1. Mary (that had a little lamb)
Mary in the world-famous nursery rhyme was based on a real-life little girl by the name of Mary Sawyer, who attempted to hide a lamb in a basket between her legs while in class. After the lamb inevitably bleated, it was discovered by the teacher and promptly kicked out. The original nursery rhyme was written by a student that witnessed the whole incident, and immortalized a few years later when it was revisited by a poet.
2. Snow White
Snow White is a fairy-tale that originated in 19th-century Germany, however, the central character is actually based on a noblewoman, Margarete von Waldeck, that lived in Bad Wildungen in Bavaria in the 16th century. Apparently, there was a mine in the area that put child laborers to work, resulting in disfigurement, leading them to become nicknamed "dwarfs". In real life, the noblewoman ended up being poisoned in Spain by the family of a potential suitor that disapproved of her.
3. Mary Poppins
The beloved Mary Poppins novels were written by P.L. Travers, who based Poppins on her own aunt, "Aunt Sass", whom she described as a bulldog with a tender heart. It's said that Travers wasn't wholly happy with how Poppins was portrayed in the Disney movie - the character was a lot more tender and sugarcoated than originally intended.
4. Chef Boyardee
The face of the famous canned pasta brand actually started making his recipes when he was just a teenager. Ettore Boiardi, more famously known by his Americanized pseudonym Hector Boyardee, was born in Piacenza, Italy in 1897. His career took off after he began offering takeout options to the devoted customers of his restaurant. His food was even included in soldiers' rations during WWII!
5. Norman Bates
The character of Norman Bates became world-famous in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho. The movie, which was based on a book of the same name by Robert Bloch, saw Bates being played by Anthony Perkins. The chilling character was based on the real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, who terrorized Wisconsin during the 1940s and early 1950s.
6. Miss Piggy
Famous muppet diva Miss Piggy was based on the real-life jazz singer, Peggy Lee. She was intended as an homage to the strong, independent musician, and was actually initially called Miss Piggy Lee. The latter name was soon dropped in order to avoid offending the real-life singer. Miss Piggy was created by muppeteer Bonnie Erickson.
The superhuman, spinach-chomping Popeye was based on a man named Frank Fiegel, who lived in his creator's hometown of Chester, Illinois. The corncob pipe and tattoos were real-life features that Fiegel was known for. Fiegel was known for being a brawler, and what's more is that Olive Oyl was also based on a real-life character who lived in Chester.
8. James Bond
If you think that James Bond is a wholly fictional, exaggerated character, think again. He was based on a real-life secret agent named Forest Leo-Thomas, who became notorious for death-defying escapes, unmatched endurance, and heroic bravery. It's said that Daniel Craig's most harrowing scenes in Casino Royale were based on Leo-Thomas' capture by the Gestapo.
9. Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin is based on the creator of Winnie the Pooh's very own son. A. A. Milne even decided to use his son's name for the fictional character without alteration. The animal characters in Winnie the Pooh were also inspired by Milne's son's stuffed toys, although it's said that the real-life Christopher Robin disliked being associated with the stories as an adult.
10. Betty Boop
Betty Boop is nothing short of an animated bombshell, but she's actually based on a real-life actress called Helen Kane. Sadly, she did not take kindly to being caricatured at all, and sued Betty Boop's creator. The lawsuit eventually went against her, but the resemblance between the real-life woman and the animated character was uncanny.