If you enjoyed my previous post about 8 of the creepiest original fairy tales in the world, then you’re in luck! Here are 3 more weird and disturbing original fairy tales; some you might have heard of, one you might not have but be prepared, it’s one of the most messed up fairy tales out there. Hope you’re ready!
Rapunzel is definitely a favourite story of mine, at least in part thanks to Disney’s Tangled! But the darkest part definitely isn’t just a girl being locked in a tower – it gets much worse!
The original tale starts in the way we’re all familiar with: a witch locks a young girl in a tower with no stairs or door for so long that her hair grows and grows so much that it can reach the ground from the tower window. In some versions, it’s actually a fairy who captures Rapunzel and gives her everything she could ever want, except her freedom.
One night a Prince visits her, climbing up her hair and into her tower. He begins to visit her every night and soon they fall in love, which is followed by her becoming pregnant. When Rapunzel can’t hide her pregnancy anymore, the witch figures out what has been happening and goes crazy!
The witch / fairy cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and casts her out into the forest to fend for herself.
Now the story differs. In one version the Prince simply forgets about Rapunzel; when he returns to the tower and she doesn’t let down her hair for him, he simply wanders off and finds someone else. He had no intention of marrying her in the first place. Meanwhile poor pregnant Rapunzel is left alone in the wilderness… real nice guy that Prince.
In another version, the Prince returns to the tower and calls up to his lover. But this time, the witch lets down Rapunzel’s hair (remember she cut it off!) and the Prince unwittingly climbs into a trap set by a very angry witch! Some say the witch cast a spell on him, others say she tossed him from the window into a patch of brambles; either way he ends up blind and wanders completely lost and without direction into the forest.
In the happiest versions the Prince and Rapunzel find each other and his site is restored by her tears (and presumably some magic) in others that just doesn’t happen and he’s blind and / or lost forever… Remind me again why fairy tales are so loved?!
The Frog Prince
So we all know this tale, right? A Princess finds a frog down by a pond, he says he’s actually a Prince and if she kisses him he’ll turn back human. She kisses him, they marry, everyone is happy! How nice!
Not exactly how it happened…
In the original a Princess is playing with her favourite Golden ball down by a pond when it falls in. She is distraught and crying. A nearby frog hears her and says he’ll return it to her as long as she is kind to him: he wants to come home with her, eat at her table and sleep in her bed.
She quickly agrees because she really loves that ball, for some reason… Froggy goes off, fetches the ball and the princess is super-happy! Until she remembers she now has to take this disgusting, slimy frog home with her. She’s a bit of a spoilt brat to be honest but she eventually agrees to take him home.
But everything he asks to do (which she’d already agreed to!) makes her madder and madder. He wants to eat at the tale with her but she stomps he feet and throws a fit, etc. At night when he tries to hop into her bed to sleep, she gets so grossed out that she decides she’s had enough.
She grabs little froggy and throws him at the wall in the hopes of killing him. Although in some versions she goes as far as to have his head cut off… Turns out this is what turns him back into a Prince! Obviously at this she’s suddenly interested in him and no longer repulsed. Somehow through all this the Prince still wants to marry her (why?! I know he was a frog for a while but is he really that desperate!?) and they then go off and live happily ever after.
To be honest, they both seem pretty vile and probably deserve each other. Ick.
This story was the basis for one of my favourite books of all time, Deerskin by Robin McKinley, which you should definitely go and read. It is obviously inspired by this story but doesn’t follow it exactly so don’t worry about spoilers! This is a pretty long one, but it’s weird so just give it a chance…
On the surface, Donkeyskin is your typical fairy tale story of rags to riches (or rather, riches to rags to riches) only much, much darker! It begins with a beautiful king and queen who are universally adored by everyone, including each other. Now what you also need to know is that the king’s favourite thing in the world, other than his wife, is his Donkey who poops gold. Yep. You read that right.
So a few years go by happily and they have a daughter and are super-happy for a while until, of course, disaster strikes and the queen dies.
After mourning her for a suitable period of time the king vows he’ll never marry again unless he can find someone as lovely and beautiful as him former wife (which were apparently, totally her wishes too), and so, his search begins. After years of searching and never finding anyone he starts to go a little crazy (damn those high standards of his!), during which time his daughter has begun to grow into a beautiful, young princess, also adored by everyone in the kingdom.
And the crazed king notices… Eww. So he sets the wheels in motion to marry his own daughter. As you do… All his subjects are like ‘ICK… but he is the king, so, yeah, cool.’ and they do literally nothing about it.
As the only seemingly sane one left in the kingdom the daughter freaks out because she’s only like 14 at the time and he’s her dad! So she runs away to her fairy godmother / a local dressmaker / a local florist or herbalist – it changes in different versions. Either way, she tries to help but not in the expected ‘don’t worry love, I’ll get you out of there!’ kind of way. Instead she tells the Princess to start making demands and say she’ll only marry the king if he does this that and the other.
The Princess is young and knows no better so she starts making difficult demands: I’ll marry you if you get me a dress the colour of the sun… Check! A dress the colour of the moon… Check! A dress the colour of the sky… Check! And finally she’s getting desperate so she hits the king where it hurts – ‘I’ll only marry you if you skin your beloved donkey!’
King Crazy goes away, has a little think and comes back and presents her with the skin of his favourite, magical, gold-pooping donkey. And yeah, it’s all stinky and bloody and gross.
In a huge panic, the princess grabs the donkeyskin, covers herself in it as a disguise and flees from the palace and the whole kingdom. She takes her fancy dresses, a tonne of money and her fancy jewellery. She starts going by the name Donkeyskin and gets a job working in the kitchens of a castle in a different kingdom. Everyone there is pretty repulsed by her; they don’t know her background, don’t know she’s really a princess and all they see is some dirty, stinking girl covered in a dead animal.
But despite all the ickyness, she enjoys sneaking away to the local river to wash herself and try on her dresses before muddying herself back up again and sneaking back into the kitchens where she works. One day while she’s playing dress-up, the young prince from this castle sees her and falls madly (and completely superficially) in love with her. Of course, like all fairy tale princes, he fails to actually recall her face when he sees her again working in the kitchens.
Instead he finds one of her rings and vows to marry whoever the ring fits, which is of course her. They get married and are happy. She doesn’t have to marry her dad. And she only spent several years living basically as a tramp in a dead animal’s bloody skin… Lovely.