You’re probably familiar with the Disney version of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The stories told by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are scarier and more gruesome than their adorably animated counterparts. In fact, the first volumes of “Children’s Tales” by the Brothers Grimm were criticized for not being appropriate for children either in content or subject matter. Later editions made some concessions, such as changing the wicked mother in Snow White to a stepmother.
If you want to read some bedtime stories that add to the spooky fun of Halloween for your child, you may enjoy the twist on these classic tales.
An ailing rich man’s wife told her daughter to always be good and that she will watch over her from heaven. When the mother died she was buried in the garden and her daughter came daily to mourn. The father soon married a woman with two daughters who forced the girl into hard labor and gave her a bed by the hearth among the ashes, bestowing the name “Cinderella” upon her.
The father was going to the fair and asked each of the daughters what gift he should bring back for them. The stepsisters wanted fine clothes and jewels but Cinderella wanted the first sprig that brushed his hat on his way home. He returned with the gifts, a sprig of hazel for Cinderella. She planted it at her mother’s grave, watered it with her tears, and it grew into a tree where a bird who befriended Cinderella made its nest.
When the king of the land held a three-day feast to find a bride for his son, Cinderella obediently readied her stepsisters and begged her stepmother to let her attend. First she would have to finish a challenge: pick out a bowl of peas from the ash heap in only two hours. Cinderella ran outside and asked for the birds’ help and they gathered the peas for her in only an hour. Her stepmother still refused to let her go and repeated the challenge, this time with two dishes of peas in one hour. The birds returned to help Cinderella and were finished in half an hour. Again the stepmother refused and took the stepsisters to the feast without her.
Devastated, Cinderella ran to her mother’s grave and shook the tree, asking for gold and silver. The bird flew out of the tree and returned with a gold and silver dress and silk slippers. She put on the clothes and went to the feast, unrecognizable to her family in her rich clothes.
All night the king’s son danced only with her. She slipped away from him but he followed her home to where she hid in a pigeon-house. When Cinderella’s father returned home he helped the prince break open the door but she’d escaped out the back.
The second evening happened the same way. Cinderella went to her mother’s grave and the bird brought her clothing and slippers. At the feast the prince would only dance with her and she escaped him in the evening by hiding in a pear tree. The father ordered it to be cut down but Cinderella had sneaked away.
On the third day of the feast she returned to the garden and the bird brought her an even finer dress and gold slippers. The prince danced with her and when she wanted to go home he came with her but she hurried away, leaving behind one slipper. He resolved to take for a wife the lady that fit the shoe.
The eldest stepsister went first into the room with the slipper but her big toe didn’t fit. The stepmother told her to cut it off because she wouldn’t care about her toes once she was Queen. So, she did as instructed and squeezed into the shoe. The prince married her and rode away with her.
When they reached the hazel tree Cinderella planted on her mother’s grave, a dove sang out that the prince had married the wrong lady. He looked at her foot, saw the blood trickling out of the shoe, and took her home to let the other stepsister try it on. This time the girl’s heel was too big but the stepmother forced her foot into the slipper until it bled and the prince took her for his new bride. Again he rode away and at the hazel tree the dove sang a warning that the prince still had the wrong lady for his wife.
The prince returned with the stepsister and asked the father if he had any other daughters. Cinderella came and tried on the golden slipper and it fit perfectly. He took her away and at the hazel tree the dove sang, “Prince! Prince! Take home thy bride, for she is the true one that sits by thy side!”
A beloved little girl was given a red silk cap by her grandmother that she liked so much she always wore it. Everyone began calling her Little Red-Cap.
Early one morning Little Red-Cap’s mother gave her a basket of meat and wine to take to her ailing grandmother. She instructed the girl to go carefully and be there before her grandmother woke up.
Little Red-Cap began the long walk through the village and came upon a Wolf who asked where she was going. The girl naively told of her ailing grandmother and the meat and wine she carried, and she even described her grandmother’s cottage. The Wolf thought the girl and old woman would make a tasty meal so he tempted Little Red-Cap to pick some pretty flowers in the forest.
While the girl picked nosegays for her grandmother, the Wolf sneaked off to the cottage and jumped on the old woman’s bed and gobbled her up. He got under the blankets and pulled her night-cap over his head. When Little Red-Cap arrived, she called out for her grandmother and found the disguised Wolf in the bed.
“What very great teeth you have!” Little Red-Cap said. The Wolf replied, “All the better to eat you with,” and he sprang out of bed and swallowed her up also. With his hunger sated, he fell asleep in the bed and snored loudly. A huntsman passing by heard the snoring and went to check on the old woman. Seeing the Wolf he exclaimed, “You old rascal… I have been looking for you!” Then the huntsman shot him in the head.
Some say the story happened differently. Little Red-Cap was frightened when she met the Wolf in the woods and she went straight to her grandmother’s house and told her about the scary encounter. The two shut the door and when the Wolf came he pretended to be Little Red-Cap but they kept quiet and didn’t let him in. So, the Wolf climbed to the roof to lie in wait for the little girl. Guessing the Wolf’s intentions, the grandmother had an idea. She told Little Red-Cap to take a bucket of water that was used to boil meat and pour it into the stone trough near the outside of the door. When the Wolf smelled it he salivated and leaned over the roof so far that he lost balance, fell into the trough and drowned.
One winter day as a queen sat at her window, she pricked her finger and three droplets of blood fell on the snow. She said, “Would that my little daughter may be as white as that snow, as red as the blood, and as black as the ebony window-frame!” And her daughter grew up to have skin white as snow, cheeks rosy as blood, and hair black as ebony. They called her Snow-White.
When the queen died the king remarried a beautiful and prideful woman with a magical looking-glass. She would look into it and say, “Tell me, glass, tell me true! Of all the ladies in the land, who is fairest? Tell me who?” The glass would answer, “Thou, Queen, art fairest in the land!”
When the girl was seven years-old the looking-glass told the queen that Snow-White had surpassed her loveliness. The queen ordered a servant to take Snow-White far into the woods. The girl begged for her life and the servant left her unharmed, believing she’d be devoured by wild beasts.
Snow-White wandered through the woods until she found a tiny cottage and she went inside to rest. A table with seven place settings had bread and wine and she helped herself to some of it. Then she fell asleep in one of the beds where the masters of the cottage, seven dwarfs, found her. They thought she was so lovely and they couldn’t bear to wake her.
In the morning Snow-White told them her woeful story. They took pity on her and offered to let her stay and care for her if she would cook, wash, knit and spin for them. Before they left to mine gold and silver in the mountains they warned her not to let anyone inside because the queen would surely be looking for her.
Believing Snow-White to be dead, the queen asked the looking-glass who was the fairest in the land. The glass answered it was Snow-White and she was living with the seven dwarfs in the mountains. The queen then disguised herself as a peddler of laces and bobbins and left to find the cottage where the girl stayed. Snow-White let her in and the queen offered a new lace for her corset. She pulled it so tight that Snow-White fainted and the queen left her for dead.
The seven dwarfs returned home and found Snow-White. They cut the lace and she began to breathe. They surmised the peddler woman was really the queen and they warned her again never to let anyone inside.
The queen returned home and asked the looking-glass who was the fairest in the land and her heart was filled with spite and malice when she learned Snow-White was still alive. She dressed in another disguise and returned to the cottage. The queen convinced Snow-White to open the door and look at the combs she had to sell. The one she gave her was poisoned so that when Snow-White touched it to her head she fell down and the queen left her for dead again.
Luckily for Snow-White, the seven dwarfs returned early and when they saw what happened they removed the comb. Instantly she recovered and they warned her once more not to open the door to anyone.
The queen flew into a rage when she learned what happened from the looking-glass. She resolved to kill Snow-White even if it cost her own life. She poisoned half of an apple, dressed as a peasant’s wife, and went back to the cottage. When she knocked Snow-White said she was warned not to open the door but the queen tempted her with the apple. She took a bite of the good side and gave the other to Snow-White. She fell dead as soon as she had a piece in her mouth. Later the looking-glass told the queen she was the fairest in the land so she knew it was true this time.
When the dwarfs found Snow-White dead they washed her face and combed her hair. They grieved for three days and still Snow-White’s cheeks were rosy red. They didn’t want to bury her in the cold ground so they placed her in a glass coffin and wrote her name on it in gold letters. They put the coffin on a hill and watched as birds came and mourned her.
Along came a prince and when he saw Snow-White in her coffin he offered the seven dwarfs money to let him take her away. They refused but then they pitied him and gave in. When the prince lifted her coffin the piece of poisoned apple fell from Snow-White’s mouth and she awoke and asked, “Where am I?” The prince assured her she was safe with him and he professed his love and asked her to marry him. She consented and a wedding and feast were prepared.
The queen was among the invited guests. As she dressed for the festivities she asked the looking-glass who was the fairest in the land and the glass replied it was the newly made queen. Her anger burned but curiosity made her seek out the bride to behold her beauty for herself. When she found that it was Snow-White she was so upset she fell ill and died. The prince and Snow-White lived happily and reigned in the land many years.