All children love to hear a good fairy tale. The classics have been re-imagined over and over again for new generations to love. Fairy tales didn’t always start out so kid-friendly though. The Brothers Grimm started the genre with what they called folk tales. These folk tales were pretty gritty to begin with, starting with their first collection titled, “Children’s and Household Tales.”
The brother were of German descent. When they were about ten-years-old they lost their father to pneumonia. He was only 44-years-old. The ensuing years were difficult for the Grimm family who suffered extreme poverty with nine siblings to support. So their re-telling of folklore helped support their family when the Brothers were young adults. Some of their most famous tales are popularized stories such as “Cinderella” (“Aschenputtel”), “The Frog Prince” (“Der Froschkönig”), “Hansel and Gretel” (“Hänsel und Gretel”), “Rapunzel“, “Rumpelstiltskin” (“Rumpelstilzchen”), and “Snow White” (“Schneewittchen”).
Walt Disney took a special interest in these “fairy tales” later, turning many of them into beloved animated movies starting with “Snow White” in 1937. Fairy tale stories for kids have made Walt Disney’s theme parks, DisneyLand and DisneyWorld, what they are today. Here are some of the real stories of popular fairy tales for kids.
Fairy Tales For Kids: Cinderella
Cinderella or “The Little Glass Slipper” as it was also called, was the classic story of the “persecuted heroine.” You are drawn into Cinderella’s world because you feel sorry for her bad home situation. Her mother dies when Cinderella is a small child, about a year later her father remarries a woman with two daughters. The general story is that the stepmother and stepsisters abuse Cinderella. One day, Cinderella receives the gift of a Hazel tree trig and plants it over her mother’s grave. It grows into a beautiful tree that Cinderella prays to every day. There was a white bird who resided in the tree who eventually brought Cinderella a beautiful white dress and slippers to wear to the ball. She goes to the ball and meets the handsome prince, who vows to find her after Cinderella flees at midnight leaving behind her famous slipper.
The gruesome part of this tale is that when the prince comes to Cinderella’s house to have the three daughters try on the slipper, the stepmother advises her own two daughters to cut off their big toe and part of their heel respectively to accommodate the slipper. For obvious reasons, this particular story development is not in the Disney version of “Cinderella.” In the end, the prince figures out it’s Cinderella’s slipper, and he marries her. During the reception, doves fly down and peck out the stepsisters eyes. The modern versions don’t include such violent details, so they are a little more kid appropriate.
Fairy Tales For Kids: Snow White
Snow White has a few similarities to Cinderella. The evil queen hates her stepdaughter and wants her eliminated. The plot of Snow White is such that the evil queen hires a huntsman to bring her Snow White’s heart in a box. In the Brother’s Grimm version, the queen also tries to get Snow White to put on a corset so tight that she passes out from the lack of circulation.
The queen, thinking Snow White is dead, leaves her alone. She eventually meets up with the seven dwarfs who take her in, and she cooks and cleans for them to earn her keep. The queen learns that she is still alive. Somehow, she manages to make Snow White eat an apple that she has poisoned. At the very end, it’s not “love’s kiss” that awakens Snow White after eating the poisoned apple. In fact, the prince drops her coffin while planning her funeral, dislodging the stuck apple from her throat. Not quite as romantic as the Disney version!
Fairy Tales For Kids: Hansel and Gretel
This is a classic story of two children left on their own trying to survive out in the wild. In the Brothers Grimm version, it’s the evil stepmother again that sends the children away. The “evil stepmother” device is used over and over again in many classic fairy tales. So the children set out into the woods, but drop little white pebbles to find their way home. After spending the night in the woods, the next day they find their way home. The stepmother is dismayed to see them, so she banishes the two of them back to the woods. This time they take crumbs from a loaf of bread to leave a trail so they can find their way home.
After spending another cold lonely night in the wood they happen upon a small shack. The small shack seems to be made of bread, cakes, and sugary glass windows. The children are so hungry that they immediately begin eating the house. Soon, the woman who lives inside comes out and begs them to come inside for a better bite to eat. This old woman who feeds them is actually an evil witch who likes to lure little children to her house in order to consume them. She locks them up and tries to fatten them up. On the day that she had planned to eat them, Hansel tricks the old woman into climbing in the oven where she shuts and locks the door, killing her so they can make their escape. When the children finally make their way back home, their father is ecstatic to see them. Lucky for the children, their evil stepmother perishes from hunger.
Fairy Tales For Kids: Rapunzel
This is one of the classic fairy tales for kids that has been remade many times. Disney’s newest version came out in 2010 and was called “Tangled.” The old tales of this well known story say that Rapunzel was trapped in a tower at 12-years-old by a horrible old woman that stole her from her parents. One day, a prince comes by and hears Rapunzel singing to the birds. He falls for her and they plan her escape from the tower. However, before they can complete their plan, the evil woman cuts off all her hair. She also pushes the poor prince off the tower, causing him to fall into a thicket of thorns and become blind. Eventually, they are reunited. His tears cause his blindness to go away, and when he touches it, Rapunzel’s beautiful hair grows long again.
Whatever fairy tale you decide to tell your children, the Brothers Grimm versions might be a little much for some. There are many versions available that take out the more gruesome parts. The main point of the story will get across even without the violent aspects. Fairy tales are meant to enchant and teach children basic moral lessons, not scare them.
There are a few collections of fairy tale books for kids that will delight your little ones. A favorite is They will quickly become your child’s favorite bedtime stories.