These four disturbing moments in The Handmaid's Tale were ripped from real life.

Praise be.

Gilead is back and it’s even more unsettling than the first time around.

This season has confirmed all of our worst fears – there’s no easy way out of Gilead and there’s probably not going to be a happy ending for June.

Every episode is a hard watch full of bleakness and brutality, but still, we persist.

To be honest, the only thing that was getting me through each episode was the knowledge that when it was over, I could retreat back into my safe little world.

Then I discovered that some of the most disturbing moments from the series are actually pulled from real life.

Here are four moments from the series that are based on real life events:

1. The ceremony

the handmaids tale season 2
Image: Hulu.

It turns out handmaids were once a real thing.

You see, in the old testament both Rachel and Leah are married to Jacob.

While Leah gives Jacob a son, Rachel struggles to become pregnant. That's when Rachel convinces Jacob to have sex with her handmaid, Bilhah, so she can have children through her.

Bilhah then gives birth to two sons and Rachel raises them as her own.

It's all sounding pretty familiar, right?

“And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her," Genesis 30:1-2.

2. The public births

the handmaids tale season 2
Image: Hulu.

Whenever a handmaid gives birth during the series, she's surrounded by a whole bunch of handmaids and "wives".

It's a very public event. A little too public when you think about what's coming out of what.

While this may seem strange to us in 2018, this is something the royals did a lot in the 16th and 17th century, according to The Guardian.

You see, the royals were forced to have public births so someone couldn't switch the royal baby with an, erm, pleb baby while no one was looking.

In the palace of Versailles the Queen's bedroom was actually the largest so she could accommodate all the onlookers for her birth.

The practice of public births in Versailles was abandoned after Marie Antoinette's birth, because the Queen was almost killed by the crowd of people who stormed her bedroom.

But they continued on for decades in other monarchies.

3. The 'under His eye' bit

the handmaids tale season 2
Image: Hulu.

The government in Gilead rules in the name of God and that's why they always say they're "under His eye".

They also greet each other with "praise be" for the same reason.

While this kind of government is pretty much unheard of these days, America used to have a very similar system.


“America was not initially founded as an 18th-century enlightenment republic. It was initially a 17th-century theocracy," Margaret Atwood explained in a video for CBC.

“That tendency keeps bubbling up in America from time to time.”

4. The salvagings

the handmaids tale real life
Image: Hulu.

In Gilead, people are publicly executed if they step out of line.

These public executions are referred to as "salvagings" as the regime believes the souls of the sinners can be saved through death.

In the series we often catch glimpses of dead bodies hanging in the public spaces.

While it makes for pretty brutal TV viewing, public executions have been far too common throughout history.

In fact, according to NPR, the last public execution in America took place in 2001. Yep, just 17 years ago.

Even more disturbing is the fact the handmaids have to participate in the executions themselves.

In the book, Atwood invented the term "particicution", which is an amalgamation of "execution" and "participation".

During "particicution" the handmaids are forced to kill someone who has been deemed a "sinner" by the regime.

Once again, Atwood took inspiration from real life to create this bleak, unsettling theme.

"In Émile Zola’s novel Germinal, which is based on real-life 19th century coal-mining enterprises, the guy who runs the company store is exacting sex from the wives and daughters of the coal miners in order to sell them goods because they didn’t have any money. So when the women get the chance, they tear him apart, and put not his head but his genitalia on a pike, and parade it around," she told the New York Times.