Hello, everyone! I’m back with more Disney knowledge than you could ever possibly care about. Aren’t you excited? Since I only have so much space to talk, I’ll be skipping over a couple of movies, like Oliver and Company, which is an animal version of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. A few are worth mentioning, but aren’t necessarily fairy tales.
For starters, The Sword and the Stone (1963), adapted from The Once and Future King by T.H. White which is based on Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. Disney kept the basics of the plot, but two of my favorite parts of the novel were left out—Wart (Arthur) meets Robin Wood (aka Robin Hood), and Merlin ages backward through time.
Next, we have The Great Mouse Detective (1986) which is adapted from Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, which is a version of Sherlock Holmes for children. Funny how that one is a retelling of a retelling.
Anyway, here are five more Disney movies altered from fairy tales—
Sleeping Beauty, (1959)
There are three different versions of Sleeping Beauty. The original, authored by Basile, is titled Sun, Moon, and Talia. In this version, Talia gets a flax splinter stuck in her finger which causes her death-like sleep. Her father boards up the castle and leaves her because he thinks she dead. A passing king (who is already married!!!) goes inside and finds her asleep on a throne, and “gathers the first fruits of love” as Basile so delicately puts it. He rapes her. While she’s supposed to be dead. And then, he abandons her and returns to his wife. Nine months later, Talia gives birth to twins in her sleep. One of them sucks on her finger and dislodges the splinter, waking her. She takes her twins and finds the king who impregnated her in her sleep (apparently unperturbed by this new development in her life). He hides them, but his wife finds out and is (rightfully) upset. However, she goes a little too far when she pays a cook to serve the children to their father. The cook saves the children and is rewarded, while the wife is burned.
The next version was penned by Perrault. Seven fairies are invited to be godmothers to the princess, but an older fairy was not because she is presumed dead. Offended at not receiving an invitation, she shows up and curses the child to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Disney kept that curse the same, as well as how one of the good fairies alters the curse from death to sleep. However, Disney changed the story by sending Sleeping Beauty away from the castle even after the spinning wheels are burned. Perrault kept the princess in the castle, which is where she finds an old woman spinning on the wheel and pricks her finger. This old woman is NOT the one who cursed her, and she actually attempts to revive the princess. The good fairies put everyone in the castle to sleep, and protect the castle with brambles, as opposed to Disney’s version where Maleficent puts up the brambles to prevent the prince from getting to the princess. In this version, a passing (unmarried) prince finds her and wakes her with a kiss, and they are later married and have twins. He takes them home to meet his mother, who happens to be an ogress, and she pays the cook to serve up the children for her own dinner while the prince (now a king) is away. When he returns, he finds the cook has saved the children, and the ogress mother throws herself into a pit of vipers.
The version by the Brothers Grimm is a little simpler, as it does not include the second half of the story. The fairies are called Wise Women, and there are twelve of them. The thirteenth one is not invited because the king only had twelve gold plates. Some king.
Mary Poppins, (1964)-
Not a fairy tale by any means, but I bring it up because Disney did not come up with original ideas for many of their movies. They even made a movie about the things they changed when making this movie, and couldn’t keep from altering that storyline. Anyway…
P.L.Travers wrote the Mary Poppins series throughout her entire life, the last one being published 54 years after the
first. Disney changed most things from the book when they condensed the story, but the biggest changes were to the characters. The Banks family had twin babies, Barbara and John, in addition to Jane and Michael. They made Mrs. Banks a suffragette, changed Bert’s career (except for the sidewalk paintings), and toned down Mary Poppins’s vanity and temper, though they kept her signature carpetbag and parrot umbrella. In the books, Mary Poppins even comments on how pointless feeding the birds are in the books, so she wasn’t originally the kind of person who would convince the children to feed the birds via lullaby. Some parts of the story that were cut include a trip around the world using a magic compass, a birthday party at the zoo, and meeting a star (an actual star named Maia from the Taurus constellation). Travers hated the changes so much that she cried during the movie premiere and was later quoted saying she was so shocked, she felt she would never write again. However, twenty years later, she watched the film again and found herself inspired by some of the elements the Disney writers added.
The Little Mermaid, (1989)-
Disney worked hard to make this seem like a nice, romantic, family-friendly tale. Except for the part where Ariel’s father has a violent passion to keep her away from the surface. In Hans Christian Andersen’s version, mermaids were permitted to go to the surface and observe the humans when they come of age. The little mermaid does save a prince from a shipwreck, and she leaves him at a temple where another girl helps him recover. But, she doesn’t obsess over him the way Disney portrays. Instead, she becomes obsessed with becoming human so she can have a soul to go to heaven in the afterlife, whereas mermaids live longer lives but turn into sea foam when they die. The Sea Witch bargains with her and cuts out her tongue in exchange for giving her human legs that cause her horrible pains every time she steps. If she can marry the prince, part of his soul will pass to hers, allowing her passage into the afterlife.
However, the prince is determined to only marry the woman who saved him, which he believes is the girl from the temple. She turns out to be a neighboring princess, and they prepare for a wedding. To save her, her sisters bring her a knife to use to kill the prince and spill his blood on her legs, breaking the spell and giving her back her tail. Heartbroken, she refuses to kill him in his wedding bed, and she dissolves into sea foam.
HOWEVER, the story does not end there as most people think. There is an often missed line at the end explaining that because of her selflessness, she is given the opportunity to become a Daughter of the Air (remember that from one of our stories in the first anthology?) who serves mankind for 300 years where she will earn her soul. So, the little mermaid does get her wish in the end.
Beauty and the BEast, (1991)-
The first edition of the story was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and later abridged by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The most noticeable change right off is that Beauty is not an only child; she has 2 sisters and 3 brothers. Also, Beauty does not volunteer herself up as prisoner in place of her father. Instead, the Beast offers to free the father if one of his daughters returns. I spoke in my last post about how kind the Beast was to Beauty, and how Disney decided to give him anger issues. He asks her daily if she will marry him. Beauty dreams about a handsome prince, and becomes convinced that the Beast is holding him hostage. After a long stay, she becomes homesick, so the Beast gives her an enchanted mirror and a magic ring that will return her to the castle, and lets her leave for a week. Envious when they see how well Beauty has been treated, they convince her to stay longer and longer, hoping that when she returns, the Beast will get angry and eat her, like any loving family would. When Beauty finally uses the mirror to check in on the Beast, she sees him dying of heartbreak and uses the ring to return to him. No, there is no vain, muscular Gaston who storms the castle and stabs the Beast, and there are no cursed servants (they are invisible, though) who fight off the invaders. The next part is as Disney had it, Beauty says she loves the Beast, and he is magically transformed into the handsome prince from Beauty’s dreams. Tuns out, he was cursed for rejecting the creepy, unwanted advances of a fairy, not for being shallow.
When the Book of One Thousand and One Nights (aka the Arabian Nights) was originally published, Aladdin wasn’t included. It was later added by a Frenchman named Antoine Galland. A sorcerer does trick Aladdin into
stealing an oil lamp from a cave filled with traps, and Aladdin gets trapped in the cave. Luckily, he just so happens to have a magic ring given to him by the sorcerer which possesses a genie who helps get him out of the cave. Aladdin takes the lamp to his mom and accidentally releases a second, more powerful genie. Aladdin uses this genie to become wealthy and marry the sultan’s daughter. The genie also builds them a huge palace. Hearing about this, the sorcerer tricks Aladdin’s new wife into giving up the lamp, and promptly uses his new genie to take the palace and everything in it. Aladdin uses the genie inside the ring to get back to the palace, where his wife uses her “womanly wiles” to recover the lamp, and Aladdin defeats the sorcerer. Pretty similar, except for the missing ring genie. Oh, and there’s a whole second part to the story where the sorcerer has a brother who tries to take out Aladdin, and his wife falls for the brother’s tricks as well. Yeah, Disney added in an attempt at feminism with Jasmine’s whole, “I am not a prize to be won!” speech to make up for the fact that her character in the book was a gullible idiot.
Hope you’ve enjoyed me ruining the stories of your childhood. Stay tuned for the next post!
Allie May is a dog lover, mom, and Dr. Pepper addict who turns her caffeine-fueled dreams into believable fiction. She fell in love with the impossible at a young age and has been telling stories (some fiction, some mostly non-fiction) ever since. She married her high school sweetheart because he takes her to Disneyland (oh, and because she loves him). Together they have a dog child and a human child. On the weekends, you might catch a glimpse of her in the shadows as a lightsaber-wielding superhero.