Nautiker recently commented on the horrible, not at all kid-friendly events to be found in fairy tales. Here is a book he mentioned. (<--Be sure to scroll down on that page.) In a nice piece of coincidence, I came across this article today: 8 Fairy Tales And Their Not-So-Happy Endings <-- click
When I was in grad school I took a course in Children's Literature. Reading these older versions of fairy (cautionary) tales was one of my least favorite parts of the course (I don't care much for newer versions either).
Bixa, where did you get that fabulous photograph? Did you take it?
Those stories must have been around in some form since cave days, going through combinations and mutations right up to the time they were collected in book form.
re: the photograph ~~ I wish! I found it by going to Google Images and searching "scary pictures from fairy tales". The photograph is from a site called Burial Day Books. The blogger there doesn't credit any of the photos. Here's the page with the wonderful picture: www.burialday.com/tag/scary-stories/page/2
Back when these stories were first created, I imagine that they were not destined for children at all, but there was much less fuss in the past about what was appropriate for children or not so everybody heard these stories in front of the fireplace or in town during market day.
The extreme endings of these stories were probably found to be useful for getting children to behave, though, when you needed them to stay out of the woods or not walk into other people's houses. There was already no lack of danger, but if on top of it you added witches, ogres and nightmare creatures, it may have reduced children's propensity to explore mysterious caves or eat unknown berries.