In my retelling of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I meld the original folklore with real medieval history…gore and all. And while I prefer a gritty story, there’s something about Disney that even I love. With a wave of Walt’s wand and a sprinkling of Tink’s fairy dust, Disney transforms dark tales into candied confections. Still, there are a few fairy tales that even Tinkerbell can’t sweeten and will likely never be Disney movies.
The Three Army Surgeons
Three army surgeons enter a tavern… Yup, this one starts like a dirty joke. Anyways, the three men tell the tavern owner they can amputate and reattach any body part. Shocked, the owner doesn’t believe them and challenges them to prove their claim.
One army surgeon gouges out his eyes. Another slices off his hand. The last removes his heart. And then, off to bed they go.
To make a long story short, a cat steals the eyes, heart, and hand when a serving wench isn’t looking. Terrified of punishment, the wench replaces the missing organs and appendage with animal and corpse parts. Ignorant of the switch, the surgeons attach the impostor body parts the next morning and go on their merry way.
When their new parts malfunction, the army surgeons return to the tavern and demand the real eyes, heart, and hand. But the owner can’t return what he doesn’t have. To keep the three army surgeons from killing him, the tavern owner gives them his life savings. The three army surgeons are left with faulty body parts, the bar owner is broke, and no one lives happily ever after.
So why won’t Disney touch it? The tale is too violent and offers few merchandising options. Can you imagine a “gouge out the kitty’s eyeball” playset? Me neither.
In a nutshell, a king locks a beautiful maiden in a room and commands her to spin straw into gold, but she doesn’t know how. So enter a conniving magical dwarf who can and will spin straw into gold—for a price.
At first the girl trades her jewelry for the dwarf’s services. When she no longer has anything to offer him, the dwarf makes her promise to give him her firstborn child.
Eventually the girl marries the king and becomes queen. Her first child is born and the dwarf comes to take what was promised, but the queen is so distraught that the dwarf makes her an offer. If she can guess his name in three days, she can keep her child. The queen sends a messenger to learn every name in the kingdom. The messenger stumbles upon the dwarf’s hovel instead. By the third day, the queen learns the dwarf’s name is Rumpelstiltskin. She keeps her child. And Rumpelstiltskin, in a fit of rage, tears himself in half.
Calling little people dwarfs and portraying them as evil is─at the very least─politically incorrect. Disney strives for a squeaky-clean image and this seems like a bigger media debacle than The Little Mermaid penis castle.
The Girl Without Hands
A man accidentally sells his daughter to the devil, but the girl keeps herself so clean that the devil cannot claim her. The devil commands the girl’s father to chop off her hands so she can’t clean herself. At her father’s orders, the girl succumbs to the amputation without argument. But because the girl cries on her stumps, she remains clean and the devil still can’t touch her. In his rage, the devil kidnaps the father and mother before burning their mill to the ground. The homeless, handless girl wanders to a castle followed by an angel. The king of the castle falls in love with the pious girl, has silver hands made for her, and marries her.
Can you imagine parents lining up at the box office to watch a little girl’s hands get lopped off by her selfish father? I can’t. Besides this, the female protagonist in this tale offers herself up for sacrifice without argument and then waits for salvation which makes her far too passive for modern audiences. .
The Jew Among Thorns
When a boy discovers his violin’s music forces people to dance, he preys upon a Jewish man in a thorn bush, forcing him to dance. The Jewish man─who’s being cut by the thorns─begs the boy to stop playing. The boy refuses…unless the Jewish man hands over a bag of money. When the man relents, the boy runs off with his coins. The Jewish man reports the robbery to local officials, the youth is caught and then sentenced to hang. At the gallows, the boy pulls out his violin and makes the Jewish man dance again. The boy refuses to stop playing until the man admits that he stole the gold in the first place, which he does. They hang the Jewish man instead of the boy even though he was a thief, as well.
This story perpetuates an old and terrible stereotype that Jewish people are greedy swindlers. For that reason, Disney would never turn this into a movie. They did, however, adapt the Israelite Exodus into a movie called The Prince of Egypt, a more positive portrayal of Jewish people and their history.
Can you think of another Grimm’s fairy tale that would make a TERRIBLE Disney retelling? Let me know via Twitter, Facebook, or simply comment below. If you like this post, there’s more where that came from, follow my blog, Twitter, and Facebook to keep up with my posts on medieval history and fairy tales.