The act of allegedly de-bowdlerizing a story, but going to the other extreme instead: Making it Grimmdark.
It is common belief that most traditional Fairy Tales were designed to inform kids via metaphor about a potentially harsh world, in a time where children worked and traveled, and were essentially treated more like miniature adults than "kids". This is actually not the case. Original fairy tales were told to many different audiences, adults included, and the practice of softening stories for children did not yet exist. It was not until The Brothers Grimm that fairy tales began to be reworked into a style that was suitable for children as innocents. Still, even in those stories heroes could fall victims to violence and mutilation; villains were disposed of with vivid and painful executions. The harshness of these stories explains why later publishers of The Brothers Grimm's collection toned them down for popular consumption, especially in the later Victorian era, the time period when the concept of childhood truly emerged. During this time period fairy tales were once again warped and became more like the modern versions that we know today.
However, if one follows most old fairy tales back to their roots, they'll discover that they are incredibly gory. Often, these earlier elements are either rediscovered by adults or the bowdlerized version of the story is changed by other cultures that have no connection to it. As adults, we rediscover the themes that got toned down and enjoy pointing out how creepy they sound. Then it becomes popular to return a story to its non-sanitized roots or to pervert the popular Disneyfied version, unaware that earlier versions of the folk tale had included similar elements. Sometimes this includes throwing in more modern Nightmare Fuel. When done well, this can open up a completely new perspective. However it can also be done wrong, gutting a story of its nostalgia value while not adding enough to make the story appealing.
Even now the modern version of Little Red Riding Hood is very different from the first recorded version of the nursery tale, Petit Chaperon Rouge (1697) which ends with both Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother being eaten. However, going even further back, folklorists have learned that witches were said to put on red caps and hoods before they went riding on their familiars to visit a magic circle deep in the woods and pay homage to the horned god, the Dark Woodsman. Knowing that Little Red Riding Hood was originally a tale about werewolves, it's very possible to extrapolate an entirely different meaning. Remember, these old stories might in fact be Bloodier and Gorier than Grimmified retellings.
A common example of Grimmification is having Little Red Riding Hood survive the well known version... but be scarred by the events — varying from just becoming jaded and cynical, to becoming completely psychotic.
A subtrope of Darker and Edgier. Commonly also includes Hotter and Sexier and Bloodier and Gorier. See also Fractured Fairy Tale. Not to be confused with Grimm's Law. The opposite is Disneyfication.
Technically, this trope isn'tDarker and Rape-ier, but looking at the examples below you'd be forgiven for thinking this.
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Anime and Manga
There's a Hentai story out there (its English version called, rather uncreatively, Alice In Sexland if you're really curious about it — although that's still more creative than the Japanese name, where the first half is "Alice First" and the second half is "Alice Second") where, after all the rape and wanton sex Alice goes through, she finds out that she's dead and Wonderland is actually the afterlife. If you take out all the rape and wanton sex, it's actually a pretty good re-interpretive take on the story: the rape, occurring when she dies and goes to Wonderland is actually played as drama, and ends up extremely grimmified.
Fridge Brilliance: Once Alice enters Sexland, the only real serious rape she or her friends undergo is at the hands of the Red Queen, the only other person in Sexland that isn't from Sexland, and therefore is free to do as she wishes instead of fulfilling Sexland's purpose of helping people who are emotionally fucked-in-the-head from sexual abuse.
Kano Yasuhiro has a one-shot horror manga called Snow in the Dark. Think Snow White, but with a well-intentioned (and naturally, horribly misunderstood) Queen and a Soul Jar Snow White, who gets possessed by her evil (and dead) mother. The day is saved by a slaying/suicide. The author manages to work in a mildly happy ending anyway.
Kaori Yuki, of course. Everything that she ever writes based on anything will always be this in her hands. Ludwig Kakumei for example is about a necrophiliac, perverted prince and has some of the most twisted versions of fairy tales ever. In the first chapter, Snow White is an incestuous bitch who liked manipulating people. And then she dies.
In Ludwig Kakumei, Yuki keeps all the original unpleasant aspects of the original fairy tales, then adds her own, twisting the stories further and further.
Lampshaded during the Cinderella arc, when the author mentions the stepsisters mutilating themselves. In their retelling, the shoe is to big, and said sisters tell that it's not the problem.
There are whole manga anthologies dedicated to Guro versions of Grimm's fairy tales, titled Cruel Grimm Tales (Zankoku Grimm Douwa) or variations thereof. Also note that this are usually aimed at a Josei audience.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an example of this done with Public Domain Characters. While he reintroduces some parts bowdlerised in the past, such as Captain Nemo being Indian (Jules Verne originally meant for Nemo to be Polish, but Verne's publisher made him change it to avoid offending the Russians. Obviously the publisher didn't care about offending the British), he also adds a lot of sex and violence completely absent from the originals. However, he was deconstructing these works rather than claiming to be recreating the original. As well, excessive sex and violence were common in the Victorian penny dreadfuls it's openly inspired by.
Lost Girls re-tells the stories of Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland as allegories for the extremely sexual (sometimes abusive) experiences of their main characters. Captain Hook, for instance, is a pedophile who nearly rapes Tinkerbell to death, and Peter grows up to be a prostitute.
Fables: That entire series is basically the textbook definition of this trope.
Some of the versions of the characters in Fables are far darker, others are spot-on with the original story, and still others are changed for the better. For example, the Big Bad Wolf's reformation and redemption... completely absent in many (if not most) of the old stories.
Then again the BBW didn't slaughter hundreds of people in the fairy tales.
Beauty's Beast becomes less beastly when Beauty is happy with him; to become the strongest, most effective possible warrior, he has to get Beauty severely annoyed.
One instance deconstructs this. Riding Hood is perfectly and totally innocent even though it's implied that what the Adversary has his sorcerers do to her was basically rape.
And then there's Snow White, whose Seven Dwarfs were depraved as hell and are implied to have done horrible horrible things to her during her time with them before she got fed up and killed them all. There's a reason she does not take kindly to any mention of them.
Calvin: Wow. The story was different that time! Hobbes: Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?
Even more of an example of this trope was Calvin's version of the tale of Goldilocks. Calvin's dad stopped reading when the three tigers divided Goldilocks into big, medium, and small pieces, which they dipped in the porridge.
Nightmares And Fairy Tales is pretty much made up of this trope. Even the happy endings result in some sort of grisly or frightening encounter.
Marian Churchland's Beast was initially inspired by "Beauty and the Beast" but rather than being darker than the original tale, Beast is a more ambiguous and low key story about a female sculptor who takes a commission from a shadowy, mysterious being who lives in a slightly decrepit old house in the suburbs.
The Queen of Fables, an enemy of the JLA and Superman, controls Grimmified versions of fairy tale scenarios and characters (including those from the fairy tales of Krypton, Atlantis and Mars).
EC Comics' "Grim Fairy Tales" stood famous fairy tales on their head, often by giving them a horror twist.
The Death Note fanfic Poison Apple featured an Alternate Continuity thematically based around "Snow White", including hearts cut out and of course, the titular poisoned apples.
Downfall is headed in this direction post- chapter 18.
And especially in wake of the events of chapter 20
Freeway is at its core a modern remake of Little Red Riding Hood, with Little Red cast as a good-natured, but tactless and illiterate juvenile delinquent (It's Little Red Riding Hood! Get it?), the Big Bad Wolf as a sexual predator/serial killer/famous child psychologist, and the woodsman as the one cop who's willing to believe the foul mouthed little guttersnipe over the famous shrink.
In the original "Rapunzel" Fairy Tale, the prince is blinded, and the heroine's Swiss Army Tears restore his eyesight. In Disney's adapatation Tangled, of all places, the villain stabs and kills him, and Rapunzel holds her dead lover in her arms before her tears bring him back to life.
The 1978 Czech film Panna a Netvor(The Virgin and the Monster) does this with "Beauty and the Beast". The imagery is considerably darker than in the more well-known films, the castle a crumbling and desolate place instead of a wondrous one, and the Beast a genuinely inhuman-looking bird-monster hybrid who kills a frightened bystander on-screen and keeps on Hearing Voices in his head that try to persuade him to either kill and eat the Beauty or kill himself.
The new 2013 Mortal Kombat film does this to such a degree it almost seems like a parody of how to do this to an existing goofy franchise.
Gregory Maguire does this in all of his books based on fairy tales, but most of all in Mirror, Mirror. Turning the Wicked Stepmother into Lucrezia Borgia, with all of the historical significance of the Borgia family, would do that. However, Lucrezia never poisoned anyone, and was quite a nice lady.
Parodied in several Discworld books with the works of the Sisters Grim, whose tales seem to consist entirely of the bits Disney left out.
Also in Discworld, Susan does this with the fairy tales she reads to her young charges, her version of their morals being things like "If you're a hero, you can get away with anything because no one asks any inconvenient questions."
Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny anthologies of short stories from the Witcher Saga mostly follow the formula of the main character coming upon a somewhat altered and twisted version of a classical fairy tale, discovering the dark secret behind it all that makes it even more twisted, and seeing it to the usually-grisly end. For instance, "The Beauty And The Beast"? The Beauty is a particularly nasty kind of a vampire that is trying to make the Beast lose what little humanity he still has. What's perhaps even more messed up is that she is doing it out of love. As for the Beast himself, he was cursed by a priestess of a Religion of Evil that he raped.
Francesca Lia Block's short story collection The Rose and the Beast retells several fairy tales and, as usual for this author, stuffs them with erotica.
Neil Gaiman's short story "Snow, Glass, Apples" gives a very good reason why the evil queen would want to knock off Snow White... and why she might not have been so evil in doing so. (In general, it's disturbingly common for Grimmified versions of "Snow White" to involve vampire motifs, what with her being an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette and all.) Full story posted here.
His treatment of Narnia in "The Problem of Susan".
Not all of them in Angela Carter's case, though: The Bloody Chamber starts off with one of Grimm's creepiest stories retold as French gothic horror; but "Puss in Boots" becomes a Restoration-style sex farce.
Lee's version of "Beauty and the Beast" was a science-fiction love story; nothing horrible about it at all. On the other hand, she's another author who decided to go for the Snow-White-is-a-vampire reinterpretation, and another version she wrote of "Beauty and the Beast" for Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears depicts the Beast as an outwardly perfect human who kills ugly people and keeps the incongruously beautiful body parts of them on display in a secret room of his castle and his exterior changes to reflect his interior (aka an ugly Beast) when Beauty leaves him.
Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy retold that particular fairy tale as a work of erotica. That Rice, whose Vampire books are squicky enough as is, chose to publish them under a pseudonym should tell the reader all one needs to know about them.
Robin McKinley's Deerskin is partial Grimmification — the original fairy tale does involve the king's incestuous urges towards his daughter, but in Deerskin he actually acts on them. Throw in the fact that what seems to be the demon/ghost of the princess's dead mother blames her for it, and the fact that the princess miscarries her father's rape-baby and you've got something definitely not meant for children.
The Stepsister Scheme revolves around three fairy tale princesses, and at one point the most feared assassin this side of the mountains is mentioned, The Lady of the Red Hood. She's apparently going to show up in one of the sequels.
Waking Rose is a modern day version of Sleeping Beauty in which the protagonist, Briar Rose, is attacked and put in a coma by a group of corrupt doctors who kill people in long comas and sell their organs on the black market.
Beastly is a modern day adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" - in which the "Beauty" (a poor girl named Lindy Owens) lives alone with her sleazy drug-user father who ultimately basically sells her into slavery to the "Beast" (a teenage boy under a spell) after trying to break into the Beast's house to steal stuff. And later, the Beast has to rescue Lindy from another drug dealer, who implies that her father sold her to him as well, most likely for prostitution.
The Snow White, Blood Red series of anthologies have quite a few stories that invoke this trope, although there are also plenty that don't.
For example, Esther Friesner wrote a version of "Snow White" where the "evil stepmother" was actually quite a religious woman who sent Snow away to keep the king from sexually abusing her.
It has Little Red Riding Hood as a femme fatale with a pistol always ready in her knickers
It points out that Goldilocks is a thief (not really subtext that though)
The prince in Cinderella is revealed as a psychopath and she marries a jam-maker instead
The poem "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young" by Wilfred Owen gives Genesis 22:6-13 a grisly updating: Abraham refuses the angel's order to spare his son and instead sacrifices him "and half the seed of Europe" in trench warfare.
Following the Snow White, Blood Red series of anthologies, a series of novels were published as well.
Black Company casually does this at one point, mentioning character who was protpotype of all Sleeping Beauty stories in this world. As it turns out, she never woke up. Worse, certain nobleman married and raped her to have a heir. She never even knew she had given birth. And two of children grew up to become ones of the most feared and despised people in history, Lady and Soulcatcher.
Live Action TV
Syfy is fond of movies and series like Alice 2009 and Tin Man which Grimmify traditional stories.
They have a new one coming out based on Little Red Riding Hood, appropriately called Red (not that one), where the titular character is the descendant of the original, and her family works as cops by day, werewolf hunters by night.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an episode where Hansel and Gretel were evil creatures who fed off of paranoia and hatred. They would appear, fake their own deaths, and then use this as an excuse to rile a town up to a witch hunt. Both Buffy and Willow were nearly burned at the stake, by their own mothers.
In Supernatural the season 3 episode "Bedtime Stories" deliberately invokes this trope, with a comatose girl imagining Grimmified versions of a couple fairy tales to be wrought upon poor, innocent bystanders, prompting Sam to give a speech about how the "original" Grimms' tales were much darker and edgier.
The music video for Rammstein's "Sonne" has a darker take on "Snow White": She's a gold dust addict who abuses the dwarfs (played by the six band members).
There's a Vocaloid song called "Okizari Tsukiyoshō" ("Tale of Abandonment in a Moonlit Night"), composed by mothy, featuring Rin and Len as Hansel and Gretel where the witch they kill is Miku, who raised them after kidnapping them when they were babies.
Vocaloid's "Alice in Wonderland" is devoted to this trope. Whether the result is terrifying or Black Comedy shall be left as an exercise to the listener.
Sound Horizon's 7th Story CD Märchen (German for "fairytale") is about fairytales. They're quite dark, being based on the Grimm versions instead of the Disney versions, and then there's also a hint about there being a "real" side and a "fantasy/ lie" side to them and the fantastic events being metaphors for more mundane, but equally (or, in some cases, more) dark events (Idoko/Goldmary falling into a well, dying and her younger sister spreading the plague, for example).
Although even without that extrapolation, some of them are still considerably darker and more twisted than the Grimm versions in the plain text, probably one of the biggest cases being "Kuroki Okami no Yado" (based on The Man in the Gallows), which in Grimm was a very short thing about a woman who tries to feed some guests by stealing a liver from a criminal who'd been hanged. That night, the criminal knocks on the door and an exchange takes place that's basically him asking for his liver back. In Kuroki Okami no Yado, it's implied that the old lady's actually been doing that for a while to feed the guests at her inn, and the story really focuses on a girl she took in and subsequently murdered and hung for her liver. Said girl had already been through a war that had devastated her village and had been sold to the old lady. And, by the way, the song makes clear that they aren't sure if the old lady's actually a guy.
Grimm, by Fantasy Flight Games. It's a bit complex, but essentially, the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm were already sanitized from the true events, and due to the influence of a magical book and a mysterious woman called Melusine, they have been given a sort of eternal life in an alternate reality. Since its formation, every fairytale ever imagined or read has been added. How much of the nastiness of the setting is simply because the truth behind the tales — where there was truth — was nastier than what passed into fiction, and how much is because of the influence of the Rotten King — Humpty Dumpty, now existing in a maddened and twisted state of Undeath due to the unsuccessful efforts to restore him as he was before his fall — is not entirely clear.
Then there's Wonderland, a horror RPG for the JAGS universal system. Wonderland is real, but it's an otherspace where logic and reason completely break down and the major personages of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are basically the Great Old Ones, seeking to reduce humanity to its base elements so they can figure out why we keep mucking up the universe with higher reasoning. Oh, and Wonderland also takes the form of a mental illness not unlike schizophrenia, only you can physically interact with the "hallucinations" and "go down the rabbit hole." And did we mention it's contagious?
Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods, a deconstruction of fairy tales, spends its first act telling the combined stories of "Jack And The Beanstalk", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", along with an original story along the same lines about a baker and his wife that want to have a child and live next door to the witch from "Rapunzel". Then the second act examines the aftermath of everyone's selfish behavior and the bloodshed that ensues.
It also uses the less extreme version of the standard Grimmification of "Little Red Riding Hood" — her song "I Know Things Now" being even more blatantly about lost innocence than the original story was.
The wolf's, er, prominent genitalia in the filmed version. And the double entendres in "Hello, Little Girl". "Look at that flesh, pink and plump!" And the mentions of "carnality". He actually hip-thrusts at the audience at the end.
The Wolf and Prince Charming are traditionally played by the same actor. This is no accident.
McFarlane's Twisted Fairy Tales. The fourth series of the McFarlane's Monsters series of statuettes/action figures was themed around the Grimmification of fairy tales and childrens' stories, to the extent of nightmarish images mostly involving Body Horror, and combining this with a good deal of Fetish Fuel and Fanservice for the sufficiently-twisted collector. Red Riding Hood is dressed in a dominatrix-style bikini outfit, wields a large carving knife and holds the disembowelled wolf with dead grandma pouring out of its innards. Peter Pumpkin-Eater is a cannibal who stores dismembered body parts in a hollow pumpkin, Little Miss Muffet wears a pink corset and faces down with a Giant Spider, Humpty Dumpty has maggots crawling out of his broken corpse and Gretel is in a goth/dominatrix outfit and fishnets mopping up blood All cheerfully chronicled in the form of a storybook on this promotional webpage.
McFarlane preceded this with the Twisted Land Of Oz line. Toto has become a fearsome, gigantic dragon-dog, Dorothy is subjected to bondage by evil munchkins, The Tin Woodman was a cyborg zombie thing and the Scarecrow was a corpse stuffed with straw and being eaten by crows. Todd McFarlane and his artists can be hired to provide entertainment at childrens' birthday parties, and they can also read bedtime stories to your kids for a special fee.
Only Todd McFarlane would grimmify Christmas to the point of being horrific. Santa Claus is obese, hunchbacked, wears a gas mask over his bare skull and has Freddy Kreuger-esque bladed gloves. Mrs Claus is, of course, almost naked. The elves have been zombified and wield blades. Rudolph wields an axe and is being held back by, uh, fairy lights and leather belts. A six-armed melting snowman and a deformed Jack Frost round out the collection. Todd McFarlane as his artists can also make appearances at your Christmas parties and carolling sessions.
American McGee's Grimm is a platform game where you perform a literal version of this: the player character is a sarcastic, ugly little dwarf named Grimm who's tired of "cutesy" fairy tales, so he goes around messing them up and making them gruesome and scary again. He takes on various tales from The Brothers Grimm and other sources, from classics like "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots" to more obscure tales like "The Girl Without Hands" and "A Boy Learns What Fear Is".
He also (accidentally) subverted this when he got to Red Riding Hood. It manages to be Lighter and Softer (if you ignore the random curse words) than the original by having the wolf get a mercy killing via ax to the stomach: a far better fate than drowning in a well or starving to death. The original is far darker (no friendly woodsman for one).
Although the part with keeping the Woodsman was intentional — he comments on the original version where she dies, but decides to stick with a modification of the more familiar version.
American McGee's Alice, which chronicles the now orphaned and mentally insane Alice's battle for sanity, in what can be only described as a goth child's nightmare come true.
Its sequel, Alice Madness Returns, is even grimmer — Wonderland has turned into a Crapsack World, and in the real world, Alice is being "treated" by a Psycho Psychologist who wants her to forget everything so he can pimp her out as a child prostitute; oh, and he was also responsible for the fire that killed Alice's family from the first game.
The God Of War series is an (arguably effective) Grimmification of Greek myths (and several sword-and-sandal movies) wrapped around a new storyline. While a lot of things are gorier, some things werebowdlerised, or at least abandoned due to squick: the fact that several Olympians are married to their sisters, for example. Zeus in the second game, however, is not an exaggeration. He was that much of a bastard.
Ares, Theseus, Perseus, however, they definitely get the Grimmification. Athena gets reduced to The Chick — especially since SHE may/may not be prophesied to kill Zeus, depending on which text you read!
That particular prophecy has been filled in games with Kratos.
Who is himself a very bad expy of Cratos, the Titan embodiment of strength in Greek myth.
Bulleta/B.B. Hood of Darkstalkers is implied to be Red Riding Hood in the Ax Crazy category, motivated by a combination of sheer self-serving greed and her traumatic experiences to hunt monsters. According to Capcom, the character's idea is to be Humans Are Bastards in full effect, and man did they do their job well.
The indie game The Path is a psychological horror game inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. You take one of six sisters based on the character (including innocent little Robin and gloomy Goth Ruby) on a path through "the woods". Despite you being instructed to "go to grandma's house, and don't stray from the path", you're supposed to wander off the path, confront the metaphorical (or sometimes literal) wolf, and quite possibly get scared out of your mind.
Text adventure game Bronze by Emily Short is an adaptation of the "Beauty and the Beast" story where the Beast has inherited a Deal with the Devil from his predecessors, and the servants of the castle are spirits rather than metamorphosed living people. Also, one of the possible endings lets the player break the curse by killing the Beast.
"Hansel and Gretel" gets a very dark reimagining as well: The Witch is the cannibalizing, insane mother of Hansel and Gretel who is no longer human. Oh, and the townsfolk are planning to burn the protagonist of "The Girl Without Hands" for the witch's crimes because they care more about assuaging their guilt for letting their children fall prey to the witch and other dangers of the forest than actual justice.
No Room For Magic plays the "Red Riding Hood deeply affected by her experiences" concept for laughs. Hoodie is somewhere between The Ditz and a Cloudcuckoolander because, after eating her grandma, the wolf decided to raise her. Hoodie is completely oblivious to this fact, even when "Grandma" does things like eat her homework.
Red from Ever After is very much on the Ax Crazy end of the spectrum, using a saw as her Weapon of Choice. Her introduction scene has her taking the saw to the guards and one of the nurses of the asylum in a bloody rampage before being subdued by Puss-In-Boots. Thanks to Dr. Crooked, they get better.
The Furry Fandom has its own takes on Little Red Riding Hood, some of which have ended up pretty good, others, not so much. A few variations likely to be found:
The wolf is a hero. The villain can range between pretty-much all the human characters likely to be found in the setting.
Red and the wolf are lovers. Usually including an age-up for Red, this one can turn out surprisingly good.
Various combinations of species and gender swapping.
Making one or more characters werewolves.
And, or course, given The Internet Is for Porn, there are outright pornographic takes on the story, essentially using the framework of the story as an excuse for gratuitous sex.
There's at least one comic that parodies the concept of a "sexy" wolf man. After pointing out how weird the eating/sex parallels are, Little Red concludes that the Wolf needs professional help and skips away.