The lineup of Disney princesses currently includes 12 characters who are royal by birth, by marriage, or considered a “princess” due to their heroism. Some of those beloved characters have their origin in legends, fairy tales, or even real life, which is often more exciting or darker than what we see in the movies.
Bright Side invites you on a journey to discover the stories behind 8 Disney princesses. Read the list to the end to discover which princess is based on a real person.
1. The witch expels Rapunzel and blinds the prince.
© Disney, © Katalin Szeged/ wikimedia commons
The story of Rapunzel is based on the fairy tale by the brothers Grimm. In their version, when the witch finds out about Rapunzel and the prince, she cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and dangles it out the window. When the prince is confronted by her, he jumps out of the window and is blinded when he lands on thorns. He eventually finds Rapunzel, and she heals him with her tears.
Interestingly, in the first version of the tale, Rapunzel is the one who foolishly gives the prince away by admitting to the witch that her clothes are getting too tight for her around her waist (indicating pregnancy).
2. Maui is a slim teenager, and Moana does not exist.
© Disney, © Auckland Museum/ wikimedia commons
Moana is a fully fictional character. The author’s original idea was to make a movie about Maui, but after their visit to Polynesia, they were inspired by the beautiful and powerful women there (as shown in the photo on the right). They also learned a lot about navigation, and this is how the character of Moana came to life. The movie is full of references to Polynesian mythology, in which the islands are believed to have been created by the demigod Maui. In the myths, in contrast to the movie, Maui appears as a slim young man who is coming of age with a top-knot on his head.
3. In one version of the legend, Mulan commits suicide.
© Disney, © Asarelah/ wikimedia commons
Mulan originates from the Chinese ballad of Mulan about a warrior woman who goes to war and, after 10 years of fighting, denies all military honors and returns home where her family greets her happily. However, in one version of the legend, Mulan returns home to find her father dead and her family falling apart. Feeling lonely and miserable, she commits suicide.
4. The Evil Queen in Snow White suffers a severe punishment.
© Disney, © Nasjonalbiblioteket/ flickr
In this Grimm’s fairy tale, the Evil Queen arrives at Snow White and Prince Charming’s wedding. There, she is forced to wear hot iron shoes and to dance in them until she dies.
5. Andersen’s “Elsa” is a cold and inhuman villainess.
© Disney, © Elena Ringo/ wikimedia commons
The queen in Frozen is based on the character of the Snow Queen in the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. She is the Queen of Snowflakes and lives in a frozen palace. She kidnaps a little boy, Kay, and enchants him with a kiss. His friend Gerda saves him from the Queen’s castle several years later.
6. A real “Beauty and the Beast” existed in medieval France.
© Disney, © imdb
The story of Beauty and the Beast was written by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve and published in 1740. She is believed to have been inspired by a real couple — Pedro and Catherine Gonsalvus. Pedro suffered from a rare genetic condition, due to which his entire body was covered in thick hair. Catherine supposedly did not see her groom before the wedding day.
Although the husband did not turn into a handsome prince, the couple ended up having 7 children.
7. Sleeping Beauty gave birth while asleep.
© Disney, © flickr
In Perceforest, one of the earliest versions of the Sleeping Beauty theme written in the 16th century, Princess Zellandine falls in love with Troylus. While Troylus is gone, Zellandine falls into an enchanted sleep. When he finds her, he impregnates her in her sleep.
The newborn baby draws out the flax that caused her sleep. After waking, Zellandine realizes that the father of her child is Troylus, whom she later marries.
8. Pocahontas was never in love with John Smith.
© Disney, © Spiderpig~commonswiki/ wikimedia commons
Pocahontas (given birthname: Matoaka) was born in 1595 to a Powhatan chief. In 1607, John Smith, an English soldier and explorer, was captured by one of Powhatan’s hunting parties. According to him, Matoaka threw herself across his body to protect him from execution at the hands of Powhatan. However, there is no proof that it actually happened.
Matoaka herself was kidnapped by colonists to be ransomed for English prisoners held by her father. During her captivity, tobacco planter John Rolfe conditioned her release upon her agreeing to marry him. She died when she was 21 years old.
Were you surprised by any of the stories behind Disney princesses? Do you think that Disney did a good job adapting these stories and changing their plot? Share your opinions in the comments.