Into the Woods
If that phrase conjures up image of Disney Princesses and happy endings then you’re missing out on the delightfully dark aspects of fairy tales. The ones that come with the original versions of the stories, where sinister woodlands held wicked witches, vengeful spirits, cannibalistic queens, murderous ogres and all manner of things out to kill you. Even the princes had a sinister edge, with not-so-charming intentions.
Now I love the Disney animated films, but my childhood involved reading more nasty versions, namely Grimm’s Fairy Tales. These are the stories that bite, where menacing things prowl in the darkness, behind the trees and even invade your home. In these stories bad things happened, and even the happy endings could seem rather imperfect.
These stories had a spooky ambience and a lurid nature, dark and dripping in blood and terror, but being a main character in one of these fairy tales wasn't easy. A walk in the woods could get you eaten by wolves, captured by witches (who wanted to cook and eat you) or turned into some kind of animal. Even family wasn't safe. Step-mothers, mothers-in-law, fathers and siblings could all conspire to kill you. They could be hungry for your flesh, jealous of your beauty, or just greedy for your gold.
And those Not-So-Charming Princes I mentioned? Well, they tended to scoop up their Princesses without so much as a by-your-leave (I mean who whisks off girls they've just met in a forest?) and marched them to the altar as quick as they could (or do even worse, as in the original Sleeping Beauty tale). Happily ever after for these heroines often meant being forcibly snatched from the life you knew and wedded to a stranger (and sometimes being persecuted by his crazy witch mother).
So the next time you think of fairy tales, don't imagine pretty princesses, shiver in horror. And remember: death (and a witch) lurks around every corner, family can't be trusted, and stay away from princes.
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