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Nightmare Fuel / Fairy Tales in General

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... and all the little kiddies in the audience lived scarred for ever after!

Fairy tales are considered to be the most typical example of children's stories. They are respected as being part of traditional world culture and have been retold over centuries and centuries. Even today parents don't have any problem telling these tales to their offspring!

The problem is: fairy tales were never exclusively meant for children. In the centuries before the 19th century, adults didn't see children as any different from adults. This meant that grownups would tell scary stories to each other without being troubled that their kids would hear things not meant for their innocent ears. Gruesome scenes or sexual innuendo were prominent in many of these ancient tales. Despite attempts to make these tales more child friendly, many fairy tales still have disturbing content. But as always, the chilling scenes are always the parts children love to hear again and again...


Charles Perrault

  • "Bluebeard": The girl discovering that Bluebeard killed all his previous partners and that their bodies are kept inside a room in his house!
  • "Little Red Riding Hood": In Perrault's original tale the wolf eats the grandmother and the girl and the story simply ends there!! It wasn't until the Grimm version that the hunter and the rescue scene were added to the plot! Still, being Swallowed Whole and being inside a living being is enough to make you cringe.
  • "Hop-o'-My-Thumb": The scene where the man-eating giant wants to cut Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his seven brothers' necks and goes to their bed. Because of the darkness and Hop's clever plan to change their hats the giant accidentally slits his daughters' throats... while they are sleeping!!
    • Gustave Doré 's illustration to this scene is equally terrifying. (See the image to illustrate this article)
  • There's a second half to "Sleeping Beauty"'s story. Her mother-in-law is a cannibal who wants to eat the princess’s kids. She gives absurdly Frasier-like directions for how she wants them cooked. This was probably meant to be funny or satirical, but may have scared the piss out of some.
  • "Donkeyskin": A.K.A. "The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughter". The queen died, and said that the king could only marry a woman as beautiful as her/more beautiful than her/who fit her ring/etc. (depending on the version). The king went mad, and began lusting after his daughter. What's worse is that this is based on a true story, that of St. Dymphna - only without the Cinderella ending. It went From Bad to Worse: Eventually King Damon tracked her down in Geel, Belgium, and when she refused to return to Ireland and marry him, he pulled his sword from its scabbard and beheaded her.

The Brothers Grimm

  • "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs": The Queen asks the hunter to kill Snow White and bring back her lungs and liver, both as proof of her death and so that she can cook and eat them.
    • Her comeuppance is also pretty horrifying. When she hears that the Prince's new wife is fairer than her, she goes to the wedding, and sees that the bride is Snow White, whom she thought dead. She's quickly identified and arrested, and is forced to dance herself to death in red-hot iron shoes. Granted, it's hard to say she didn't deserve it, but it's still a horrifying way to go.
  • "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids": The image of a Big Bad Wolf eating you is a scary thought to most children. In "Little Red Riding Hood" the wolf disguises himself as your grandmother and then eats you. In "The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids" the little goats are home alone. when the wolf tricks them into believing he is their mother. Then they let him in and are eaten. The very thought of being gobbled up by a wolf but still being alive in its stomach is chilling.
  • "Cinderella", in which the evil step-sisters first cut off pieces of their feet to fit the golden slipper, and later had their eyes pecked out by birds who were avenging Cinderella.
  • "Hansel and Gretel": A brother and sister are abandoned in the woods by their parents, in some accounts on behalf of the step mother. This is already disturbing in itself, because it was actually founded in actual historical events-the Great Famine of 1315-1317. Children were literally abandoned in the wilderness by their parents, and cannibalism is well-documented. Pleasant dreams!
    • Hansel is then imprisoned by a witch in order to make him fat enough to eat. But Gretel pushes her inside the oven, where the witch is burned alive!!
    • There is a picture book of Hansel and Gretel with illustrations in what looked like Claymation images (possibly based on some TV special). That would've been creepy enough, but the crowning moment of chills was the ending scene that they added on to this version of the tale. After returning to their home, the kids hear an explosion in the woods. Then a cookie version of the Witch lands in their front yard. As in, a giant cookie shaped exactly like the Witch. Really, really disturbing. The illustrations may have come from this classic 1954 version of the story. You can see the "cookie witch" in this segment.
  • The second volume of Grimm's stories are even worse — those are the "Morality Tales", wherein "bad children" face even more sadistic fates.
  • The tone and taste level of the whole genre is neatly summarised by the classic jingle that runs through "The Juniper Tree", apparently just another adorable bedtime story making the rounds in 19th century Germany:
    It was my mother who murdered me
    It was my father who ate of me
    It was my sister Marjorie
    Who all my bones in pieces found
    Them in her handkerchief she bound
    And laid them under the juniper tree.
    • Said story has the Wicked Stepmother kill the heroine's brother by chopping his head off with the lid of a heavy chest. She then arranges him as if sitting down with a handkerchief around his neck to hide the neck wound. The heroine comes by, asks him for a bite of the apple he's holding, then slaps him when he doesn't respond and his head falls off. And then the stepmother proceeds to turn the poor boy's body into a nice stew (or in some versions of the tale, black sausages) which she then serves to their unknowing father!
  • "Rumpelstiltskin": When Rumpelstiltskin discovers that the queen knows his name he stamps his right foot into the floor. Then when trying to free himself he accidentally rips himself in two!! This ending has been altered in many child friendly adaptations.
  • The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was: Need to explain this one?
  • "Allerleirauh/All-Kinds of Fur": See "Donkeyskin" up in the Charles Perrault section.
  • "Rapunzel": After cutting off Rapunzel's hair and casting her out of the tower, the witch tricks the Prince into climbing up and confronts him when he reaches the top. Exactly what happens depends on the telling, but in just about all versions, the Prince suffers a nasty fall and is rendered blind.

Hans Christian Andersen

  • "The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf", in which the cruel, vain protagonist becomes a statue in Hell, able to hear everything said about her on Earth, almost all of which is nasty until an angel begins to cry for her and sets her soul free.
  • "The Little Match Girl": The poor girl tries to sell matches, while shivering in the snow. But no one helps her, so to remain warm she starts lighting all of her matches, hallucinates about being warm until the final one, then afterwards she promptly freezes to death- until her (dead) grandma shortly takes her to Heaven... This was seen as a happy ending back in ye olde days..
  • "The Little Mermaid": In contrast to the Disneyfication the Mermaid dies at the end of the story.
  • The Nightingale: The Grim Reaper appears on the Emperor's death bed. According to Andersen's original text he stares at the Emperor through his hollow eyes.
  • The Red Shoes, in which the protagonist is punished for paying more attention to the title objects than to her family or church sermons by being forced to dance in the shoes, which keep dancing even after her feet have been cut off!

Joseph Jacobs

  • The Three Little Pigs: In the original story the first two pigs are eaten by the wolf. Imagine feeling safe inside your house of straw and/or wood until everything is blown away by a hungry wolf who then devours you!
  • Jack and the Beanstalk: The giant smelling Jack and then yelling: "Fee Fi Fo Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman."
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Goldilocks waking up and discovering she's surrounded by a bunch of bears.
  • The Rose Tree: The heroine having her head chopped off by her Wicked Stepmother.

Arabian Nights

  • "Aladdin": In the original story the djinn is portrayed as a gruesome looking ghost who works as a slave for the caliph.
  • "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves": Whenever one of the thieves fails in his mission the headman of the thieves has him murdered in cold blood.
    • Not to mention the part where the thieves catch Ali Baba's brother in their lair. They kill him, and then hang his body from a tree simply because they suspect he had an accomplice, and hope that by leaving the body in plain view, said accomplice will steal it back to give it a proper burial.
  • "Sinbad the Sailor": Most of the monsters Sinbad encounters during his stories.


  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A strange man arrivés in rat infested medieval town, drives all rats away, isn't paid for this and then as a retribution takes all the town's children with him. What he does with them afterwards remains a creepy mystery in some versions of the story...
  • Peter and the Wolf: The music itself makes a lot of scenes in the story frightening, especially a Jump Scare moment when the cat tries to catch the bird and misses and later the gruesome scene where the wolf swallows the duck alive!


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