1. The Little Mermaid
In the original Hans Christian Andersen tale the little mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch, but it has some nasty conditions. Instead of giving up her ability to speak she has her tongue cut out, her new legs make her feel like she’s walking on sharp knives, and, if that wasn’t bad enough, if the prince doesn’t agree to marry her she dies and turns into sea foam. Uh, no thanks Ursula, there’s other fish in the sea.
The Disney Cinderella sticks to the original plot line for the most part. Except that when the prince comes round with the glass slipper, Cinderella’s step sisters cut their toes off so their feet will fit. Oh, and you know those birds that help Cinderella to get ready for the ball? They pick her stepsisters’ eyes out. Karma.
So Pocahontas was real, and she had a tough life. She was only a child when she met John Smith, and whether of not she interfered in his execution is unknown. But we do know she was captured by the colonists, possible raped, married off to an Englishman and forced to convert to Christianity. She was brought to England, and on her way back to America she fell ill and died, aged 22.
4. Snow White
So, in the Brother’s Grimm version the evil queen has no idea Snow White survived the poison apple scare. She happily attends the wedding of the young prince where she finds out Snow White’s alive, and she’s made to wear red hot shoes and dance til she dies.
5. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo’s novel is tragic compared to the story we know. Esmerelda is framed for attempted murder, Quasimodo rescues her, but then Frollo captures her again and kills her. The Quasimodo won’t leave Esmerelda’s body so he too dies of starvation. Yikes.
Aladdin draws from the classics Ali Baba and 1001 Arabian Nights. In Ali Baba, Cassim (who’s Aladdin’s father in the Disney version) is quartered – because, in those days, dismembering people was the sure way to know they’d died. No trouble though, Ali Baba just takes his body to a tailor and has him sewn back together.
Frozen is partly based on The Snow Queen, another Hans Christen Andersen tale. A little boy in kidnapped by the Snow Queen who kisses him twice, making him numb to the cold and he forgets about his family. Years later his friend comes to rescue him, summer returns to the land, and the boy learns an important lesson about stranger danger.
In the original Rapunzel the prince is blind, and he’s wandering through the forest alone. He hears Rapunzel’s voice, who, by the way, has given birth to twins since she’s been in the tower. They find each other, and Rapunzel restores the prince’s eyesight with her tears.
In one original Hercules tale his stepmother drives him mad and he ends up murdering his own children. In another he rips his own skin off and lights himself on fire. There’s a happy ending though – he ascends to Olympus as an immortal.
10. The Fox and the Hound
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in the original, Copper and Tod grow up, but they aren’t friends anymore. Copper hunts Tod til Tod dies of exhaustion, then Copper’s owner shoots him because he’s moving to a nursing home. Nasty.
11. Beauty and the Beast
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In the original the Beast treats Belle like a queen, even though he’s still technically holding her captive. She’s allowed to return home for a day and her sisters get jealous of all the gifts the Beast has given her. They try to delay her return to the Beast so hopefully he gets mad and kills her. It’s sibling rivalry at its most brutal.
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Originally, Pinocchio was suffocated to death by a mutilated cat, turned into a donkey and drowned and swallowed by a whale. He makes it out alive though.
As if it wasn’t already traumatic enough, Bambi goes on an existential quest in the original, and sees death. Lots of death. She realises that everyone has their place in the world and no one can escape… you guessed it… death.
14. The Sword in the Stone
So Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and becomes a great king. But then his wife cheats on him with his best friend and he dies on a battlefield. Not so nice.
15. Sleeping Beauty
This is the worst. The king rapes Sleeping Beauty and she gives birth to his children while still comatose. She wakes up, he explains the whole thing, and she’s cool with it. The queen isn’t though, and she tries to kill Sleeping Beauty’s kids and feed them to the king. The king executes his wife and gets with Sleeping Beauty and they live happily ever after.