Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
Okay so I made the grave mistake of reading the adult version of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales and 1001 Arabian Nights when I was all of 6 years of age. It’s something that ruined my childhood forever :-S
The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen
Elisa is accused of witchcraft and is ordered to be burnt alive at the stake. She escapes certain death by a hair’s breadth. Would you believe it if I were to tell you that I actually read up about Witches and Voodoo in the Medieval World after I read the fairy tale? That isn’t stuff to be read or even known by a six year old!
And then the part about the evil queen rubbing Elisa with walnut stain to make her look ‘brown and ugly’. I remember wondering if somebody had rubbed walnut stain on me to make me look brown too! :-S
The ‘King’ who finds her in the woods with blistered hands addresses her as ‘lovely child’ and eventually ends up marrying her. OMG!
The most handsome of these was the King of the land, and he came up to Elisa. Never before had he seen a girl so beautiful. “My lovely child,” he said, “how do you come to be here?”
The story was downright depressing, despite the ‘happy ending’.
Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen
Just because she looked different, Thumbelina was abducted several times over and proposed for marriage by beetles and toads and whatnot! Oh I hated the part where she was being persuaded by a field mouse to be married to the blind mole. It disturbed me no end! And how many such field mouses do I know now! God! I still shudder when I think what would have happened if she had not been saved by that kindly swallow and if she had not found her fairy prince!
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen
So we all know how Disney’s Ariel traded her voice for a pair of legs from that abominable Sea Witch (with the ugly lipstick!). What Disney had sensibly left out was the part where the Sea Witch actually chops off the Mermaid’s tongue and also tells her that walking on legs would constantly feel as if she is walking on sharp knives, despite the fact that she would be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. I mean…what a completely messed up boon is that?!
Despite all her sacrifices, the stupid prince never falls in love with her and marries another girl thinking she’s the one who saved his life! And because her tongue had been cut out, the Mermaid couldn’t even tell him the truth! The Mermaid dies of a broken heart, unable to kill the prince with the knife her sisters brought her, out of her love for him.
Oh and the part where they talk about how mermaids become sea foam after they die…? I think that had a lot to do with my aversion towards the ocean till date. Sea foam = dead mermaids. And I have no interest in wading into dead mermaids and swimming in it. Period. Brr!
The Merchant and The Demon – 1001 Arabian Nights
It’s just the part where the merchant is confronted by the demon telling him that he’s going to kill him. The demon accuses the merchant of having killed his son when he threw the pit of a date he was eating to his side. Apparently, the son was invisible and the pit hit him…on his head 😮 Believe you me, ever since I read that story, till date, I have never ever ‘thrown’ a date pit after I ate the date. I would neatly keep it at my side or just hold it in a tissue paper until I could throw them into a dustbin. Talk of childhood mental trauma!
There is one more story from the 1001 Arabian Nights…I forgot the title. It talks of this wife who drugs her husband’s drink every night so that she gets away from him for something…meeting a lover or something like that. It is mentioned that at any given time, she could measure the depth of her husband’s sleep! 😮 OMG! Creeped me out for ages! I used to think and innocently believe for a very long time that it’s actually possible to measure the depth of one’s sleep without any scientific devices whatsoever! Smart Ms. Scheherazade did know how to come up with just the right plots to keep the Sultan’s interests up for 1001 nights no less!