Two boys were forced to live in the cellar of a home in France for as long as three years while their stepbrothers lived a comfortable existence upstairs, in what The Telegraph likened to a Grimm brothers fairytale.
The boys, aged 10 and 12, were rescued from their squalid living conditions after the older boy escaped and raised the alarm, according to French media.
The website bfmtv.com reportedthat officers who raided the home in Seine-Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, found the two boys had to sleep on a bare mattress on the ground surrounded by piles of rubbish.
The boys — named by Britain's Daily Mail as Damien and Hugo — were undernourished and had no access to electricity, tap water or toilet facilities.
Le Parisien wrotethat the boys' father, 39, also beat them a belt.
Meanwhile, their father, stepmother, 44, and her two sons, aged 7 and 17, lived comfortably upstairs, the Telegraph wrote.
The stepmother's sons attended private school, the paper added. And the elder boy her 17-year old was a "petit rat" — a dancer at the Opera de Paris.
The elder of the boys, Damien, raised the alarm after escaping the house and running to the local police station.
The Mail cited Deve Maboungou, a police spokesman, as saying:
"When the police arrived they found a mattress and excrement — it was just as the boy had said."
The boys' father and stepmother have been charged with abuse of a minor, while both boys have been taken into care.