Grimm vs. Disney: The Making of a Fairy Tale Amber Brandenburg English 121 Proffessor Kari Lomanno 8/13/2012 The fairy tales that we grew up with are not the originals. Disney and the brothers Grimm had two very different versions. While many of us grew up watching cute birds and mice following the woe begotten princess, the original stories were forgotten by most. These stories were far darker, ending in cruel justice for a stepsister or worse. The difference between aspects of the two tales discussed, in some instances, is the difference between night and day. Grimm fairy tales contain more violence, harsher villains, and swifter justice.
The first example of this can be seen in the difference between Disney’s and Grimm’s versions of Cinderella. In the Disney version of the story, Cinderella is a poor girl who lives with her stepmother and sisters. She wishes to go to the ball and she falls in love with him before running off to make her curfew. Then of course, he comes to her rescue and everything ends happily ever after. The good characters are good and the bad characters are bad. There is a happy ending and no one really gets hurt in the end. Grimm’s Cinderella is a similar tale with some fiercer consequences to the villains.
The Grimm version has many of the same plot elements and devices as the story we all know and love. In this version her father is still alive and still lets the rest of the family treat her like a slave. Instead of a fairy godmother granting her wish it is a tree she planted on her mother’s grave and some birds. When the sisters try on the golden shoe one cuts off her toes, while the other cuts off her heels and the birds chant that neither could be the prince’s proper bride. Finally, the sisters are punished at Cinderella’s wedding by birds who peck their eyes out, leaving them forever blind.
Snow white, another acclaimed Disney tale, also contains plot devices and ending punishments that are very different from the cookie cutter nice endings of Disney. Everyone knows that Snow white is the daughter of a King who remarries an evil stepmother. Everyone knows that when the queen discovers that Snow White’s beauty is greater than hers, she asks the huntsman to kill her. Finally, we all know that the dwarves take care of her until her death, at which point the prince comes to the rescue and awakens her with a kiss. These are all elements of the story that we come to expect when we hear the name Snow White.
In the brothers Grimm version, the queen still demands the death of Snow White and the Huntsman still lets her go. Only this time he kills a boar and brings the queen back its lungs and liver and she eats them, thinking that they are from Snow White’s body. Snow White still meets the dwarves in the woods, but their introduction to her was more akin to that of goldilocks and the three bears. Then, when she is poisoned by the apple, the kiss of the prince is not what awakens her. Instead the prince begs the dwarves to have her dead body and the trip to the castle dislodges the apple bite caught in her throat.
Finally, at the marriage of the happy couple, the queen arrives and is forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dies. Definitely not what one would remember from the Disney adaptation. These are just two examples out of many. The versions of fairy tales by Grimm and Disney are always similar in nature and moral. The differences in the details of the story range from minute to highly significant. The punishments placed upon the villains are always more severe than those placed upon the villains in the tales spun by Disney.
The older Grimm stories definitely place a higher importance on the eye for an eye methodology of punishment than its newer Disney counterpart. The morals are the same, just the details and severities of the punishments differ. References Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Sneewittchen, Kinder- und Hausmarchen, (Children’s and Household Tales — Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 53 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Cinderella (Children’s and Household Tales — Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 21