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Modern renditions of classic fairy tales return to dark roots

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 00:02


"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" is one of the many modern fairy tale adaptations that portray the dark themes of the original stories.


There has been a recent trend in Hollywood to produce the “twisted” fairy tale, taking the sweet stories people know and love and applying a more sinister perspective. From the newest rendition of “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” to past blockbusters like “Snow White and the Huntsman,” moviegoers have flocked to theaters everywhere for these darker twists on old favorites.

“There's always been a fascination with fairy tales and rediscovering them,” said associate English professor Elizabeth Robinson. “We're just seeing the continuation of a trend that started in the 1970s and Hollywood’s just gone to town."

 The wicked tone of these modern retellings of stories like Snow White and Hansel and Gretel might simply be a return to the original roots of the stories, tales more sinister than the Disney classics some students grew up watching.

“There are versions of Red Riding Hood that would just curl your hair,” Robinson said. “The stuff that's in the picture books has been sanitized until there is almost nothing left to some of them. In a way, they’re recapturing some of the original horror of the fairy tales.”

Many of these stories, passed down by ancient cultures and re-defined by authors such as Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, were originally folklore, meant to entertain a more adult, pub-enthusiastic crowd. Sexually explicit and horrific themes often dominated the stories in an attempt to shock and entertain crowds.

“The original stories were not meant for children in any way,” said Brittany Perez, sophomore psychology major. “So I think they are going back to their roots. Not many people would know that, which is why it seems like a fresh change when really it is not.”

The versions of the fairy tales that most people are familiar with are the g-rated renditions, inspired by retellings from writers such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, which usually include princesses, heroes and happy endings.

Katie Beason, junior animal science major, said the popular context in which the stories are being portrayed now attracts people because of the dark and sensual appeal.

"The movies we all know and love are being portrayed in a newer, sexier light,” Beason said. “This thought is thrilling and causes lots of people to want to check out the films."

Fairy tales have also found a home on television with popular shows depicting age old classics in a modern, or rather, traditional light.

“On TV, we’ve got ‘Once Upon a Time,’ and we’ve got ‘Grimm,’ which is ‘CSI’ on steroids with monsters,” Robinson said. “Fairy tales are all over the place.”

Robinson said she hopes the trend sticks, with more renditions and retellings hitting the box office and television.

“I would love to think they'll be around for a while,” Robinson said. “They have never really died. I'm hopeful they keep on going but we'll just have to see if they stick around."

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