Fairytales today have magical creatures, fantasy, adventure, and most often a happy ending. Well, the same can be said for some of the old classic versions of these stories, but they may be a bit different than the ones you’re familiar with. Many of the popular fairytales we know and love actually originate from much older and often quite different versions of the stories! These versions might be a bit dark for very young readers, so use your best judgement to decide if these stories are right for your kids. Now, let’s dive into some classic fairytales!
1. Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack lives with his mother in a small cottage. They’re extremely poor – the only possession they have with any real value is a cow. One day, their financial situation is so dire that Jack’s mum tells him to sell the cow at the market.
On his way to market with the cow, Jack meets an old man. The old man says he’ll give Jack something very valuable in exchange for the cow.
The old man offers him magic beans. Jack accepts the offer and the old man walks away with the cow. Jack goes home with the beans and tells his mother about the deal.
Furious, Jack’s mother grabs the beans and throws them out into the yard. The next day, Jack wakes up to find a huge beanstalk growing past his window, up into the sky. Jack climbs out of the window and starts to ascend the stalk. He climbs through the clouds until he reaches a huge castle. Inside, everything is ginormous and he realizes he’s in the home of a giant.
He steals precious treasures, including, golden coins, a harp and an enchanted goose that lays golden eggs. As he’s about to leave, the giant spots him. Jack dashes the Beanstalk and starts to climb down. But then, the giant goes to follow him. Jack and the giant are both climbing down, Jack with his arms full of coins, the harp and the golden-egg-laying goose.
Despite having to carry the heavy treasures, Jack reaches the bottom first and starts to cut down the beanstalk. The giant roars in outrage but it’s no use, the stalk has been cut. The mighty beanstalk collapses and the giant falls to his death.With the giant gone and tons of treasures, Jack and his mother are rich and live happily ever after.
Rapunzel is a classic tale of a beautiful young woman and an evil old witch.
A husband and wife live next to a witch, and one night they steal some of the plants in her garden because they’re hungry. The witch demands the pregnant wife’s unborn child as punishment for stealing from her. She locks the child in a tall tower in the middle of a forest, with one window and no door or stairs. She visits the child by climbing up her very long hair; using it as a rope.
She uses the classic line, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” One day a prince rides by and sees the witch climbing up to check on Rapunzel. Once the witch leaves, he asks her again to let down her hair. She does, and they end up meeting many times. Each time the prince brings Rapunzel some scraps of silk to braid into a rope, so she can eventually escape and live with him.
One day, the witch finds out about this plan and banishes Rapunzel into the harsh wilderness, after cutting off her long hair. The witch waits for the prince, and tricks him by letting down Rapunzel’s long piece of braided hair. Once in the tower, the witch blinds the prince, who ends up wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. One day he hears the beautiful voice of Rapunzel, and they’re reunited! Rapunzel’s tears heal the prince’s wounded eyes and they go back to his kingdom, living happily ever after.
3. Hansel & Gretel
A young family is living in poverty, and the stepmother convinces her husband to lead his children, Hansel and Gretel, into the forest to let them die. He desperately avoids this but eventually they become so poor and hungry that he has no choice. Hansel collects white pebbles and drops the stones behind him so he and Gretel can follow the trail home that night.
Once they return home, the stepmother is furious and forces her husband to lead them into the woods again. Hansel drops breadcrumbs behind him, but birds eat all the crumbs and the children become lost in the woods. They stumble upon a house made of gingerbread and other delicious sweets. They start to nibble on the house when a kind old lady invites them inside to eat and sleep.
Once inside, the old lady turns into a hideous witch. The witch forces Gretel to be a slave, and locks Hansel in a cage to fatten him up and eat him later. On the day the witch decides to eat Hansel and Gretel, Gretel tricks the witch and pushes her into the oven instead! The witch burns and the children escape, taking all her jewels. The children return home (their stepmother has died) and they live as a family happily ever after.
The classic version of this tale is slightly different to the Disney version we know so well. Can you spot the differences?
Cinderella is a beautiful young woman whose mother dies. Her father remarries a terrible woman whose daughters become Cinderella’s stepsisters. The evil stepsisters are beautiful, but very ugly on the inside. They’re jealous of Cinderella’s beauty so they force her to wear rags and confine her to the kitchen to clean up after them all day.
Each day Cinderella visits her mothers grave and doves from heaven grant her wishes because she is good and kind. One day she hears about a fancy dress ball being hosted by a prince. She begs her stepmother to go but she won’t let Cinderella outside. Cinderella asks the doves to clothe her in a beautiful gown and she goes to the ball. The prince is entranced by her and they end up spending the whole night dancing together.
At the end of the night, he tries to find out who she is but she runs away from her because she’s shy and embarrassed about her situation. She dances with him for two more nights after this, and on the last night she accidentally leaves behind her glass slipper. The prince vows to marry the girl whose foot fits the shoe, and sets out to find her. Cinderella’s two stepsisters both try the shoe, but have to cut off parts of their feet to fit into it. Eventually Cinderella’s father suggests she try on the shoe. After finally finding his mysterious dancing partner, the prince takes Cinderella to his kingdom where they have a lavish wedding.
5. The Elves and the Shoemaker
This old story has a heartwarming moral, be kind, and others will be kind in return.
A poor old shoemaker and his wife have only one more piece of leather to make shoes from. The shoemaker cuts out the leather and leaves it in his workshop overnight. When he returns in the morning, the shoes have been very carefully made for him. He sells them for twice the price he usually asks, and can now afford a bigger piece of leather to make two new pairs of shoes. Eventually, the shoemaker and his wife discover the elves at work one night. The next day they make tiny items of clothing for the elves to thank them. The elves put on the clothes and are never seen again. It’s said that once elves are given clothes, they are free and can go wherever they like.
A father boasts about his daughter’s golden hair to the king, but the king mishears him. Thinking that the girl can spin straw into gold, the king takes the girl and locks her into a room full of straw. He tells her to spin all the straw into gold, or he will cut off her head. If she achieves the impossible task, he promises to marry her. An imp (a small, mean elf-like creature) approaches the girl and offers to spin the gold if she gives him valuable items in return. The first time she gives him her necklace, and the second time she gives him her ring. The third time she has nothing of value to give him, so he vows to take her first-born child.
The king marries the young woman, and she becomes pregnant. The imp visits her just after she’s given birth, and demands she gives up her child. She refuses, and the imp asks her to solve a challenge; if she guesses his name, she can keep her child. She fails to guess his name many times, and eventually decides to follow him home one night. She sees him dancing around a fire, singing “tonight tonight, my plans I make, tomorrow tomorrow, the baby I take. The queen will never win the game, for Rumpelstiltskin is my name.” The next day, she tells the imp his name and he leaves in a fit of anger. The queen and her family live happily ever after!
How many of these fairytales did you know? We hope you enjoy sharing these classic stories with your children that they will surely remember for years to come.