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.
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.”
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.