Some of the best stories in history have given the world a lesson to learn or a reason to smile. Although most of these tales are fictional, some of the greatest stories are actually based on true events that may have influenced an author. Unfortunately, some of these events are not exactly pleasant.
A classic example of a fictional tale being inspired by true events is Moby-Dick. Herman Melville had written the book after his whaling voyage aboard the Acushnet in 1841 as well as the sinking of the whaleship Essex in 1820. The white whale in the story is also based on a real-life albino whale dubbed Mocha Dick who was notoriously difficult to catch. Here are 10 other beloved stories and the shocking true events behind them.
#1. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Surely, a story about a boy who never grows old might be based on a carefree idea, right? That’s not the case of Peter Pan, which is somehow inspired by the tragic de.ath of author J.M. Barrie’s brother David. The boy was only 12 years old at the time.
Barrie’s other inspiration for Peter were the Llewellyn Davies boys who he adopted after their parents’ passing. Unfortunately, two of the boys would soon pass away in their early adulthood.
#2. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
It’s a tale filled with magic and fantastic beasts. What tragedy could possibly be behind the story of the Boy Who Lived? As it turns out, J.K. Rowling’s description of Harry’s longing for his parents mirrored her own desire to see her mother again.
Rowling’s mother passed away while she was still working on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Although she had previously glossed over Harry’s parent’s deaths, she rewrote a key part of the book after empathizing with the young wizard’s loss.
#3. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
You’ve probably heard of stories that Lewis Carroll was under the influence of hallucinogenics while writing the book. Although this has yet to be confirmed, there’s a stranger story about the author.
Carroll was a keen photographer who enjoyed taking photos of children. Unfortunately, most of the pictures he took were of kids without their clothes on. Some might think of it as art but most believe it was completely inappropriate.
#4. Hansel And Gretel by The Brothers Grimm
The fairy tale is already gruesome enough but the true story behind it is a sad one. Katharina Schraderin was a woman known for her yummy gingerbread cookies in the early 1600s but was somehow accused of being a witch.
It is said that fellow baker Hans Metzler wooed her to steal her recipe. When Katharina refused to share her secret, Hans accused her of witchcraft. Although Katharina was found innocent, Hans decided to take vengeance by enlisting his sister Grete. Together, the siblings threw the poor woman into her own oven.
#5. Room by Emma Donoghue
You’ve probably heard of the 2015 movie that made Captain Marvel star Brie Larson an Oscar winner. Not surprisingly, the story of Ma and Jack was inspired by a real woman who spent several years in captivity.
Emma Donoghue admitted that she was inspired to write Room after hearing about the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, who was held captive for 24 years by her own father in their basement.
#6. The Shining by Stephen King
Stephen King certainly has no problem coming up with horror stories. However, The Shining is actually based on his own experience at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
King and his wife Tabitha only stayed for one night at the hotel but they were the only guests staying at the time. Needless to say, sleeping in Room 217 (which is said to be haunted) gave him a nightmare that led to the iconic book being written.
#7. The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
Every child has probably been told about the story of the ugly duckling who was ridiculed in childhood but later grows to become a beautiful swan. Interestingly, the duckling’s story is possibly drawn from Hans Christian Andersen’s own life.
As a child, Andersen was often bullied because of his appearance and his family’s poverty. However, his love for singing and theater would later capture the attention of wealthy benefactors. Andersen’s rags-to-riches tale somehow mirrors the tale of the sad little duckling.
#8. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The 2013 novel might be known for its adaptation that will be Jennifer Lawrence’s next big project. However, Burial Rites actually tells the story of another strong woman who lived in the 1800s.
The book is based on the life of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a servant who was accused of killing two men, one of which is her own master. Agnes is the last woman executed in Iceland and her story is just as powerful then as it is today.
#9. The Gremlins by Roald Dahl
There is little doubt that Roald Dahl’s works are all whimsical and delightful. However, his first book The Gremlins was inspired by his own time with the Royal Air Force, where pilots were often harassed by mysterious gremlins.
There are several accounts from pilots about seeing strange creatures trying to destroy their planes. Although the gremlins in Dahl’s books are helpful, their real-life counterparts (if they truly exist) are decidedly more sinister.
#10. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Doomed lovers Hazel and Augustus might not be real but the inspiration behind them truly do exist. John Green was inspired to write the love story while working as a children’s chaplain in a hospital. These two characters may have been based on some of the children that Green met from his time at the hospital.
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