The cartoons of Walt Disney are loved by kids from all over the world. So much so, that the stories and classical fairy tales they’re based on have been forgotten. The scriptwriters did a great job, but there are many extraordinary details that stayed behind the scenes and now we want to share them with you.
Bright Side collected some unexpected facts about where the beautiful Disney heroines came from.
Who are the Disney princesses?
There is an official club of Disney princesses. In order to enter this club each participant is required to have a special coronation that is held at Disneyland. She doesn’t necessarily need to be aristocratic like in the cartoons. The title of a Disney princess is not connected with screen stories and was created for a very simple reason — to increase the sales of children’s goods. Today the club has 11 princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Tiana, Merida, Mulan, Rapunzel, and Aurora. The stories about many of them have stayed the same as when they were initially told. For example, Mulan is the retelling of a Chinese legend about a warrior-girl. The main difference between the cartoon and the original is that the trick she did with changing clothes. This happened many years after the war had finished when Hua Mulan became a respectable authority on the imperial court. This story has been famous since the 6th century A.D. Merida is a character that was created especially for that cartoon, just like Tiana and Jasmine. In the original story about Aladdin, Princess Budur is mentioned but she doesn’t play a big role in the story. The cartoon The Princess and the Frog was based on a fairy tale about a frog-king but the princess there was very naughty and completely different from the hard-working and kind Tiana. The story about Rapunzel is basically the same as it was when it was first told. But some details were different — in the fairy tale written by The Brothers Grimm, she was not aristocratic but a simple girl who met a royal son and gave birth to 2 children with him. When her angry stepmother found out about it, she blinded the prince but Rapunzel healed him with her tears. Other classical fairy tales have gone through some drastic changes.
The first Cinderella lived in Ancient Egypt.
The plot about a girl that married a king thanks to a lost shoe is part of the folklore of many cultures. Nowadays there are more than 300 variations of this fairy tale. The earliest was described by the Ancient Greek historian Strabo in his 17th book of Geography in approximately the 7th year B.C.
“The gorgeous woman whom Sappho calls Doricha, the beloved of Sappho’s brother, was engaged in transporting Lesbian wine to Naucratis for sale. When she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in search of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, and became the wife of the king.” Strabo
Other sources say that the girl’s name was Rhodopis and that she was stolen by pirates and sold into slavery, while the golden sandal was presented to her by her noble owner. The detail about the size of the shoe has likely come from the Chinese version of ’Cinderella’ that was first written in 850 A.D. during the epoch of the Tang dynasty. Wrapping female feet with cloth to make them as small as possible became quite widespread in China and this moment was often captured in children’s fairy tales. The smaller the feet were, the more beautiful the girl was, and the more successful her marriage could be. There is also a theory that the shoes of the European Cinderella were made of fur and not glass because the words describing these 2 materials sound very similar in the French language. The first person who spoke out about this thought was Honoré de Balzac. The debates on this topic are still there: some people believe that Charles Perrault was mistaken when translating the story, others believe that the change was made consciously. In any case, the studio of Walt Disney used his variant for the cartoon.
Pocahontas practiced Christianity.
The real name of the Powhatan leader’s daughter was Matoaka. Pocahontas is the nickname given to her by her father which meant “little wanton.” The story says that she saved the Englishman, Captain John Smith, having protected his head by placing her head over his when her leader was going to kill the captive with his ritual ax. Matoaka was said to be 12 years old at that moment, but many experts doubt that this story is true. Later John Smith left the Powhatans’ land and his destiny remains unknown. But the life of Pocahontas developed bright and tragically. At 17, she was captured by the English, learned their language, started practicing Christianity, and took the new name Rebecca. She married colonizer John Rolfe and gave birth to their son Tom. The spouses even visited England where Rebecca became extremely popular, but on the way back she became ill with small pox and died at 22. Many famous Americans take their roots from Tom Rolfe, which means they take from Pocahontas too. The list includes 2 first ladies — Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan.
Sleeping Beauty wasn’t woken up by a kiss.
There have also been many versions about a girl that had been sleeping for 100 years — each European country has their own story in their folklore. It’s Charles Perrault’s version that is considered a classic. His version says that the girl woke up not because of a magical kiss but because the time had come. Disney has kept all the details that happened before the awakening basically the same but drastically changed the events that happened after the awakening in order to create a classic happy ending. In Charles Perrault’s version, the prince’s mother tried to kill his wife and 2 kids but a kind servant saved them. In the version recorded by Italian writer Giambattista Basile, Princess Talia also didn’t wake up because of a kiss. Instead, she was impregnated by the prince who decided to take advantage of her while she was sleeping. She ended up giving birth to twins and one of the hungry babies started to suck his mother’s finger and sucked out the needle that caused her to sleep in the first place. That’s what made Talia wake up. In this version, the Evil Queen also tried to meddle in the happiness of the main characters, but luckily this one has a happy ending too.
Snow White wasn’t woken up by a kiss either.
This fairy tale is another one that has been softened by Disney. In this story, written by The Brothers Grimm in the 19th century, Snow White’s stepmother tried to kill her 4 times. At first, she ordered a servant to kill the princess, who was only 7 years old, and bring back her liver as proof of her death. The evil queen ate the meat brought by the servant not even suspecting that it belonged to a deer. Having found out that Snow White was still alive, her stepmother changed her appearance and gave the naive princess a lace dress that almost choked her, then a poisoned hair comb, and only after that — a poisoned apple. The dwarfs were able to protect Snow White from the lace and the comb but they were too late when it came to the apple and decided to put her in a crystal coffin. Snow White didn’t wake up because of a kiss. The Prince, mesmerized by her beauty, ordered his servants to place the coffin in his castle. The servants obeyed the order but on the way to the castle one of the servants stumbled, the coffin shook, and the piece of the poisoned apple came out of the princess’s throat.
The Little Mermaid died.
This Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale has gone through many modifications as well. In the cartoon, Ariel wins over the evil Ursula with the help of Prince Eric and manages to get her voice back, while King Triton turns her into a human for the rest of her life. The cartoon ends with pictures of their beautiful wedding. In the original story, the author talks a lot about religion and soul. The Little Mermaid has a granny. The legs that she got for her voice cause her a lot of pain. At the end of the fairy tale, the Prince marries another girl and the Little Mermaid dies. The attempts of her 5 sisters to save her fail and the next morning after the wedding, the Little Mermaid dies having turned into sea foam. Later, Andersen changed the end and made the Little Mermaid a daughter of the air. After this, she is able to get a soul and enter paradise. Some researchers believe that this fairy tale is Andersen’s disguised confession of his love for another man who didn’t return his feelings and got married. No one knows for sure whether it’s true or not but the fact is that later in life the writer decided to stay away from romantic relationships and preferred to live in solitude. This is proven by the many entries in his diaries.
Belle was a real princess.
Stories about a beauty who was captured by a beast are there in the folklore of most European countries. The origins of the plot can be found in the mythology of Ancient Greece — in a story about Psyche and Cupid, while the very first published version of Beauty and the Beast has interesting details that have been lost with time. This story was published by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. Her version explains, in detail, how the curse put on the prince works and that Belle’s parents are a king and a kind fairy who gave Belle to the family of a merchant in order to hide her from an evil witch. Later, the fairy tale was turned into a teaching story with the moral being that your soul is more important than your appearance and that’s why all the extra details disappeared. But Disney threw out even more significant details from the shortened version — for example, Belle’s 2 sisters. They felt envious about Belle living in a big and luxurious palace and persuaded her to stay at home for one more day, but the Beast had asked her to come back on time and almost died of suffering from being without her.
Which Disney princesses do you like the most? Why? Please tell us about it in the comments!
Preview photo credit Walt Disney Studios, Popular Graphic Arts