The people who were in the business of writing fairy tales and lullabies once upon a time in a land far, far away were some sick puppies.
This occurred to me when I was contemplating what I used to think was a sweet little lullaby, “Rock-a-by Baby.”
That is a terrible song.
It is generally used to get children to nod off to sleep, and just at the point they are getting good and relaxed, WHAM! The stinking branch breaks and the kid goes tumbling to the ground.
It’s a wonder generations of children didn’t grow up with a fear of falling after listening to that beauty.
Then, as I started to think about it, I realized a lot of what were once considered bedtime stories have a dark side to them.
For example, there is the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.”
It starts out bad enough. In a time of famine, the mean stepmother suggests to their father that they lead the children out into the forest and abandon them so the parents will not starve.
Then, the story gets worse. The brother and sister discover a cottage in the woods built of gingerbread and candy, with windowpanes of sugar.
Hungry and tired, the children begin to eat parts of the house. An old woman, leaning on a crutch, emerges and lures them inside, offering dinner and cozy beds.
The woman turns out to be a cannibalistic witch, who built her house of treats to lure children to her so she can fatten them, then cook and eat them.
In the end, the children are able to trick the witch and escape, but those are some horrifying images to contemplate just before bedtime.
In the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood,” a sweet little girl is tricked by a wolf on the way to visit her sick grandmother, and the wolf eats the grandmother and the girl.
The sanitized Disney versions of the fairy tales are much less creepy than the earlier versions.
In some versions of “Cinderella,” for example, the evil stepsisters hack off parts of their own feet in an attempt to make the glass slipper fit. Later, their eyes are pecked out by birds.
There is nothing family-friendly about that.
In some versions of “The Pied Piper,” the piper is hired to rid a village of rats. Once he has done so, the villagers refuse to pay him. He gets even by leading all the village children to the river, where they drown.
There are multiple versions of many of these fairy tales, appearing in different countries and changing over time.
Based on these stories, life was tough for kids years ago.
It is still astonishing that more children didn’t grow up traumatized by the gruesome images contained in these popular stories.
Running away from home might be scary and dangerous, but for some of the children in these stories, staying home with their dysfunctional families would have been worse.