Part II and still more dark, disturbing tales to be told as I compare the Disney versions to the original stories they were based on. How about a nice story about a sleeping girl, surely that one can’t get twisted?
Sleeping Beauty: Really, how can the classic, Sleeping Beauty be twisted? Its a simple enough yarn and one of Disney’s most famous. You know this one, after many years of a childless marriage, the King and Queen finally welcome the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. A christening is arranged and this is where the evil Maleficent appears and places a curse on the young princess. The curse states that before her 16th Birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of an enchanted spinning wheel and die. But a fairy weakens the curse so that the princess will just fall asleep and can only be woken by her true love’s first kiss. Long-ish story short, Aurora does prick her finger and falls into a deep sleep and a prince finds Aurora asleep, kisses her and she awakens. And of course, they live “happily ever after”. After Cinderella, this must be Disney’s most famous story.
Its kind of hard to see how the story the Disney version is based on can be that dark considering one of the main characters is asleep for most of the tale. But…
Like most Fairy Tales, this too has various versions and for this comparison, I’ll be using Giambattista Basile’s version of Sleeping Beauty (Sole, Luna, e Talia/Sun, Moon, and Talia) from 1634 as its pretty messed up to be honest. In this version the sleeping beauty is called Talia, so there is your first difference and things are only going to get worse from this point on.
Talia is born to a great lord, wise men and astrologers predict that later in her life Talia would be endangered by a splinter of flax. To keep his daughter safe, the lord forbids any use of flax in their home. Years later and now a grown up young woman, Talia comes across an old woman spinning flax on a spindle. She asks the woman if she could use the spindle herself. Talia begins to spin but a splinter of flax gets embedded under her fingernail and she drops to the ground (supposedly) dead. The great lord can’t stand the thought of burying his only child so instead he places her on a velvet throne in a house on one of his estates, the lord locks the doors and abandons the house forever.
Sometime later, a King is hunting in the woods near the house and one of his falcons flies inside. The King knocks on the door but nobody answers, so he climbs through a window to retrieve his falcon. Inside, he finds the unconscious Talia still sitting in the throne and he tries to wake her but is unsuccessful. Now I know what you are thinking here, he gives her a gentle kiss and she wakes up to her one true love its a classic… no, that’s not what the King does. Instead, the King carries the unconscious Talia to a bed in the house and rapes her… yes, he rapes her. He then leaves the unconscious girl on the bed and returns to his kingdom. Months later and the unconscious Talia gives birth to twins, one of the babies starts to suck on Talia’s finger and this draws the flax splinter out and she wakes up from her sleep. Talia names the two babies; Sun and Moon and they live together in the house. The King returns to the house and finds Talia awake and now with two babies, he explains who he is and what happened and he also promises to look after Talia and the children but has to return to his kingdom.
Back home, the King is asleep next to his Queen but while asleep he says the names; “Sun, Moon, and Talia”. The Queen does not know what that means so she bribes and threatens the king’s secretary to tell her what is going on. Now aware of the truth, the Queen forges a message as the King asking Talia to send the twins to the kingdom which she does do. The Queen orders the King’s cook to kill the children and cook them in a meal for the King to eat (and you thought the rape was bad right?). The food is served to the King and the Queen sits there watching him eat and continually taunts him with cryptic words about what he is eating. Later, the Queen has Talia brought to the kingdom and she commands that Talia is to be brunt alive. The King learns of this and instead he orders that the Queen and everyone who betrayed him to be burnt alive instead including his own secretary. The Queen tells the King outright that the meal he ate was in fact his own children and so the King also orders the cook be burnt alive too. This is when the cook reveals that the meal he ate was just lamb and that his children are safely hidden away, so the King rewards the cook and just kills the Queen and secretary for their betrayal. The story ends with the King marrying Talia and they live “happily ever after”.
So there you go, I told you it was going to get dark. We had rape, kidnapping, insinuated cannibalism and even people being burnt alive… I wonder why Disney skipped these parts for their version?
This one is a bit of a strange tale as yes, the King gets his revenge on those that wronged him and Talia ends up living a happy life as well as the two children, so everything is perfectly fine then. But you do have to remember that the King RAPED an unconscious woman and so everything was his fault to begin with. “Happily ever after”?
Now, lets take a look at a story about a liar.
Pinocchio: This Disney film is often regarded as the finest Disney film ever made. You all know this one right? With Jiminy Cricket singing the classic; “When You Wish Upon a Star” before explaining how wishes can come true. Then there is lonely, old man Geppetto carving away at a piece of wood and he eventually makes a marionette he names Pinocchio. Geppetto makes wish that Pinocchio would come alive and during the night, a fairy turns up and makes the wish come true. While Pinocchio is alive, he is not human… yet. But the fairy does say that if Pinocchio is truthful and selfless that he will become a real human boy and she also assigns Jiminy Cricket as Pinocchio’s voice of reason and conscience.
Pinocchio is led astray a few times, but generally remains a good kid throughout the film despite a few hiccups and white lies (and growing nose) along the way. Pinocchio gets caught away from home and Geppetto goes looking for him but ends up being swallowed by a giant whale. Pinocchio and Jiminy jump into the water to save his father and also gets swallowed by the giant whale and find Geppetto still alive inside, this is when Pinocchio devises a plan to escape the whale’s belly. They all escape and Pinocchio saves his father’s life however, Pinocchio lies motionless on the ground. Geppetto takes the apparently dead Pinocchio back home and the fairy decides that, despite a few mishaps, Pinocchio had been a good kid and his risking his own life to save Geppetto’s was a selfless act. So the fairy brings Pinocchio back as a real human boy… and of course, they all live “happily ever after.”
The Disney film was based on Carlo Collodi’s; The Adventures of Pinocchio from 1881 which was originally printed as a serial story which appeared in a newspaper at the time before being turned into a book later. While (like most Disney adaptions) the basic story is pretty faithful, its some of the smaller details from the original story that bring a few interesting changes. Pinocchio was a bit of a scamp in the film, in the story he is an outright manipulative and evil little bastard. You remember that lovable Jiminy Cricket from the film? Well there is also a talking cricket in the story too only his life is cut rather short when Pinocchio kills him with a hammer and he even tells Geppetto that it was the cricket’s fault he died. So what evil did the cricket do to warrant such a terrible death? He offered Pinocchio some friendly advice, fair? Also in the story, Pinocchio has his feet brunt off when he falls asleep near a stove, he also runs away from home and leads people to believe that Geppetto had been abusing him which lands Geppetto in prison.
The cricket dying is not the end of the character though as he pops up throughout the story in ghost form and continually tires to keep Pinocchio honest… which doesn’t always work out. Just like in the film, Pinocchio is lead astray by a shady fox and cat. The cricket tries his best to warn Pinocchio about the two shady characters, but he ignores his advice. The fox and cat tell Pinocchio if he buries the gold coins (he got from performing on stage) that a tree will grow with even more gold coins growing on it. Eventually the fox and cat betray Pinocchio and hang him. Now, originally, this is where the story ended with Pinocchio actually dying via being hung. Carlo Collodi wanted to convey a moral that being bad, lying, etc can have terrible consequences… like death. But the editor of the newspaper the story was being printed in didn’t like the ending, so he convinced Collodi to write more. So…
Pinocchio is brought back from death by a fairy and the story is pretty much the same as the film from this point onward, a few minor details aside. Pinocchio steals some food from a farmer and gets involved in a few small incidents, but then tires hard to be a good boy. Geppetto, while out looking for Pinocchio get eaten by a giant dogfish (not a whale). Meanwhile, Pinocchio starts to do well at school and slowly learns to be a good boy but gets involved in a fight after being teased about Geppetto being eaten. The whole donkey thing is also in the original story, only in the film Pinocchio just grows donkey ears, in the book he fully turns into a donkey and he is sold to be skinned and turned into a drum. Pinocchio gets away and turns back into a wooden boy but is thrown into the sea and this is when he is swallowed by the same dogfish as Geppetto. Pretty much the same as the Disney film as
they eventually escape the dogfish. Pinocchio gets a job working on a farm while Geppetto falls ill so he takes care of his father. Long story short and the fairy from earlier turns Pinocchio into a real boy for his selflessness while Geppetto gets better and they all live “happily ever after.”
So the basic plot is pretty much the same in both the original story and Disney’s version… but it could have been so much more different if that newspaper editor hadn’t convinced Carlo Collodi to write more chapters after killing of Pinocchio originally.
To finish up this comparison article, I’m going to end with one of my favourite stories…
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: This really is a great story about a misunderstood, deformed man and I also love the film… not the Disney one but the 1939, Charles Laughton/Maureen O’Hara starring one. Great film. But I’m not here to talk about that classic, this is about comparing the Disney version to the original story. The Disney version adds a backstory not in the original which explains the origin of Quasimodo. Twenty years later and Quasimodo is living in Notre Dame cathedral and he attends the “Festival of Fools” against the wishes of the man who raised him, Frollo. While at the festival, Quasimodo is humiliated by the crowd and Frollo refuses to step in. This is when gypsy, Esmeralda intervenes and helps Quasimodo with the use of magic. They both hide in the cathedral and the two become friends. But Esmeralda is being sought after by guards for alleged witchcraft. Trapped inside the cathedral, Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape and she gives him a a map to the gypsies’ hideout. A manhunt (or in this case, womanhunt) is organised by Frollo to find Esmeralda. Captain Phoebus, one of Frollo’s guards, defies orders to find and kill the gypsy Esmeralda and for this he is sentenced to death. Phoebus is hit by an arrow and falls into the River Seine but is saved by Esmeralda and they fall in love.
Frollo tricks Quasimodo in to revealing where the gypsies are hiding and discovers their camp when he follows Quasimodo as he uses the map Esmeralda gave him. Frollo captures all the gypsies and prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake for her witchcraft. Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda and takes her back to Notre Dame cathedral while Phoebus frees the gypsies. Frollo chases Quasimodo and Esmeralda to the cathedral and onto a balcony where he and Quasimodo both fall off. Frollo falls to his death but Quasimodo is saved by Phoebus. Phoebus and Esmeralda are now free to live together while Quasimodo is accepted into society by the citizens, hailed as a hero and they all live “happily ever after.”
I don’t much like the Disney version as it adds a lot of unnecessary crap to the story (magic?) and pads out an otherwise short but well told tale, and about that original story… Victor Hugo published the story; Notre-Dame de Paris in 1831 before English translator Frederic Shoberl re-titled the novel to; The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1833. A lot of the characters are in both the Disney version and the story including, Captain Phoebus, Claude Frollo and of course both Esmeralda and Quasimodo. In the story, Esmeralda is a temptress and seduces men wherever she goes. Frollo orders Quasimodo to kidnap Esmeralda so he can have her all to himself, but the hunchback is captured by Phoebus and they save Esmeralda. Quasimodo is sentenced to be flogged and turned on a pillory. During this, he calls out for water and Esmeralda steps up to help him and Quasimodo falls in love. After this, Esmeralda is captured and charged with the attempted murder of Phoebus. Though it was in fact Frollo who actually attempted to kill Phoebus in a jealous rage after seeing him trying to seduce Esmeralda. She is sentenced to be hung to death and as she is being lead to her demise, Quasimodo swings down to save her and takes her away to Notre Dame cathedral for safety.
Frollo arranges to have Esmeralda caught and killed but the other gypsies hear news of this and they charge into Paris to rescue her. Quasimodo sees the gypsies and assumes they are trying to hurt Esmeralda so he scares them away but he mistakenly thinks that Frollo’s men are trying to help her so he leads them to Esmeralda instead. Frollo hands her over to the guards and she is finally hung. Frollo watches and laughs at Esmeralda as she dies. This angers Quasimodo and he pushes Frollo from the heights of Notre Dame cathedral to his death in an act of revenge. Later in the story, Quasimodo goes to the Gibbet of Montfaucon a graveyard in Paris where the bodies of the condemned are dumped… no buried just dumped. He finds Esmeralda’s body and ‘lies’ with it. Now this is where I want to bring up interpretations of ‘lying’ with Esmeralda’s body as some people believe it is as innocent as just lying down next to her dead body, but others have interpreted it as to meaning he has sex with her dead body… you choose. Anyway, several months later and among the many dead bodies in the graveyard, two skeletons are found. One belongs to a woman and the other to a man with a dis-formed spine as Quasimodo stayed with Esmeralda and starved to death. Someone tries to separate the two skeletons and they turn to dust.
Yep, Victor Hugo’s; Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a pretty depressing love story especially when compared to the Disney take on the tale. But its also wonderfully written and told, well worth reading.
So there you go, six Disney films compared to the stories they were based on. We have had betrayal, murder, rape, disfigurement, inferred cannibalism and necrophilia, plenty of death, punishment and torture… and even a few twisted “happily ever afters”. But there are even more to take a look at (maybe another time?) with stories like Beauty and the Beast, Tangled/Rapunzel, Frozen/The Snow Queen, The Princess and the Frog/The Frog Prince, The Fox and the Hound and more. I could do all of these as I love the original fables and fairy tales they are based on.
If you ever find yourself in Disney World/Land and see Snow White, Cinderella, Quasimodo, Ariel or any of the others doing their thing walking around. Why not go give them a hug as they have had to endure some seriously messed up shit over the years. But give Pinocchio a punch in the face for being such a little bastard.
But with so many changes from the original source material I wonder why Disney altered so many of these stories and what sort of company would they be like now if they didn’t? I best visiting Disney World would be a whole difference experience and would make Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights look tame by comparison…
Pleasant dreams kids…