Fairy Tales: Disney v History

I thought I’d push the boat out and write a rather controversial post for a change.

Everyone seems to be more in love with Disney than ever right now. Remakes are being made left, right and centre (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast), and let’s face it, no-one ever really got over the hype that is ‘Frozen’ – the animated musical inspired by the story of ‘The Snow Queen’ written by Hans Christian Andersen.

Frozen Anna and Elsa

Everyone loves Disney. Everyone except me. I was never a fan of the movies (or books) as a child and I’m not a fan now. As a child cartoons just bored me – so it’s not just Disney I don’t care for, it’s Pixar and the rest of children’s films too. I remember playing a child-appropriate version of Trivial Pursuit at a friends house once when I was probably about 8 or 9. Loads of the questions where about Disney movies and I didn’t have a clue.

I’ll admit that I never truly understood this before studying the fairy tale for my dissertation, but Disney is ruining them. If you strip away the blood and gore; the sexual references; the cannibalism; the incest, you don’t have a story left. These tales are based around these frightful acts and since when did they ever do children any harm anyway? Don’t children and teenagers spend all day playing violent video games? Why do children need to be spared from these things and given happy musical songs instead? Surely children are too young to really understand concepts like incest and so it goes over their heads anyway. As J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in his essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’, ‘I do not think I was harmed by the horror in the fairytale setting, out of whatever dark beliefs and practices of the past it may have come.’

Fairy tales were never intended for children. These improvised tales were a formed part of the salon culture in Paris and then later over dinner in bourgeois households in Germany; they were shared amongst adults for entertainment purposes. I do not understand why Disney feel the need to strip them of their original concepts and fill them with happy-clappy musical numbers in order to make them child friendly. They’re essentially not the same stories. I suppose that’s why I can excuse something like ‘Frozen’. It’s not given the same name. It’s not pretending to be ‘The Snow Queen’ in the same way that the 1991 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is pretending to be ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with added talking teacups.

Beauty and the Beast

There’s nothing wrong with change and nothing wrong with adaptation but most Disney films have barely any resemblance to the canonical tales. Charles Perrault, Giambattista Basile, Hans Christian Andersen, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (amongst so many others) would be turning in their graves if they knew what Disney had done to their stories.


6 thoughts on “Fairy Tales: Disney v History

  1. WOW! I had never thought of them this way. I never enjoyed them either but, never quite understood why.
    It is true then, books are meant to be books. It really is extremely enjoyable to creat everything in your head and then feel them with your soul.
    I hope everyone, one day, would go back to the pages.

    • It would be great if someone made realistic adaptations perhaps. No cartoons, no Hemsworth brothers without their shirts on, just pure darkness. But you’re probably right. Books are meant to be books.

      • I assume they were hoping of taking it to the next level. They just didn’t know what it was from the beginning. How much those words mean to us. I don’t know if it was for the fame or wealth, but they simply ruined it.

  2. This is a really great discussion topic! I’ve thought about this briefly before, but never really dwelled on it. I’m only familiar with the original The Little Mermaid story, and I know that it’s much more dark and depressing than the Disney adaptation. I personally really love Disney, but I get that Disney does an injustice to the original authors by sugarcoating and almost completely changing the original stories. I love this post! 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I suppose it’s not a black and white topic. There will be a lot of Disney fans out there who also appreciate the original tales, but I imagine there are a lot of people who don’t really know the stories of the canonical tales. You’re right in thinking the original story of The Little Mermaid is very dark – the tongue cutting part in particular. I only wish these stories were still as popularly read as they used to be. They may be dark and they may be depressing but they’re wonderful tales.

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