3 Grimms' Fairy Tales Too Twisted For Children

It's no secret that the beloved classic stories we listen to and movies we watch as children have morphed into the desensitized version they are today from something much more gruesome, more horrific, and blacker at its core.

And the Brothers Grimm, collectors of folk tales and fables in a time when they were much less family-friendly, remain to this day among the most-recognized names in the industry. We've seen countless of the Grimms' terrible deaths, gory fight scenes, and jaw-droppingly tragic stories turn into squishy cartoons with neat, bow-tied endings and true love's kiss. But are there any fairy tales collected in that long-ago time by the Brothers Grimm that are just too twisted to be morphed into something viewable by children? Let’s find out.

1. The Carnation

Alternatively titled The Pink, this story was published in the Grimm Brothers' first volume of stories. The tale starts out pretty routine, with a queen who prays for a child and an heir to the throne, and a magic boy whose wishes all come true. But it rapidly takes a turn for the strange.

First of all, it's almost uncomfortably religious: with direct mentions of God, the angels that grant the queen's wish for a son, and the queen even refusing to eat because she believes that God will "deliver her." The childrens' stories we see these days, while they might have religious undertones, are never so overt as to mention God or angels playing a direct role in the story.

Next we have the lack of motive, backstory, or anything about our main villain, the cook. He might want to kidnap the boy for his wishing power, but later seems extremely willing to kill him off later. That's strangely callous and most of the films we show our children have villains that have some sort of justification, no matter how twisted, for what they're doing.

Then there's the absolutely heartbreaking ending: the boy is reunited with his parents, but they both drop dead within days! And thus he's left with just his wife and his kingdom, which — while admittedly a better fortune than some get — just doesn't resound with the affirmation of a "happily ever after."

2. The King of the Golden Mountain

This story was published in the Grimm Brothers' second volume, and is actually pretty dark and creepy. First, we have a father who basically sells his child for money. Sure, it's an accident, but he doesn't even think of his son when making his deal with the evil dwarf (or devil, in some versions).

Then there's the fact that our hero lets strange men beat him up (and even chop off his head, in some versions) for three nights straight without saying a word or lifting a finger. He's just met a snake in a strange castle on an island that he's never encountered before, and just because she tells him she's an enchanted princess, he's willing to let thugs beat him up (and kill him!) just to break her spell? This, while surely a valiant and noble deed, is quite incongruous with the ordinary macho hero of the children's movies we're accustomed to seeing.

And after all that, even though our hero broke an enchantment to save the princess, she turns out to be an unfaithful and fickle wife who won't stay true to him just because he made a single mistake. It's clearly stated that his summoning her was completely by accident, and she's very willing to run away from him, with their child, and start a new life with one of many suitors. Definitely not the heroines we see in the modernized children's tales.

3. Godfather Death

Another story from Volume 1 of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, this story is certainly unusual from the start. Ordinarily, when a man seeks out a godfather for his son, he's not approached by either God or the Devil, let alone both of them. Once again we see some weird religious parallels here, and not easily substituted for simply good and bad fairies or demons, because the father has specific reasons for not letting either of them be the godfather to his child.

Then we have a protagonist, the 13th son, who becomes a physician through his familial connections: not exactly something common in fairy tales. His only skills as a healer come directly from Death, his chosen godfather, and using connections like that to become successful is essentially tricking people, and isn't really a common theme in modern children's movies.

After all that trickery for the majority of the physician's life, it's sort of fitting that he dies at the end of the story. But, seeing as there isn't really a foe for him to overcome, and the fact that our main character and protagonist is the only character (besides Death) whom we really follow throughout the whole story, it's odd that he should die at the end, and certainly not befitting of the more tame versions of children's tales to which we've grown accustomed today.

Even though these three stories seem pretty unequivocally inappropriate for children's movies, a lot of the original Grimm fairy tales were like this at their earliest. Even the ones we know in the form of Disney movies we watch as kids. So the bottom line is: Even though there'd be a lot of tweaking that needs to be done, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw one of these stories in theatres or on our home TVs in the future.

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Shivani Ishwar

Shivani is an amateur at many things, and a pro at very few. She's a journalism major at NYU, and has been writing about arts and entertainment for four years.

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