In the upcoming Frozen, Disney Animation brings Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen to the big screen and with a little luck, Kristen Bell's Anna will join the ranks as the next big Disney princess. However, the likes of Snow White and Cinderella weren't always like their animated counterparts. The original tales that inspired these movies were of a different, darker breed.
By Jacob Hall
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sticks close to the original tale written by the Brothers Grimm...with a few notable gruesome exceptions. Like where the evil queen attempts to murder Snow White by lacing her bodice too tight and is forced to wear burning hot iron shoes and dance until she fell dead.
Dozens of variations on Cinderella's tale exist all over the world and all of them are weirder than Disney's take. The Greek version is told from the the POV of the king, who falls in love with a sandal an eagle drops on him. The Chinese riff finds our heroine befriending her mother--reincarnated as a fish. The German rendition features the wicked stepsisters brutally mutilating their own feet to fit in the glass slipper.
In the original tale of Aladdin (collected in The Arabian Nights), Princess Jasmine is such a lesser character she doesn't even have a name. While Aladdin goes on adventures and wins riches and deals with genies, the princess accidentally gives the magical lamp to the villain and gets kidnapped, setting up a climax where the manly hero comes to her rescue. Fans of the plucky, rebellious Disney Jasmine would be appalled.
The Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is similar to the Disney movie in basic structure, but that's about it. Our heroine does fall in love with a human prince, but the potion that gives her legs leaves her in extreme pain. The prince marries another woman, so Ariel considers murdering him with a magical knife that'll make her a mermaid again. It all ends with her attempting suicide, only to find herself transformed into an air spirit.
While Disney's Sleeping Beauty ends with the noble prince kissing the princess awake, the original tale goes to a strange place. The prince keeps their marriage (and eventual children) secret from his ogre mother, who attempts to eat her grandchildren when she learns of their existence. The prince rides to the rescue and his mother falls into a pit of snakes.
Tangled has nothing on the weirdness of the original French fairy tale. The prince's repeated visits to the long-haired princess' tower results in her getting knocked up with twins and him getting chucked into a pile of thorny bushes, blinding him and transforming him into a wandering beggar. Ultimately, they're reunited and live happily ever after, but it's one crazy journey.
Beauty and the Beast
The biggest change is that there is no smarmy suitor after Belle. In place of Gaston, Belle has a few sisters who become jealous of her relationship with the beast and attempt to sabotage their burgeoning love. This is the rare case where Disney didn't have to tone down the material -- they had to do the opposite.
The ancient Chinese poem The Ballad of Mulan served as a loose inspiration for Mulan and we mean loose. Sure, it's still about a young girl who dresses up as a man to take her father's place in the army, but the animated version is definitely a bit more Hollywood. In the original story, Mulan serves in the army for over a decade and her identity is only discovered by her comrades after she's retired, refused military honors and gone home. Ho-hum.
Although she did famously save Englishman John Smith from execution, the rest of Pocahantas' life wasn't so epic. A few years after encountering Smith, she was abducted and ransomed by English forces, where she developed a case of Stockholm Syndrome, converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, traveled to London with her new husband and promptly died at the age of 22.