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The older versions of popular fairy tales often get into some surprisingly mature themes: murder, mutilation, revenge. Learn the gory details in this video.

10 Fairy Tales That Were Way Darker Than You Realized as a Kid

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Image attributions:

Brothers Grimm book cover

Cinderella's bloody shoe

Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Pinocchio kills the cricket


Rapunzel's hair being cut

Rapunzel's prince falls

The Little Mermaid

Transcript: Fairy Tales: They’re sweet, magical stories for children, right? But in the early versions recorded by writers like the Brothers Grimm, they’re more like movies in the Saw franchise.

Cinderella. You probably remember how after Cinderella’s enchanted night with Prince Charming, she leaves behind a glass slipper, which the prince later uses to identify his mystery woman by shoe size. In the version of the story recorded in Grimm’s 1812 volume, Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters try to trick the prince by slicing off parts of their own feet to fit the slipper. They almost get away with it, until some helpful pigeons point out ... all the blood. Later, at Cinderella’s wedding, the pigeons peck the stepsisters’ eyeballs out.

Snow White. Cinderella isn’t the only fairy tale to feature brutal step-family revenge at the heroine’s wedding. In the Grimm version of Snow White, partygoers at Snow White’s wedding force her Evil Stepmother to put on a pair of searing-hot iron shoes and dance around in them until she collapses and dies.

Pinocchio. In the 1940 Disney film, the wooden prodigal son Pinocchio explores some shallow vices, like fibbing, smoking cigars and playing pool. But in the 1883 version of the story by Carlo Collodi, the world’s most lovable wooden puppet really hits bottom. Just one example: Pinocchio kills his magical cricket friend with a hammer.

Rapunzel. You know the basics: Beautiful young lady, imprisoned in a tower by a witch, freakishly long hair, dashing prince climbs the hair, et cetera. But in the Grimm telling, Rapunzel and the prince run into some really bad luck. After the prince visits Rapunzel – and apparently gets her pregnant – the witch lops off Rapunzel’s hair, banishes her to a desert, ambushes the prince in the tower and makes him take a dive off the top. And the prince, being unaware of the fact that he’s in a Grimm fairytale, fails to take the key precaution of protecting his eyeballs. So, he lands among some thorns that gouge his eyes out and blind him.

The Little Mermaid. If you go with the 1827 version of the story by Hans Christian Andersen, nobody in their right mind would want to be “part of your world.” In this version, the sea witch steals the little mermaid’s voice by slicing out her tongue and putting it in a seashell. At the end of the story, the prince abandons the former mermaid and marries another woman, and our heroine is given the option of stabbing the prince in the heart with a knife and bathing her feet in his blood to turn herself back into a mermaid.

What’s your favorite grisly fairy tale? Let us know in the comments, and to learn about more blood-curdling children’s folklore, read 10 Fairy Tales That Were Way Darker Than You Realized as a Kid at HowStuffWorks. And subscribe, you creep!

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