- Fairy tales are stories that have been passed down through generations, many of which have inspired some of the most beloved movies of all time.
- However, some of these magical stories might not have come out of nowhere — many have some relation to real historical figures and events.
- Rapunzel’s story can be traced back to the tragic tale of Saint Barbara.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
You may think you know the story of Rapunzel, but did you know that she’s partly based on martyr Saint Barbara? Or that the Beast of “Beauty and the Beast” actually existed?
These six beloved fairy tales and nursery rhymes all have something in common: Their roots come from real people, places, and objects.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the facts behind your favorite fiction.
The story of “Beauty and the Beast” was probably based on the tragic life of Petrus Gonsalvus.
According to Refinery 29, in 1537 there was a young boy named Petrus Gonsalvus who was regularly called a beast. Reportedly, this was most likely because he had a case of hypertrichosis, a condition that causes a person to grow hair all over their body, often referred to as “werewolf syndrome.”
Gonsalvus was just 10 years old when he was taken from his native country, Spain, and sent to the King of France to operate as a type of court jester. “King Henry decided to take on Gonsalvus as his little pet project,” Refinery 29 wrote, “the king groomed Gonsalvus to be a nobleman.”
Eventually, King Henry’s wife, Catherine de’Medici (who took over after the king died), found Gonsalvus a wife — coincidentally another woman named Catherine. Though it took some getting used to, the beauty fell in love with “the beast.” They were married for 40 years and had seven kids together, four of which also had hypertrichosis.
There are theories that Snow White is based on one of two real women: Margaretha von Waldeck or Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal.
According to Mental Floss, von Waldeck lived in the German town of Waldeck (of course) during the mid-1500s. When she was 17, she left her father’s home, perhaps due to friction with her new stepmother, and moved to Brussels. There, she attracted the eye of Spain’s king, Philip II.
Soon thereafter she fell ill, and many believe she was poisoned, as the couple had their fair share of detractors who believed that marrying a coalminer’s daughter was beneath a king. Unfortunately, there was no true love’s kiss to cure her, and she died at 21.
The other potential inspiration? Deep breath: Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal. The young woman also lived in Germany, according to the Independent, in a town called Lohr am Main. Born in 1729, she was the daughter of Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal, whom she lived in a castle with. Turns out, her father owned a mirror factory. In fact, the castle they lived in is now open to the public as a museum, and inside one of the rooms is a
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