7 Fantastic Fairy Tales That Should Be Disney Films
Disney may be the single most prolific purveyor of fairy tales to modern audiences, at least since the 1950s and probably all the way back to their release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. Thanks to Disney, the magic of fairy tales continues to live through generation after generation of young people and families into a new millennium.
Credit where credit is due for keeping the love and art of fairy tales alive, but Disney's come under fire —and probably rightfully so—for neglecting to represent folk tales and legends from a wider array of cultures, focusing mainly on European tales and Caucasian casts. In recent years, with the releases of films like Moana and Coco, Disney appears to be trying its hand at breaking this trend, and bringing a wider variety of tales to the big screen. So with that in mind, here's our list of seven fairy tales from across an array of cultures, Disney should take on next.
1. The Boy Who Drew Cats This Japanese fairy tale features a young artist with a love for—you guessed it—cats. When the youngest son of a farmer turns out to be more interested in drawing cats than in the manual labor his brothers all take to, the farmer sends his youngest to a temple to learn from the priests. Turns out the boy spends all his time in the temple drawing cats instead of studying, so the head priests dismisses him, telling him he ought to study to be an artist instead.
On his journey home, the boy seeks shelter in a different temple, not realizing it has been abandoned. The priests have been chased out by a goblin rat. The boy decides to spend his night drawing cats upon the walls, until he becomes tired and crawls into a small cabinet to sleep. In the night, the boy hears terrible noises outside his cabinet, the sounds of violent fighting and animals screeching. When he wakes in the morning, he finds the goblin rat dead, and his drawings of cats looking fierce and triumphant, with blood dripping from their claws.
2. The Jezinkas This Bohemian story starts out with a poor orphan trying to find work. He meets an old man who has no eyes. The man gives him a job herding goats but warns him against going into the hills. There, the three wicked witches, the Jezinkas, will put him to sleep and tear out his eyes. For two days, the boy obeys his master, but on the third day, he decides the pasture is better in the hills. He takes three shoots of bramble and drives the goats into the hill. Of course, he meets the beautiful Jezinkas, and manages to pass up the temptations of the first two. He manages to trick the third and captures her. The other two sisters can't free her, and the boy binds them as well. Taking the eldest the sisters, he demands his master's eyes. The Jezinkas try to deceive him, giving his master the wrong eyes over and over, and the boy throws the first two into a river for their tricks. The third sister pleads with him and gives his master his actual eyes, so they let her be.
3. The Wounded Lion A Spanish fairy tale about a poor girl who gets a job herding cows. While tending them, she sees a wounded lion, and aids him. While she tends to the lion's wounds, though, the cows mysteriously disappear. Her master gets angry with her for losing the cows, and beats her.
The girl sets out to find out what happened to the cows. On the way she sees a man who appears to turn into a lion. Approaching him, she asks for his story and discovers he's really a prince enchanted to become a lion during the day. The giant who has cursed him is the one who stole her cows, as revenge for her helping the lion. She asks how she can set the lion free, and is told she must attain a lock of hair from a princess, and weave it into a coat for the giant. She manages to get hired by the princess as a handmaiden, and begs for a lock of hair to free the lion from his curse. The princess agrees, but only if the poor girl can find a handsome prince for the princess to marry. The girl agrees, since she already happens to know a prince who might be looking for a bride. With the princess's lock of hair, she weaves a coat for the giant, and begs for the prince's freedom. The giant says that in order to free the prince, she must kill him in his lion form. Though she doubts it will work, and believes she'll only end up killing the prince, the prince convinces her to do it anyway. When he rises again as promised, they return to the princess, who realizes this prince is actually her brother. So he is free to marry the girl who saved him after all.
4. The Wild Swans A personal favorite by Hans Christian Andersen, this story is about a widowed king with twelve children. He remarries, but naturally his new wife is a witch. Disliking her stepchildren, she turns the eleven sons into swans and forces them to fly away, then turns her attention to their sister Eliza, trying to curse her and destroy her beauty. The eleven swans rescue Eliza and fly her away to a far-off land, where the Queen of Fairies tells her she can save her brothers by sewing shirts for them out of stinging nettles. She must also take a vow of silence, however; one word from her lips will kill her brothers. Eliza spends several years working to sew the shirts for her brothers, gathering stinging nettles in graveyards after dark and enduring painful stings on her hands. The king meets her and falls in love with her; he offers her a room in his castle to continue her knitting, and eventually proposes to her, and she accepts. However, having seen her in the graveyards by night, the country's Archbishop accuses Eliza of being a witch, and petitions to have her burned at the stake. Unable to defend herself without speaking aloud, Eliza is sentenced to death. Even as she is brought to the stake, Eliza never stops knitting. Just before she is burned, she throws the shirts over the swans and they return to their human form (the youngest, however, still has a swan's wing, as she was unable to finish the last sleeve). Freed from her vow of silence, Eliza is finally able to explain the curse her brothers have been under, and she's cleared of being a witch. She's married to the king and they live happily ever after.
5. The Snake Prince This Indian fairy tale is about a poor woman, with nothing to eat, who went to bathe. When she came out of the river, she found a poisonous snake in her pot. She took it home, but when she opened the pot, she found a rich necklace. She sold it to the king. The king put it in a chest, but when he opened it to show the queen, he found a baby boy. He and the queen raised it as their son, and the old woman just so happened to get hired as their nurse.
The king's son was betrothed marry a princess from another land, and when that princess came to marry, the old nurse warned her to ask about the magic. The prince tells her he is from far off land, and had been turned into a snake. Upon telling her the truth, though, he became a snake again. The princess mourned for the prince where he had vanished, and the snake came to her. He told that if she put bowls of milk and sugar in the four corners of the room, snakes would come, led by the Queen of the Snakes. If she stood in the queen's way, she could ask for her husband, but if she were frightened and did not, she could not have him back. The princess did as he said and won back her husband.
6. What Came of Picking Flowers This Portugese tale starts with a woman who has three daughters. One day, the eldest picked a carnation and vanished. The next day, the second, searching for her sister, picked a rose and vanished. The third day, the youngest picked some jessamine and—you guessed it—vanished. The woman's son, just a boy when his sisters vanished, grew up to be a man, and asked what had happened. His mother told him of his sisters, and he set out to find them. He found his first sister, who had been taken by a prince she'd fallen in love with. She had only one unhappiness: her husband was under a curse that he would spend half each day as a bird, until a man who could not die, died. Her husband gave the brother a feather that would let him call on him, the King of the Birds. Soon the man found his second sister, whose only trouble was a spell that kept her husband half his day a fish. Her husband, the king of the fish, gave the brother a scale to call on him. Finally, he found his youngest sister, who had been carried off by a monster, and was weeping and thin from its cruelty, because she had refused to marry it. Her brother asked her to say she would marry it, if it told her how it could die. When she did, it told her that an iron casket at the bottom of the sea held a white dove, and the dove's egg, dashed against its head, would kill it. The brother had the King of the Fishes bring him the box, used the key to open it, had the King of the Birds follow the dove after it flew off, and found the egg. The youngest sister asked the monster to lay its head in her lap. Her brother smashed the egg on its head, and it died, freeing his two brothers-in-law, and his youngest sister from her imprisonment.
7. Katie Crackernuts
Finally, this Scottish fairy tale features a pair of step-sisters named Kate and Anne. Kate's mother, wanting her daughter to be the more beautiful of the two, seeks out magic to curse Anne with the head of the sheep. Kate, however, loves her step-sister and helps her to hide the sheep's head, and together they set out to find a way to reverse the spell.
In their journeys, the come upon a royal family with two sons. The eldest son had fallen ill, and no one could discover why. The sisters stay up late to discover the son leaving the castle at night and going out to dance in a fairy ring. While there, Katie sees a young fairy playing with a bird, who tells Katie that three bites of the bird will cure the prince. Katie distracts the fairy by rolling nuts past it and captures the bird, serving it to the prince, who is cured. A second night Katie and Anne visit the fairy ring and find the fairy, this time playing with a wand. Again Katie distracts the fairy by rolling nuts past it, and takes the wand, using it to break the spell on Anne. The two sisters return to the palace and marry the two princes, and live happily ever after.