17 Fairy Tales That Are Not So Secretly Racist

Sarah Miller

We have all grown up listening to fairy tales and watching them come alive on screen. While these classic stories have positive moral messages to pass on to children, some are also problematic. Upon deeper reading, some fairytales are now considered racist, with many calling on parents and education to stop passing these negative takes on to children. We take a look at 18 fairy tales that are now being called out for racism:

Peter Pan

Image credit: Shutterstock

Written by J.M. Barrie in 1904, during a time when colonialism and racist views were standard, Peter Pan conveys Native Americans in a negative light. The tribe present in Neverland has been called out for being insensitive for being called “piccaninnies” and for speaking in broken English, portraying them as less civilized than white characters in the book.

Jungle Book

Image credit: Shutterstock

While not necessarily a fairytale, this 1967 Disney classic is accused of using racist stereotypes about African Americans in its King Louie character. The character implies that black people are primitive compared to their colonists, which has led to Disney putting a disclaimer at the start of the movie to warn people it contains “outdated depictions.”


Image credit: Shutterstock

Cinderella has drawn criticism for its racial undertones throughout the story. Although many reproductions of this classic have been made over the years, Cinderella is always white. In contrast, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters have darker hair and features.

Sleeping Beauty

Image credit: illustrator_hft via Deposit photos

Similar to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty relies on common tropes about attractiveness. The female protagonist is portrayed as white, passive, and waiting for a handsome prince to save her, while the villain, Maleficent, is a dark-skinned fairy with horns. This contrast reinforces racist connections between physical features and evil.


Image credit: Shutterstock

The 1992 Disney film Aladdin has been criticized for containing racist elements. The primary issue is that the film depicts a fictional Middle Eastern land named Agrabah, relying on stereotypes of these regions rather than accurately portraying specific cultures. Attention has also been drawn to the negative stereotypes reinforced in the characters of Jafar and his henchmen, who speak in broken English.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Image credit: Shutterstock

Like Aladdin, this story relies on Middle Eastern and Arabic cultural stereotypes. These stereotypes can be inaccurate and insensitive as characters are portrayed with exaggerated features or clothing that reinforces negative stereotypes.

Hansel and Gretel

Image credit: Shutterstock

The witch in Hansel and Gretel is portrayed as a one-dimensional villain solely focused on harming children. This can contribute to the idea that people with certain appearances are inherently evil, which is a dangerous generalization.

Babar The Elephant

Image Credit: Jean de Brunhoff – Public Domain/Wiki Commons

Published in 1931, the original Babar story features a seemingly well-intentioned elephant who leaves the jungle and adopts Western attire and mannerisms. This can be interpreted as portraying colonization, where a European figure brings “civilization” to a perceived “primitive” land.


Image credit: Shutterstock

In older depictions of this fairytale, Rumpelstiltskin is often illustrated with exaggerated features that resemble some anti-Semitic caricatures. These features include a hooked nose, crooked legs, and greedy eyes.

Tintin in the Congo

Image Credit: Newtown grafitti – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons

Tintin has been a beloved character for generations, but there’s growing criticism in recent years about racist portrayals in some of the earlier adventures, particularly “Tintin in the Congo” (1931). Negative stereotypes are reinforced when the Congolese characters are often depicted with exaggerated features and childish behavior.

Snow White

Image credit: deniscristo via Deposit photos

The title itself, “Snow White,” and the emphasis on her “flawless, porcelain-white” skin elevates a specific beauty standard that has racist undertones, implying other skin tones are less beautiful. There is evidence that people prefer whiter skin tones, and research looked at which faces are more attractive, with lighter skin tones fairing more positively than black faces.

The Little Mermaid

Image credit: Elena Schweitzer via Deposit photos

It is common for the “baddies” in fairy tales and Disney films to be depicted as people of color. Some interpretations of Ursula, the sea witch’s exaggerated features and association with dark magic, can be seen as perpetuating negative stereotypes about people of color.

Little Red Riding Hood

Image credit: carlacastagno via Deposit photos

While this story aims to warn children about unknown individuals, it does so by relying on outdated racial stereotypes. Wolves, as featured in the fairytale, have often been used as a racial slur, and the association of their dark fur and aggressive behavior with villainy can perpetuate negative stereotypes about certain ethnicities.

The Three Little Pigs

Image credit: comodo777 via Deposit photos

Some people believe that the classic story of The Three Little Pigs is not as innocent as it may seem. The portrayal of the straw house associated with the foolish pig could reinforce negative stereotypes about rural or poorer communities. On the other hand, the brick house made by the clever pig might symbolize wealth and superiority.

The Story of Little Black Sambo

Image Credit: Helen Bannerman – Public Domain/Wiki Commons

The title of this fairytale, “Sambo,” is a racial slur used historically to demean black people. In addition to the name of the story, the illustrations often depicted Sambo with exaggerated features and dark skin color, reinforcing negative racial stereotypes.

Puss in Boots

Image credit: martintheworld via Deposit photos

Some have interpreted Puss in Boots’s accent as relying on clichés associated with Hispanic or Latino characters. Even though Puss is a talking cat and not human, its portrayal is problematic to minority groups, who are unfairly depicted as cunning or closer to animals.

Truths About Christianity That No One Is Ready To Hear

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Christianity has a long and complex history and many different ways to understand and practice it exist. As with any religion, some aspects of Christianity can be challenging. Here are harsh truths about Christianity that some people may not be ready to hear: Truths About Christianity That No One Is Ready To Hear

Things People Say All the Time That Are Actually Taken from the Bible

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Did you know that many commonly used (while outdated) sayings that people say all the time actually have origins in scripture, specifically the Bible? Here is a list of outdated things people say all the time that are actually taken from scripture: Things People Say All the Time That Are Actually Taken from the Bible

Leave a Comment