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8 Fairy Tales And Their Not-So-Happy Endings

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by Stacy Conradt, Laurel Mills & John Green

Those Disney endings where the prince and the princess end up blissfully married? Yeah, they don't really happen in the original stories. To make sure kids go home happy, not horrified, Disney usually has to alter the endings. Read on for the original endings to a couple of Disney classics (and some more obscure tales).

1. Cinderella

Don't break out your violins for this gal just yet. All that cruelty poor Cinderella endured at the hands of her overbearing stepmother might have been well deserved. In the oldest versions of the story, the slightly more sinister Cinderella actually kills her first stepmother so her father will marry the housekeeper instead. Guess she wasn't banking on the housekeeper's six daughters moving in or that never-ending chore list.

2. Sleeping Beauty

In the original version of the tale, it's not the kiss of a handsome prince that wakes Sleeping Beauty, but the nudging of her newborn twins. That's right. While unconscious, the princess is impregnated by a monarch and wakes up to find out she's a mom twice over. Then, in true Ricki Lake form, Sleeping Beauty's "baby's daddy" triumphantly returns and promises to send for her and the kids later, conveniently forgetting to mention that he's married. When the trio is eventually brought to the palace, his wife tries to kill them all, but is thwarted by the king. In the end, Sleeping Beauty gets to marry the guy who violated her, and they all live happily ever after.

3. Snow White

At the end of the original German version penned by the brothers Grimm, the wicked queen is fatally punished for trying to kill Snow White. It's the method she is punished by that is so strange "“ she is made to dance wearing a pair of red-hot iron shoes until she falls over dead.

4. The Little Mermaid

You're likely familiar with the Disney version of the Little Mermaid story, in which Ariel and her sassy crab friend, Sebastian, overcome the wicked sea witch, and Ariel swims off to marry the man of her dreams. In Hans Christian Andersen's original tale, however, the title character can only come on land to be with the handsome prince if she drinks a potion that makes it feel like she is walking on knives at all times. She does, and you would expect her selfless act to end with the two of them getting married. Nope. The prince marries a different woman, and the Little Mermaid throws herself into the sea, where her body dissolves into sea foam.

Now here are four more fairy tales you might not be familiar with, but you might have trouble forgetting.

1. The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughter
What It's Like: Cinderella, with an incestuous twist

The King's wife dies and he swears he will never marry again unless he finds a woman who fits perfectly into his dead Queen's clothes. Guess what? His daughter does! So he insists on marrying her. Ew. Understandably, she has a problem with this and tries to figure out how to avoid wedding dear old dad. She says she won't marry him until she gets a trunk that locks from outside and inside and can travel over land and sea. He gets it, but she says she has to make sure the chest works. To prove it, he locks her inside and floats her in the sea. Her plan works: she just keeps floating until she reaches another shore. So she escapes marrying her dad, but ends up working as a scullery maid in another land"¦ from here you can follow the Cinderella story. She meets a prince, leaves her shoe behind, he goes around trying to see who it belongs to. The End.

2. The Lost Childen
What It's Like: Hansel & Gretel meets Saw 2

This French fairy tale starts out just like Hansel & Gretel. A brother and sister get lost in the woods and find themselves trapped in cages, getting plumped up to be eaten. Only it's not a wicked witch, it's the Devil and his wife. The Devil makes a sawhorse for the little boy to bleed to death on (seriously!) and then goes for a walk, telling the girl to get her brother situated on the sawhorse before he returned. The siblings pretend to be confused and ask the Devil's wife to demonstrate how the boy should lay on the sawhorse; when she shows them they tie her to it and slit her throat. They steal all of the Devil's money and escape in his carriage. He chases after them once he discovers what they've done, but he dies in the process. Yikes.

3. The Juniper Tree
What It's Like: Every stepchild's worst nightmare

Cannibalism, murder, decapitation"¦ freakiness abounds left and right in this weird Grimm story. A widower gets remarried, but the second wife loathes the son he had with his first wife because she wants her daughter to inherit the family riches. So she offers the little boy an apple from inside a chest. When he leans over to get it, she slams the lid down on him and chops his head off. Note: if you're trying to convince your child to eat more fruits and veggies, do not tell them this story. Well, the woman doesn't want anyone to know that she killed the boy, so she puts his head back on and wraps a handkerchief around his neck to hide the fact that it's no longer attached. Her daughter ends up knocking his head off and getting blamed for his death. To hide what happened, they chop up the body and make him into pudding, which they feed to his poor father. Eventually the boy is reincarnated as a bird and he drops a stone on his stepmother's head, which kills her and brings him back to life.

4. Penta of the Chopped-off Hands
What It's Like: Um...you tell us

These old fairy tales sure do enjoy a healthy dose of incest. In this Italian tale, the king's wife dies and he falls in love with Penta ... his sister. She tries to make him fall out of love with her by chopping off her hands. The king is pretty upset by this; he has her locked in a chest and thrown out to sea. A fisherman tries to save her, but Penta is so beautiful that his jealous wife has her thrown back out to sea. Luckily, Penta is rescued by a king (who isn't her brother). They get married and have a baby, but the baby is born while the king is away at sea. Penta tries to send the king the good news of the baby, but the jealous fisherman's wife intercepts the message and changes it to say that Penta gave birth to a puppy. A puppy?! The evil wife then constructs another fake message, this time from the king to his servants, and says that Penta and her baby should be burned alive. OK, long story short: the king figures out what the jealous wife is up to and has her burned. Penta and the king live happily ever after. I can't really figure out what the moral of this tale is. Chopping hands off? Giving birth to a dog? Help me out here, people.

OK, there must be a ton of other creepy fairy tales out there that you would never read to your kids to lull them off to a peaceful slumber. Let's hear them!

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9 Mysterious Facts About Murder, She Wrote
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CBS

For 12 seasons and 264 episodes, the small coastal town of Cabot Cove, Maine, was the scene of a murder. And wherever there was a body, Jessica Fletcher wasn’t far behind. The fictional mystery author and amateur sleuth at the heart of the CBS drama Murder, She Wrote was given life by actress Angela Lansbury, who made a name for herself in the theater world and in movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. Though the show was supposed to skew toward an older audience, the series is still very much alive and being discovered by new generations of audiences every year. Unravel the mystery with these facts about Murder, She Wrote.

1. ANGELA LANSBURY WAS “PISSED OFF” AT THE TV ROLES BEING OFFERED TO HER BEFORE MURDER.

After years of high-profile parts and critical acclaim in the theater, Angela Lansbury was in her late fifties and ready to tackle a steady television role. Unfortunately, instead of being flooded with interesting lead roles on big series, she said she was constantly looked at to play “the maid or the housekeeper in some ensemble piece,” leaving her to get—in the Dame’s own words—“really pissed off.”

After voicing her displeasure, she was soon approached with two potential solo series, one being Murder, She Wrote, which grabbed her attention because of its focus on a normal country woman becoming an amateur detective. After meeting with the producers and writers, it was only a matter of time before Lansbury agreed to the role and began the 12-season run.

2. THE SHOW TOOK A SHOT AT FRIENDS IN ITS FINAL SEASON.

In 1995, CBS made a bold move: After airing on Sundays since 1984, Murder, She Wrote moved to Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. for its twelfth and final season, going head-to-head against Mad About You and Friends over at NBC. On a night dominated by younger viewers, Lansbury was at a loss.

"I'm shattered," she told the Los Angeles Times. "What can I say? I really feel very emotional about it. I just felt so disappointed that after all the years we had Sunday night at 8, suddenly it didn't mean anything. It was like gone with the wind."

Maybe not so coincidentally, during that last season of the series there was an episode titled “Murder Among Friends,” where a TV producer is killed in her office after planning to get rid of a member of the cast of a fictional television show called Buds. Complete with its coffee shop setting and snarky repartee, Buds was a not-so-subtle stab at Friends, coming at a time when Murder, She Wrote was placed right against the hip ratings juggernaut.

Putting the murder mystery aside for a moment, Fletcher takes plenty of jabs at Buds throughout, literally rolling her eyes at the thought of six twentysomethings becoming a hit because they sat around talking about their sexuality in every episode. The writing was on the wall as Murder, She Wrote was being phased out by CBS by the end of 1996, but Lansbury made sure to go down swinging.

3. JESSICA FLETCHER HOLDS A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

Here’s one for any self-respecting trivia junkie: Jessica Fletcher holds a Guinness World Record for Most Prolific Amateur Sleuth. Though Guinness recognizes that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple has been on and off screen longer—since 1956—Fletcher has actually gotten to the bottom of more cases with 264 episodes and four TV movies under her belt.

4. THE SHOW’S FICTIONAL TOWN WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MURDER CAPITAL OF THE PLANET.

Quiet, upper-class New England coastal towns aren’t usually known for their murder count, but Cabot Cove, Maine, is a grisly destination indeed. In fact, if you look at the amount of murders per the population, it would have the highest rate on the planet, according to BBC Radio 4.

With 3560 people living in the town, and 5.3 murders occurring every year, that comes out to 1490 murders per million, which is 60 percent higher than that of Honduras, which only recently lost its title as the murder capital of the world. It’s also estimated that in total, about two percent of the folks in Cabot Cove end up murdered. 

5. SOME FANS THINK FLETCHER WAS A SERIAL KILLER THE WHOLE TIME.

That statistic leads us right into our next thought: Isn’t it a little suspicious that Fletcher keeps stumbling upon all these murders? We know that Cabot Cove is a fairly sleepy town, but the murder rate rivals a Scorsese movie. And this one person—a suspicious novelist and amateur detective—always seems to get herself mixed up in the juiciest cases. Some people think there’s something sinister about the wealth of cases Fletcher writes about in her books: It’s because she’s the one doing the killing all along.

This theory has gained traction with fans over the years, and it helps explain the coincidental nature of the show. Murders aren’t just exclusive to Fletcher and Cabot Cove; they follow her around when she’s on book tours, on trips out of town, or while writing the script to a VR video game for a company whose owner just so happens to get killed while Fletcher is around.

Could Jessica Fletcher have such an obsession with murder mysteries that she began to create her own? Was life in Cabot Cove too boring for a violent sociopath? Did she decide to take matters into her own hands after failing to think of original book ideas? We’ll never know, but it puts the whole series into a very different light.

6. LANSBURY WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT A PROPOSED REBOOT.

Despite its inimitable style, Murder, She Wrote isn’t immune to Hollywood’s insatiable reboot itch, and in 2013 plans were put in motion to modernize the show for a new generation. NBC’s idea was to cast Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator who self-publishes her first mystery novel and starts investigating real cases. Lansbury was none too pleased by the news.

"I think it's a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote," she told The Hollywood Reporter in November 2013, "because Murder, She Wrote will always be about Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person ... So I'm sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it's their right."

When the plug was pulled on the series, Lansbury said she was "terribly pleased and relieved” by the news, adding that, "I knew it was a terrible mistake."

7. JEAN STAPLETON TURNED DOWN THE LEAD ROLE OF JESSICA FLETCHER.

It’s impossible to separate Angela Lansbury from her role as Jessica Fletcher now, but she wasn’t the network’s first choice for the role. All in the Family’s Edith Bunker, actress Jean Stapleton, was originally approached about playing Fletcher, but she turned it down.

Stapleton cited a combination of wanting a break after All in the Family’s lengthy run and the fact that she wasn’t exactly thrilled with how the part was written, and the changes she wanted to make weren’t welcome. Despite not being enthralled by the original ideas for Fletcher, Stapleton agreed that Lansbury was “just right” for the part.

8. FLETCHER’S ESCAPADES HAVE LIVED ON IN BOOKS AND VIDEO GAMES.

For anyone who didn’t get enough of Fletcher during Murder, She Wrote’s original run, there are more—plenty more—dead bodies to make your way through. Author Donald Bain has written 45 murder mystery novels starring Fletcher, all of which credit Fletcher as the "co-author." The books sport such titles as Killer in the Kitchen, Murder on Parade, and Margaritas & Murder. Not even cancellation can keep Cabot Cove safe, apparently.

On top of that, two point-and-click computer games were released based on the show in 2009 and 2012. Both games feature Fletcher solving multiple murders just like on the show, but don’t expect to hear the comforting voice of Angela Lansbury as you wade through the dead bodies. Only her likeness appears in the game; not her voice.

9. LANSBURY WOULD BE GAME TO REPRISE THE ROLE.

When recently asked about her iconic role by the Sunday Post, Lansbury admitted that she'd be into seeing Murder, She Wrote come back in some form. "I was in genuine tears doing my last scene," Lansbury said. "Jessica Fletcher has become so much a part of my life, it was difficult to come to terms with it being all over ... Having said that, there have been some two-hour specials since we stopped in 1996 and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got together just one more time."

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10 Things You Should Know About Ray Bradbury
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For such a visionary futurist whose predictions for the future often came true, Ray Bradbury was rather old-fashioned in many ways. In honor of what would be Bradbury's 97th birthday, check out a few fascinating facts about the literary genius. 

1. HE SCORED HIS FIRST WRITING GIG WHEN HE WAS STILL A TEEN. 

Most teenagers get a first job bagging groceries or slinging burgers. At the age of 14, Ray Bradbury landed himself a gig writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show.

“I went down on Figueroa Street in front of the Figueroa Playhouse,” Bradbury later recalled. “I saw George Burns outside the front of the theater. I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Burns, you got your broadcast tonight don’t you?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘You don’t have an audience in there do you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Will you take me in and let me be your audience?’ So he took me in and put me in the front row, and the curtain went up, and I was in the audience for Burns and Allen. I went every Wednesday for the broadcast and then I wrote shows and gave them to George Burns. They only used one—but they did use it, it was for the end of the show.”

2. IT TOOK HIM 22 YEARS TO ASK A GIRL OUT.

At the age of 22, Bradbury finally summoned up the courage to ask a girl out for the first time ever. She was a bookstore clerk named Maggie, who thought he was stealing from the bookstore because he had a long trench coat on. They went out for coffee, which turned into cocktails, which turned into dinner, which turned into marriage, which turned into 56 anniversaries and four children. She was the only girl Bradbury ever dated. Maggie held down a full-time job while Ray stayed at home and wrote, something that was virtually unheard of in the 1940s.

3. HE IMPRESSED TRUMAN CAPOTE.

George Burns isn’t the only famous eye Bradbury caught. In 1947, an editor at Mademoiselle read Bradbury’s short story, “Homecoming,” about the only human boy in a family of supernatural beings. The editor decided to run the piece, and Bradbury won a place in the O. Henry Prize Stories for one of the best short stories of 1947. That young editor who helped Bradbury out by grabbing his story out of the unsolicited materials pile? Truman Capote.

4. HE HAD AN AVERSION TO CARS.

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Not only did Bradbury never get a driver’s license, he didn’t believe in cars for anyone. His own personal aversion came from seeing a fatal car accident when he was just 16. In 1996, he told Playboy, “I saw six people die horribly in an accident. I walked home holding on to walls and trees. It took me months to begin to function again. So I don't drive. But whether I drive or not is irrelevant. The automobile is the most dangerous weapon in our society—cars kill more than wars do.”

5. HE WROTE FAHRENHEIT 451 IN JUST OVER A WEEK.

It took Bradbury just nine days to write Fahrenheit 451—and he did it in the basement of the UCLA library on a rented typewriter. (The title of his classic novel, by the way, comes from the temperature at which paper burns without being exposed to flame.)

6. HE DIDN'T ATTEND COLLEGE.

Though he wrote Fahrenheit 451 at UCLA, he wasn't a student there. In fact, he didn’t believe in college. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money,” Bradbury told The New York Times in 2009. “When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

7. HE LOATHED COMPUTERS.

Despite his writings about all things futuristic, Bradbury loathed computers. “We are being flimflammed by Bill Gates and his partners,” he told Playboy in 1996. “Look at Windows '95. That's a lot of flimflam, you know.” He also stated that computers were nothing more than typewriters to him, and he certainly didn’t need another one of those. He also called the Internet “old-fashioned": “They type a question to you. You type an answer back. That’s 30 years ago. Why not do it on the telephone, which is immediate? Why not do it on TV, which is immediate? Why are they so excited with something that is so backward?”

8. HE WAS PALS WITH WALT DISNEY.

Not only was Bradbury good friends with Walt Disney (and even urged him to run for mayor of Los Angeles), he helped contribute to the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot, submitting a story treatment that they built the ride around.

He was a big fan of the Disney parks, saying, “Everyone in the world will come to these gates. Why? Because they want to look at the world of the future. They want to see how to make better human beings. That’s what the whole thing is about. The cynics are already here and they’re terrifying one another. What Disney is doing is showing the world that there are alternative ways to do things that can make us all happy. If we can borrow some of the concepts of Disneyland and Disney World and Epcot, then indeed the world can be a better place.”

9. HE WANTED HIS ASHES TO BE SENT TO MARS IN A SOUP CAN.

He once said that when he died, he planned to have his ashes placed in a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and planted on Mars. Then he decided that he wanted to have a place his fans could visit, and thought he’d design his own gravestone that included the names of his books. As a final touch, a sign at his gravesite would say Place dandelions here, “as a tribute to Dandelion Wine, because so many people love it.” In the end, he ended up going with something a whole lot simpler—a plain headstone bearing his name and “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” Go take him some dandelions the next time you’re in L.A.—he’s buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

10. NASA PAID TRIBUTE TO HIM.

Perhaps a more fitting memorial is the one NASA gave him when they landed a rover on Mars a few months after Bradbury’s death in 2012: They named the site where Mars Curiosity touched down "Bradbury Landing."

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