21 Children’s Fairy Tales with Dark Messages That Are Now Seen as Inappropriate

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Fairy tales are often filled with wonder and fantasy and end with morals that teach children good values. However, this wasn’t always the case with the fairy tales we know and grew up with. Some fairy tales have darker beginnings that have evolved to become more appropriate for children, while some still have dark undertones that run throughout the story. Here are 21 children’s fairy tales with dark messages that are now seen as inappropriate:

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Pinocchio is a beloved character who teaches children that lying or fibbing can have bad consequences. However, some fairy tale versions are darker than most of us realize. In them, Pinocchio goes on adventures that lead to him being kidnapped and threatened, while some include the character throwing dangerous objects at children who make fun of him.

Hansel and Gretel

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This fairy tale warns children about the different consequences that can arise from greed and deception. Although the central message teaches children an important lesson, the story includes many dark themes and situations that can be considered inappropriate for children. A dangerous witch lures the children in the fairy tale with candy, captures them, and threatens to eat them. This is one of the main plots in the story that is not only considered to be dark but may potentially scare children as well.

The Little Match Girl

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This fairy tale paints a sweet story of a little girl who helps her father by selling matches, with themes of optimism and hope that are represented every time the little girl lights a match. On closer scrutiny, the story has dark messages about poverty and death in the harsh winter. The little girl is forced into selling matchsticks to help support her family, who are faced with poverty and difficulty in putting food on the table.

The Frog King

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The Frog King is a popular fairy tale that sees a princess turning an ugly frog into a handsome prince after she befriends the frog and eventually falls in love with it. The story has one of the most classic fairy tale lessons that teach children not to judge a book by its cover. However, some interpretations of the story discuss the dark destruction of innocence that comes with childhood as the princess transitions into a sexually mature adult.

The Little Mermaid

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The Little Mermaid is another popular fairy tale made famous by the 1989 cartoon movie. The original story was written in the 19th century and includes darker events, such as cutting off the mermaid’s tongue to prevent her from speaking. This version of the story did not end with a happy ever after and instead saw the deaths of the mermaid and her sisters. This dark version of the fairy tale would be highly inappropriate for children.

Little Red Riding Hood

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Like most fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood ends with a happy ending, where a little girl and her grandmother triumph over a big bad wolf with the help of a huntsman. However, the original version of the story lacks a happy ending. It includes a dark message where the wolf is represented as a predator and an explicit moral that would be considered highly inappropriate for children. The story we know today also includes dark undertones that present a cautionary tale for children not to trust strangers, ending with childlike innocence almost leading to the little girl’s demise.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

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This fairy tale teaches children about keeping promises and not breaking them. Although it has a great storyline that shows children the importance of making promises and the consequences that could arise when the promises are broken, the story takes a dark turn when the message is made clear with the pied piper luring away all the children from the town.


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Most of us know the version of Cinderella that includes a happy ending where a girl enslaved by her stepmother marries a handsome prince. However, in old versions of the story, Cinderella’s step-sister takes extreme measures to fool the prince into thinking she was the girl he had fallen in love with by cutting off parts of her foot to fit into the shoe. This version of the story is inappropriate for children teaching children about deception.

Snow White and Red Rose

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This is a fairy tale about Snow White and her Sister, Red Rose, which follows a different plot with different events from the story of Snow White that is more popularly known. Although this story has a happy ending, with both sisters finding happiness, it focuses on their journey toward happiness filled with sorrow. The story’s creators want to highlight that happiness cannot be found without experiencing darker emotions. This story could be considered too dark and inappropriate for children too young to learn about sorrow.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

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This fairy tale aims to teach children about the consequences of vanity and how fearing to speak the truth can lead to unfortunate circumstances and difficulties. While ending with an uplifting message encouraging children to speak their truth, the story also includes situations of deception and the dark truths of condescension.

The Ugly Duckling

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The Ugly Duckling is a sweet story about a baby bird that questions its looks only to discover that true beauty lies within and is more than what meets the eye. The fairy tale teaches children to be more accepting of themselves and of other people. However, a closer look at the story may lead one to realize that it has the potential to leave children with a dark message of bullying and social ostracism.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

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The popular fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is an excellent story that many generations of children love. However, some versions of the fairy tale are darker and contain inappropriate messages for children. The story has several depictions of jealousy, which can leave children with a negative impression.


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Although the story of Rumpelstiltskin contains many dark themes that may be considered inappropriate for children, it is still very popular among children. The story is about an imp-like creature with magical powers who does people’s impossible tasks for a hefty price. It turns dark when the people are left to deal with the consequences of making deals with the imp, negatively affecting the young children who read or hear the story.

The Three Little Pigs

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This story is excellent for children learning about hard work and perseverance. However, The Three Little Pigs contains dark messages that may teach children inappropriate lessons through the representation of the wolf character in the story. Children may read the story and find that the wolf is stronger than the pigs and may end up wanting to become mean and lazy like the wolf.


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This is a story about a woman who marries a handsome and wealthy man without prior knowledge of the man’s true nature. The story takes a dark turn when readers learn about its true message, which warns children against the dangers of marrying someone without knowing their character. This story is inappropriate for children who could be considered too young to learn about the dangers of marriage and the evil that lies behind wealth.

The Princess and the Pea

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This whimsical story depicts how a princess uses her nobility to find a solution so she can marry a prince. It leaves children realizing the importance of never judging something or someone based only on appearance. A closer look at the story leaves the impression of an obsession with superficial qualities that may teach children about questionable traits to have, thereby making it inappropriate for children to read.

The Red Shoes

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The story follows a young peasant girl who is left alone after her mother’s death but is adopted by a wealthy old lady who spoils the child with material things. However, some may regard the story as inappropriate for children owing to how the story represents materialism and selfishness. Children may pick up these negative qualities, which, in turn, negatively impact their character.


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Thumbelina follows the life of a tiny girl and her adventures with different kinds of creatures. One of the main lessons children learn from Thumbelina’s stories is how kindness can get you further than you initially realize. However, the stories do contain some dark messages that can be considered too inappropriate for children. The stories depict the different vulnerabilities that smaller-sized individuals can have, including forced dominance from bigger individuals.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

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The Boy Who Cried Wolf teaches children the importance of telling the truth and not misleading others around you for any reason. Although this is an important lesson, this fairy tale ends with a dark turn, which may be inappropriate for many children. These children may also become fearful of telling the truth in the end because of the story’s ending.

The Selfish Giant

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This fairy tale follows the adventures of little children who enter a Giant’s garden to play. It highlights the giant’s selfishness in not allowing the children to play in his garden. However, the giant experiences a turn of character into someone generous and kind through the events that unfold in the story. Although the story teaches children the importance of generosity and kindness, the giant’s initial behavior can leave children with an inappropriate message of how to justify selfish behavior.

The Emperor and the Nightingale

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The Emperor and the Nightingale is a fairy tale highlighting the contrast between something artificial or artificial and something natural and genuine. The tale follows the story of an emperor who is mesmerized by the song of a nightingale who eventually saves the emperor from death through song. However, before the nightingale saves the emperor, it goes home after a mechanical bird is gifted to the emperor. The juxtaposition between artificial and genuine beauty and friendship is a theme throughout the story. However, children may be left with the dark message of the joy that can be felt through material wealth.

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