Friday, September 26, 2008

5 Creepy Cannibalism Themes in Classic Fairy Tales That Will Give Your Children, and You, Nightmares

This is a guest post by Sher D Fly

The fairy tales that we used to read when we were children are quite terrifying, with elements of violence and even cannibalism in them. Most of these tales now have been revised to suit the young readers. Nevertheless, these fairy tales with cannibal characters could really scare your children and give them nightmares.

The Juniper Tree
(German fairy tale, compiled by Brothers Grimm)

Cannibal character:
The stepmother who served her husband her a special homemade black pudding made from her stepson's body.

The story: A man lost his wife after giving birth to a son. He remarried and together they had a daughter. However, the stepmother was jealous of the son and somehow tricked him to death and blamed her own daughter. The stepmother then convinced the daughter that it was her fault and turned the stepson's dead body into black pudding, which was served to the husband. The daughter then buried the stepbrother's bones under a juniper tree. A magical bird flew out of the tree and dropped a millstone, which killed the stepmother. The bird then transformed itself to become the boy.

Hansel and Gretel
(German fairy tale, compiled by Brothers Grimm)

Cannibal character:
The witch who loves to eat kids. She enticed children using her house made of sweets and candy.

The story: Due to poverty, Hansel and Gretel were abandoned several times by their own father (after being persuaded by their stepmother). They both managed to come home by following pebble trails left by Hansel. However, they could not go home one day after Hansel left trails of breadcrumbs, which were eaten by animals. Lost in the woods, they reached a house made of sweets and candy. They ate the sweets and candy without knowing that an evil witch owned the house.

The witch caught them and put Hansel in the cage to fatten him up before baking him up, while Gretel became her servant. The witch checked on Hansel daily by touching his finger to ensure that he is fat enough to be baked. Due to poor eyesight, the witch could not see that Hansel had actually tricked her by giving bones instead of his own finger. Meanwhile, Gretel had an idea and somehow tricked the witch to get into the oven and killed her. They left the place and managed to get home.

Jack and the Beanstalk
(English fairy tale, compiled by Benjamin Tabart)

Cannibal character: The giant who loves to eat English men.

The story: A poor boy called Jack met a stranger who offered him magic beans in exchange of the family's only cow. He traded the cow with the magic beans. His mother was very angry and threw the beans out of the house. The next morning, a huge beanstalk grew outside their house. Jack climbed up the beanstalk, which extended up to the clouds, and reached a house owned by a cannibal giant. The giant can sense the presence of human and would say:
Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
Jack went there several times to take gold coins, a hen which laid golden eggs and a magic harp. One day, he was caught for stealing and managed to escape. The giant chased Jack down the beanstalk but Jack managed to reach down first, chopped the beanstalk which then fell and killed the giant.

Snow White
(German fairy tale, compiled by Brothers Grimm)

Cannibal character:
The stepmother who demanded to eat her stepdaughter's heart.

The story: Snow White was a princess who had a very cruel stepmother. The stepmother (or the queen) owned a magic mirror. She would ask the mirror on daily basis on who is the most beautiful person in the world - the answer would always be the queen herself. However, one day the mirror told the queen that her stepdaughter, Snow White is the most beautiful person. She got really angry and asked one of her guards to bring Snow White into the forest and kill her without the king's knowledge. She demanded the guard to bring her Snow White's heart as proof.

Nevertheless, the guard released her into the forest and brought back the heart of a boar. The heart was prepared by the cook and consumed by the queen. Later, the queen was informed that Snow White was still alive in the woods, living with seven dwarfs. The disguised queen went to see Snow White and gave her a poisoned apple. The dwarfs found her unconscious, but were not able to revive her. They thought that she had died and put her in a glass coffin. A prince saw the coffin and managed to revive Snow White in the end. The queen was later punished to death.

The Robber Bridegroom
(German fairy tale, compiled by Brothers Grimm)

Cannibal character: The bridegroom and his band of robbers

The story: A poor father found a rich suitor to marry his daughter off. After being persuaded by the father, the daughter went to visit her suitor. Upon arriving at the suitor's house, a caged bird warned her that she was about to enter a murderer's house. An old lady who worked there hid the woman behind barrels while all of a sudden, a band of robbers (including the suitor) arrived at the house with another young woman. They killed the young woman and prepared the human flesh for a meal.

While preparing, the chopped finger with a ring of the dead young woman flew and landed behind the barrels. Because it was dark and they were dissuaded by the old lady not to search for it, the band of robbers ignored the finger and continued eating their meal. The old lady and the woman fled while the robbers were sleeping. On the wedding day, the woman revealed that the bridegroom was a murderer and produced the finger and ring of the dead young woman to the public. The bridegroom and his band of robbers were punished to death.

Image sources: Art of Victoria, Hobotopia, Deep End Dining, Relics of Childhood, CBSO, Manelle Oliphant, Lisa Evans, Jean Goff, Mama Lisa, Ashley Spooky, Cuckoo Comics, Adam Hart Design, Mondo


  1. Spooky!Thanks, Id never heard the Juniper and Robber stories before

  2. Anonymous26.9.08

    very interesting, but i don't think i'd classify giants and witches as 'human' per se.

  3. wow! I never thought of it like this before! These stories are sick and would never pass nowadays! haha!

    Nice work!

  4. Wow - I'd never heard of the Juniper or Robber Baron stories. Thanks for sharing!

  5. REALLY GREAT POST. Lost my appitite. :(

  6. hi

    your article took me back to my childhood days...very interesting article.

  7. That was great yet scary. I'm also on triond and hope to read more articles by you. This was very interesting.

  8. Anonymous27.9.08

    another interesting article by yrself...great it

  9. Anonymous27.9.08

    impressive article. it's really interesting you are writing something that most people never really thought about until they read this

  10. Anonymous27.9.08

    This is an interestesting peice thankyou for writing it..
    It's brilliant in it's own right!

  11. Anonymous27.9.08

    Very nice. Most fairy tales are creepy.

  12. Fascinating article! If only parents knew just how the fairy tales Walt Disney portray really happened.

  13. Anonymous29.9.08

    Each of these tales uses a woman(in fact four of them are stepmothers) as the evil perpetrator in each of these gruesome acts. This is what we accept as teaching material to our youth. Not just the cannibalism but the evil that portrays womens as gruesome child killing whores, who care nothing for the offspring of others. Yay crappy writers in the last few hundred years who have nothing better to put in ink than reiterating sexist B.S. from the dark ages.

  14. Anonymous4.11.08

    if you think about it, all the Grimm stories are very scary. they're just written in a language that seems happy and friendly. many of them, i believe, were also very political. with all this said and done, those are not children stories and in fact would make very good horror movies.

  15. Anonymous23.8.09

    Try "the Jew among thorns"

  16. Anonymous29.8.09

    Well, these are all stories with cannibalism, but you got some of the origins wrong. Such as the Bridegroom, it actually was a Russian tale that the Brothers Grimm retold.

  17. Anonymous24.1.10

    I think that Little Red Riding Hood should be on this list too. In some of the original versions, the wolf tricks Red into eating pieces of her grandmother and drinking her blood.


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