Disney adaptations of fairy tales always end with a “happily-ever-after”. But these fairy tales didn’t always have happy stories. Some fairy tales that were made into popular Disney movies, have dark beginnings and darker ends.
Here we list 5 such Disney movies that were based on fairy tales that had real stories ranging from sad to depressing to gruesome.
1. The Little Mermaid –
Disney’s Little Mermaid is about a mermaid, Ariel who falls in love with a prince she sees on the land. She goes to Ursula, the evil witch to exchange her lovely voice for a pair of legs, under condition that the Prince must kiss her within three days. After a lot of trials, and quite a bit of meddling on the part of Ursula, the Prince and Ariel are united and happily married.
The real story, of course, is nothing like this. The mermaid is given a chance to marry the Prince in exchange for her voice. However, if she fails to woo the Prince, she will turn into sea foam, which is what eventually happens.
2. Tangled –
Disney’s Tangled, based on the story Rapunzel, found in a collection of German Fairy tales assembled by Brothers Grimm, is about a beautiful girl with long golden hair, who is locked away in a tower by Dame Gothel, the evil witch. In the Disney version, Rapunzel finds her Prince in the form of a thief who helps her escape and they live happily ever after.
The real story, however, is far more sinister, with Dame Gothel finding out about the Prince who visits Rapunzel in the night, banishing Rapunzel to the desert, and turning the Prince blind by pushing him into a thorn bush where his eyes are pricked by the thorns. The Prince wanders for many years before stumbling into the desert where Rapunzel now lives. They are re-united, and Rapunzel’s tears cure the Prince’s blindness. A happy ending, but only after both of them have been through a lot of trauma.
3. Peter Pan –
One of the most beloved characters in fairy tales, Peter Pan is a mischievous boy who never grows up, and spends his never-ending childhood in Neverland, along with his gang of Lost Boys, having adventures with pirates, fairies and the like. The movie shows a mutual attraction between Peter and Wendy, and ends happily with the Darlings adopting the Lost Boys.
The real story is different, with Peter being unable to love anyone, and the Lost Boys being “thinned out”, which might indicate a more sinister outcome.
4. Pocahontas –
The Disney Pocahontas is a highly fictionalized version of the real story of Pocahontas, the Native American princess who saved the life of an Englishman, John Smith, held captive by her father. In the Disney movie, Pocahontas successfully helps in establishing peace between the warring Natives and Englishmen, allowing the English to leave in peace.
In the real story Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom. During captivity, she converted to Christianity and took on a new name – Rebecca, and (unlike the film) when she was given a chance to return to her people, she chose to remain with the English. She married tobacco planter John Rolfe and was presented to the English society as an example of the “civilized savage”.
- Also Read New-Age Versions of Classic Fairy Tales
Snow White is driven out of her palace by her jealous and evil step-mother, who orders her to be killed. Snow White takes refuge in the forest where she befriends seven dwarfs. The evil Queen finds out about her being alive and, under disguise, tries to kill her with a poisoned apple. Snow White falls into a deep sleep, from which she is awakened by a kiss from Prince Charming. They both go away to Prince Charming’s kingdom where they live happily ever after. Disney’s version of this story is indeed what fairy tales are made of.
The real story has a more gruesome ending, where, when the evil Queen arrives for Snow White and Prince Charming’s wedding, Snow White punishes her by forcing her to wear hot iron shoes and making her dance until she dies.
For more such dark stories behind Disney movies, watch this video.
(Image credits: Disney)