnant! Somehow I don’t think Disney’s Tangled is going to go that route…

    Another one is Rumplestiltskin (sp?). She offers up her first-born, for goodness’ sake!

    Snow White and Rose Red, where an evil dwarf is killed…

    Oh, I could go on and on. *grin* I actually do a lot of research on fairy tales and myths for story inspiration. I even updated Hansel and Gretel to make it more, um, NC-17 (and ditched the part where they’re siblings–they’re only neighbors in my version).

    I enjoyed this post a lot! Thanks, Kathryn!

  • Ok well, call me naive or VERY naive but I didn’t know any of this. Seriously. She woke up pregnant?

    Colour me stupid but I guess I now know why so many fairytales seem to be centred around beds!

  • I have a copy of Grimm’s Grimmest — a fab book, if not a little slim. And have books on the many original fairy tale versions. Some of them were really dark!

    Keep the comments coming — I love hearing this stuff. And NC17 Hansel and Gretel? Oh dear. That oven’s not the only thing that’s hot. lol.

  • In Little Red Riding Hood didn’t the wolf actually eat Red and then the hunter chop him open to get her back out? That’s the story I remember which is pretty gruesome.

  • In theoriginal Sleeping beauty the young woman is put to sleep because of a prophesy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince which wakes her up: the king seeing her asleep, and rather fancying having a bit, rapes her. After nine months she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep). One of the children sucks her finger which removes the piece of flax which was keeping her asleep. She wakes up to find herself raped and the mother of two kids. No wonder Disney didn’t show that!

  • Hi Kathryn! My all-time favorite is Into the Woods. Fun and inspired!

  • Wow, I never knew all of these fairy tales were so dark. I feel so deprived now. The Sleeping Beauty story is crazy! Wow, just wow. I really need to catch up on my fairy tales. The only one I was aware of was Snow White. I’ve read and seen many movies versions of it so I knew that one was dark. I just never realized they all were. Hmm…
    Kathryn I just wanted to stop by and say I absolutely love each and every one of your books. Everytime one comes out I devour it in one sitting. I can never put them down. I was estactic that I was able to meet you at the RWA in Orlando since you are one of my absolute fav authors. In fact, I was able to meet Lila too because she was chatting with you at the signing. Thanks Lila for having Kathryn on the blog today!

  • I feel bad for the witch in Rapunzel. Who hasn’t thought about locking their teen daughters in an inaccessible tower? And after all that, the stupid girl gets herself pregnant by the first boy who could climb. So, the morale of the story is, warn your daughters about smarmy boys with rope-climbing skills instead of locking the girls up because it’ll still go wrong somehow.

    Another character I felt sorry for is Rumpelstiltskin. The miller is the worst father in literature – he tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold thus insuring her death. Does he not love his own daughter? What is his problem? Rumpelstiltskin, out of the goodness of his heart (because he doesn’t even have to stop the first time and how much gold can be changed from the little ring that she gives him anyway?), not only does he spin but gives the woman a chance to save the kid by guessing his name and for his trouble he gets to die. Stupid miller, stupid king…

    The story I read as a child that gave me nightmares was The Goose Girl, what with the talking horse’s head and the disloyal servant’s punishment (put into a barrel lined with nails and dragged through the streets until she’s dead). I’ve long known that fairy tales were not for children.

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  • Carina

    Hi Kathryn, interesting blog entry. I admit, although I was aware of the Brothers Grimm, I knew little of the history behind some of our most beloved fairytales. I was curious so I googled it and was fascinated by the fact that in the original The Frog Prince, the spoiled princess actually threw the frog against the wall in digust.
    I actually favor the tame and romantic versions and just adore Lila’s sensual and erotic spin on fairytales.

  • I always thought Little Red Riding Hood was pretty gruesome. I mean, Granny gets eaten whole and then the woodsman slices the wolf open to get her out!

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  • Hi Kathryn!
    I’ve actually read Be Mine Tonight and it was fantastic! I think my favorite fairytale from the darkside would have to be Beauty and the Beast. I actually like my fairytales with a darker edge to them. Makes things more interesting.


  • I didn’t know all these things about the fairy tales either. One of my favorites was Little Red Riding Hood. I love your book cover. It really stands out with the blue backround and the woman having bright red lips.
    Sue B

  • Hi Kathryn & Lila! So glad I didn’t get back too late to read the blog and to comment. I read Be Mine Tonight – loved it! My favourite dark fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast – but I do prefer the ‘lighter’ more romantic versions.:) Carolyn

  • The only one I can think of is Little Red Riding Hood where poor little granny get’s eaten and the hunter chops up the wolf. I’m thinking the three little pigs version I was told and after the house get’s blown down, the pig get’s eaten. After reading all these posts, I have a big question mark floating around in my head. I am sure I’ve read the older fairytales, but the tales have been lost over the years to Disney ones and recent fairytale books put out. Now that my daughter is old enough to listen to stories I need to brush up on some of these :)


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  • Victoria

    Guess I lived in “leave it to beaver” land. Didn’t really know a dark side of fairy tales, but I do like the dark side. Very interesting. Kathryn, the book sounds great–gotta read it.

  • Hi Kathryn and Lila,
    I knew there were the Grimm tales and were considered very dark but never knew all that I’m reading here. But I love Beauty and The Beast. I’m amazed about Sleeping Beauty when she wakes up having been raped and the mom of two.Love the sound of your book and look forward to reading it.Thanks for the post.
    Carol L.

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  • I like Repunzel, but I’ve never heard that version of Sleeping Beauty. I, also, like the Goose Girl, who talks to her horses decapitated head.

  • The one I can think of is Little Red Riding Hood. I always thought it was kind of creepy.

  • One tale that doesn’t to be as well known that’s my favorite is the Seven Swans – a sister and her brothers, a curse, she has to knit capes to break the curse out of nettles before a certain time. She didn’t quite finish the last cape and the last brother will forever have a swan’s wing.


    (I can’t remember if I mentioned that I am a follower)