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CE teens perspective - Fairy Tales Now and Then

fairy tales picture

Apr 20, 2022

Fairy tales are DARK. Whether it be the story of Hansel and Gretel, the adventures of Little Red Riding Hood, or something else, the stories you know and love are nothing like the originals. Nowadays, authors and filmmakers are careful to keep stories light and digestible for young audiences, but children’s authors in the 1800s didn’t care about happy endings. If anything, the original fairy tales were written with the intention of scaring young children.

While modern-day stories are made to entertain, fairy tales were originally written to educate. The goal of the stories was to warn children about danger. While the stories we know and love nowadays still have a lesson of some kind, they are much more subtle than the originals.

To see this difference, let’s compare a modern-day interpretation of Cinderella, to the original, known as Aschenputtel, by the Brothers Grimm.

In the modern-day version of the story, a young woman named Cinderella lives with her stepmother and stepsisters. She is forced to do chores around the house and is treated much worse than is acceptable. When the Prince comes to town announcing a ball, Cinderella’s stepsisters (and stepmother) are desperate to get to the ball and meet the Prince. Cinderella wants to go to the ball as well, but her stepmother does not let her do so. Luckily, through the intervention of her fairy godmother, Cinderella is given fancy clothes and nice shoes, and is able to make it to the ball. She meets the Prince, and they fall in love. However, Cinderella is forced to leave the ball before midnight, abandoning the Prince. Her shoe was left behind.

Days later, the Prince sets out to find Cinderella. He travels through the kingdom, handing the shoes to every woman he finds, concluding that whoever fits the shoe must be Cinderella. After arriving at Cinderella’s house, her stepsisters try desperately to fit in the shoes, but, in the end, they fit only the feet of Cinderella, and the Prince falls in love with her once again. They get married and live happily ever after.

The story Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm follows a similar plot, until the end. In Aschenputtel, the stepsisters are so desperate to fit into the shoes that they ‘sculpt’ their feet. The shoes still don’t fit, and the stepsisters end up with cut up feet. Not fun. At the wedding of the Prince and Cinderella, the stepsisters’ eyes are also plucked out by birds as punishment for treating Cinderella unfairly. Also, not fun.

There are other subtle differences between the two stories, and if you are interested in finding them, you can read the story in the book Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm found in the adult non-fiction section at your Ottawa Public Library.

This blog is brought to you by Shea (he/him) from the CE TAG. Shea is 14 years old and in grade 9. He loves hockey, reading, writing, tabletop games, playing guitar, and learning about anything and everything.