1. Donkeyskin, the Disney Princess that never was

donkey
via Nadezhda Illarionova
 

Apart from the name, Donkeyskin sounds exactly like something Disney would adapt into an animated feature. It's a rags-to-riches story about a runaway princess, complete with handsome prince and happy ending. The only real obstacle is the part with all the incest. 

Our story begins with a prosperous royal family. The king in particular was feeling pretty good about his lot in life, what with his beautiful spouse, a loving daughter and -- no joke -- a donkey that pooped gold. But as they say, nothing donkeyshit can stay, and one day the queen fell suddenly ill. The sickly monarch told the king that, if he should ever find a woman as smokin' hot and wicked smart as she, he should marry her immediately so the royal bloodline could continue. Unfazed by the unreasonable and downright vindictive deathbed demand, the king started the hunt for his wife's replacement soon after her death. 

Though he searched high and low, the widowed king could find no woman quite so bangin' as his lost love. No woman, that is, except his daughter. 

donkeyskin

Faced with the prospect of forcing his child into a life of incest or breaking an abhorrent promise he made to a dying woman that was possibly hysterical from illness, the king decided that he should probs marry his own daughter. She was understandably more than a little skeeved out about the situation. The princess consulted her fairy godmother, who apparently was out of town when this girl's mom was dying. Ol' FG recommended that the princess declare impossible requirements be met before the marriage could go forward. In particular, the princess requested three dresses of divine quality -- one the color of the sun, another the color of the moon and the last the color of the sky. She topped off the demands with the skinning of that magical gold-shitting donkey, just for kicks. 

Much to the princess' surprise, the king had no problem fulfilling her wish for a yellow dress, a white dress and a blue dress. Even skinning a magical problem proved no problem for His Majesty King Creepazoid. Terrified at the prospect of her future life in the palace, which involved -- and I cannot stress this enough -- fucking her own father and having his children, the princess fled the castle. She used the donkey skin as a disguise, figuring that anyone who saw such a sight would mistake her for a crazy uggo that was a little too into the movie Freddy Got Fingered.

The newly-christened Donkeyskin toils in bakery peasant obscurity, making sure to play a game-of private dress-up with the dresses she stole before ditching the castle. It was only a matter of time before a handsome prince caught a peek, mired her self-mirin', and vowed to wed this girl by virtue of (what else) looks alone. To be fair, Donkeyskin was ironically just as superficial, because the feeling was mutual.

donkeyskin

The prince requests that Donkeyskin make him a cake at the bakery, and in the process of doing so, she slips one of her fancy princess rings into the batter. Her plan worked, at least somewhat, as the prince totally flipped out and declared that he would marry whoever so fit the ring -- instead of you know, going directly to the girl he saw and getting down on one knee. 

The Cinderella scam works anyway, as the ring fits Donkeyskin and the two are promptly married. Her father comes to his senses and apologizes, and everyone lives happily ever after... with the nagging feeling that the king probably still wants to bang his daughter. 

 

2. The Lost Children, a.k.a. Hansel & Gretel on Meth

fairy tales

This French fairy tale kicks off with a pair of miserly parents trying to figure out how best to rid themselves of the children that are emotionally and (most importantly) financially sucking them dry. The parents, whose first act of cruelty towards the children was naming them Jean and Jeannette, proceeded to leave their own kids in the forest to die. The newly-orphaned siblings quickly found a red cottage and were taken in by a kindly old lady, who warned the pair that her husband was a nasty guy who had a fondness for dining on prepubescent flesh. It might go without saying, but this child-foodie also happened to be The Devil.

lost children

Mrs. Satan was still on the kids' side, so she hid the two of them away. But the Prince of Darkness prided himself on his ability to sniff out lemony scent of Christian purity, and so he snatched the children and threw them into the barn to fatten up for what should have been a delectable human gumbo. This is the part where Jean and Jeanette use the ol' Hansel and Gretel trick; when the Devil came by to check on their plumping progress, the kids would stick slender objects (like a rat tail) through the crack of the barn door to make it seem like they were still stringy and altogether uneatable. 

Satan eventually caught onto their little scheme, and was so furious that he told them to sit on a sawhorse to bleed. If you're unfamiliar with what a sawhorse is, it's one of these: 

sawhorses

It looks like a harmless piece of woodworking equipment, but if used right, it can be a pretty awful torture device. The idea is that the victim would straddle the bar at the top, and since their feet wouldn't touch the ground, their genitals would slowly be crushed by their own weight. You know, for kids!

Since Satan took this time to go take a rage-walk, Jean and Jeanette were able to trick his spouse into thinking they weren't sure exactly how to sit on the sawhorse. When Mrs. Satan obliged their request for a demonstration, the pair pounced, tied her up and then slit her god damned throat. It's a pretty brutal end for an old lady that was initially trying to help save those children, but you don't say "I Do" to Lucifer without considering the idea that you might one day be cut open ear-to-ear by a pair of ruthless children.

After snagging some goodies from the Devil's gold and silver hoard, the kids bolted from the red cottage. Though Satan was hot on their trail for a while, he eventually drowned in a river, because Satan can apparently do that. Jean and Jeanette inexplicably returned to their parents' home, who presumably continued to be huge pricks who don't deserve to raise children. 

The moral of the story: Nothing makes sense and everything is terrible.

3. The Flayed Old Lady is just as traumatic as it sounds

flayed woman

via Pupazze

Mistaken identity is a popular theme in fairy tales. Satan mistook a rat tail for a delicious child finger in The Lost Children, and in the Italian folk-nightmare The Flayed Old Lady, a King mistakes two bloated old biddies for beautiful maidens. Granted, his highness only heard their voices behind a large wall, but he nevertheless assumed they had be like at least a solid 8, maybe 8.5 out of 10. One of the two elderly sisters hatched a plot that was an eerie mirror of Jean and Jeannete's escape plan -- she soaked her finger in water for a few days to make it plump and tender, like uh, the finger that a young woman might have (???). When he saw it poke out of a keyhole, the king was absolutely delighted.

People were into that sort of thing in those days, I guess.

flayed woman

via Pupazze
 

The king made it clear that he was all about a nighttime rendevouz with this mysterious plump-fingered damsel. To prepare for her date, the old lady gave her whole body a facelift, tied her loose and baggy skin behind her back and enforced a strict "lights-out" rule when it came to copulation.

Upon seeing her wizened face by candlelight, the king flew into a rage, unable to reconcile the fact that he actually enjoyed having sex with someone close to his own age. The old lady was promptly pitched out of the window for her deceit. Thankfully, her old baggy skin ensured that she was caught in the tree. Even thankfully-er, a few fairies happened to fly by.

flayed woman

via Pupazze
 

For a laugh, the fairies decide to help out the old woman. They took her out of the tree and transformed her into a comely young woman, just because they could. You'd think this would be the part where the king would beg to take the "old" woman back and she'd refuse on the grounds that he's a huge asshole who tried to murder her, but nope! The newly-young lady was thrilled to be welcomed into the royal family. Like the rest of these fucked up fables, the "hero" remained dependent on a malevolent psychopath. 

The couple's subsequent marriage enraged the old woman's sister, who couldn't believe her own misfortune. The sister went to a barber in order to be flayed alive, in hopes that a beauty like her sister's might be lurking underneath her sagging skin. Naturally, Sister 2 soon goes into shock as the life is drained from her and, depending on which version you read, proceeds to let out one long sputtering blood fart before she dies.

I can't really follow that up. We should really just move on.

 

4. This classic German children's book is super messed up

book

Written by Heinrich Hoffman in 1845, the consonant-resplendent Struwwelpeter features a series of increasingly horrific children's stories. After reading just a few of these cautionary tales, it becomes clear that this was written not to entertain children, but to traumatize them into ceasing to annoy their strict German parents. 

Above you can see the climax of The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb, in which a Clock Tower villain chases after a little boy. For the crime of sucking his thumb as a coping device, LSaT was sentenced to have his opposable digits cut off by a hedge clipper-wielding maniac. 

If you think that's bad, you should see what happens to the boy who doesn't eat his soup.

soup

The Story of Augustus, Who Would Not Have Any Soup plays out like a Stephen King story, as a picky boy who refuses his dinner quickly wastes away, eventually dying of emaciation. 

That's right, kids do die in these stories, and it's pretty much always their fault.

  Struwwelpeter

Poor Harriet didn't fully understand the dangers of playing with matches, but she never got a second chance. When her pyro playtime went wrong, her polyester Polyanna outfit caught fire and she was immolated with haste. Her cats watched helplessly, and then cried over her remaining ashes. The story urges us to believe that Harriet deserved to die because of her stupidity. 

Struwwelpeter

There's a tale for pretty much anything that might annoy a parent. Cry too much? Your eyes melt and shoot out of your head. Play outside with boys? You'll break your leg so bad it'll fall off. Enjoy your sweets? Hope you like BEES ALL OVER YOUR FACE!

In the century and a half since, parents have turned to positive reinforcement, with the promise of Santa Claus' presents being a driving force for good behavior. It follows the line of thinking that "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." But you know what catches more flies than honey? A festering human corpse. 

5. The ballad of Hans the Hedghog

hans
via killskerry
 

Hans the Hedgehog might sound like a Sonic fan character created by a sad Norweigian preteen, but it's actually one of the more disturbing Grimm Fairy Tales. There have been a number of retellings over the years, but most of them start with a humble couple who want nothing more than to be blessed with a child. Unaware that he is in a folktale, the husband suddenly blurts out that he'd have any child, "even if it was a hedgehog." The following is a textbook case of "Be careful what you wish for" and "Never admit out loud that you would accept a hedgehog for a child." 

Of course, the wife soon gave birth to a hideous and deformed hedgtaur: half-man and half-hedgehog. They named him Hans, but that was the only kindness they afforded him. For eight years, he lived behind the stove, like a mutant Harry Potter. After a time, Hans finally got up the courage to ask his parents for a rooster to ride on and some animals to tend; they granted his wish, and he rode off to live in the forest and play bagpipes. 

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this tale sounds like the random ramblings of a five-year-old, but I assure you, this is a bona-fide fairy tale. Jim Henson even adapted it for TV. 

hans my hedgehog

Hans lived peacefully in the forest for years, until a king happened to wander into hedgehog territory. Lost and confused, the king pleaded with Hans for help to return him to his kingdom. The hedgehog agreed to help, but for a price: The first thing the king saw when he returned home. Figuring this for one of those "Oh no, the first thing I'll see will be my daughter!" type of deals, the king tricked the illiterate woodland critter into signing an order for his guards to murder Hans at the first opportunity, and found his way home scot-free.

Sometime afterwards, a second king also got lost in the forest. He and Hans struck the same deal, only this time there was no hornswaggling or tomfoolery. The second king kept his promise and did pledge his daughter to Hans. On the wedding night, Hans shed his quills and became a handsome man. Which is only slightly less disturbing of an image than giant hedgehog sex.

But what about the first king? Well, before Hans human'd-out, he made a visit to the first kingdom. Bolting past the palace guards, he managed to plunge his quills into the first king....'s daughter. And everyone lived happily ever after. Except for the innocent girl who was killed for the purposes of an ironic twist.