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5 Dark & Disturbing Fairy Tales for Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Fancy Dress Ball

Tell a Fairy Tale Day (1)


This Thursday 26th February is Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

These days, when we think of fairy tales we think of Disney and princesses and happily ever after, but the original fairy tales came from European folklore and were intended for an audience of adults as much as children. Many of them are fairly dark, for example the story of Bluebeard, where a violent nobleman kills his wives one after the other.

More interested in Tell a Fairy Tale Day now? The darker side of fairy tales can make them much more interesting to dress up as too. You’re not limited to princes and princesses after all!

Here are our five favourite fairy tales:

1. The Little Mermaid
We’re not talking the bright and song-filled Disney version here; the original story by Hans Christian Andersen was an entirely different kettle of fish; gory and depressing, the story is about agony and self-sacrifice. A mermaid saves a prince from drowning and falls in love with him, so she visits a sea-witch and trades her tongue for a pair of legs, even though they feel like she is walking on jagged swords, and if the prince rejects her she will be turned to sea foam. She dances for the prince, despite the pain, and he enjoys it – but then marries the girl he wrongly believes saved him. There are two endings to the story. In one, she is turned to sea foam because the prince has rejected her. In the other, she is told that killing the prince will save her, but she declines and because she hasn’t killed him she becomes a “daughter of the air.” How much of you do you recognise from the Disney movie?

2. Bluebeard
This is one of those stories that really makes you question who thought it would be a good idea to start reading fairy tales to children. A woman marries a myaterious and wealthy man who has been married several times before, but nobody knows what happened to his wives. He goes away for a time, and upon leaving forbids her from entering a room beneath the castle. She looks any way, and finds that the floor of the room is covered in blood. The dead bodies of Bluebeard’s former wives are in the room, hanging from hooks on the wall. Bluebeard returns home and finds that she has been in the room. He intends to behead her, but before he does her brothers rescue her.

3. The Children Played at Slaughtering
This story was in the original Brothers Grimm book Children’s and Household Tales – but was left out of their later publications, and we can see why. It’s a story where children play a game where one is a butcher and the other is a pig. A little boy kills his brother. His mother is enraged and kills him, an then her last remaining child drowns in the bath, so she hangs herself. Imagine turning up to a fairy tale fancy dress party dressed as one of those characters!

4.  The Robber Bridegroom
Another from the Brothers Grimm book Children’s and Household Tales, this one is about a young miller’s daughter who is to be married off to a man who seems to be respectable and well-off. One day she visits him but finds that he is not home. Instead she finds a bird who tells her to run away, and an old woman who tells her that her future husband is in fact a cannibal who likes to eat young girls. The old woman hides her under a barrel just as the man returns with his friends, and a young woman. They force the woman to drink three different coloured wines, until her heart bursts in two – at which point they strip her and begin to dismember her body. Her finger, wearing a ring, rolls under the barrel and the young girl puts it into her pocket, and then sits and watches the men feast on the body. When they are all passed out in a drunken stupour she makes her escape. At their wedding, the young girl produces the dead girl’s finger and the groom is exposed. He and his friends are all executed.

5. The Juniper Tree
This is possibly the weirdest story you will read, ever. A woman hates her step-son so much that she plans to kill him – this will ensure her husband’s inheritance will come only to the daughter she has had with him. She gets the boy to reach into a chest for an apple; as he does so, she bangs the lid down on him, thus chopping his head off. Then she props his body up in a chair and balances the head on top, covering the wound with a neck tie. The younger sister comes into the room and talks to her brother, but he doesn’t answer (obviously; he’s dead). The mother tells her daughter that if her brother doesn’t answer her, she should cuff him around the ear. The girl does this and his head falls off. She is distraught, thinking she’s killed her brother. The mother says never mind, let’s destroy the evidence – and proceeds to chop up the boy’s body and put the pieces into a big pot of stew. The father comes home and eats his tea, proclaiming it the tastiest stew he has ever eaten. He sucks the meat from the bones and throws them under the table, as the young girl watches, crying. When the father finishes his meal, the girl gathers up the bones and places them in the garden, beneath the juniper tree where his mother was buried years before. A bird then flies out of the tree, and flies around the countryside singing “my mother killed me, my father ate me!” The bird then kills the step mother and from her burning remains, the little boy appears, alive again. The father, son and daughter are reunited, and all live happily ever after.


Disclaimer: we really do not recommend you read any of these stories to children. Adults on the other hand, may enjoy them. And some of these characters would make fantastic fancy dress outfits!

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