A biiiiiig thank you, Champions! Snow White has reached well over 70 reviews–you guys are awesome! Here is the next short: The Royal Mullberg Cabinet! I hope you guys enjoy it! 😀 There is still one short left–it’s actually an extra scene between Angelique and Evariste. I’ll release it when Snow White gets 100 reviews–so not far to go!
In my last post I mentioned I had stumbled on a Russian version of Snow White, published by Aleksandr Pushkin in 1833 under the title “The Dead Princess and the Seven Knights.” This poem version is similar to the Brothers Grimm Snow White, but is said to be based on Russian folklore.
Before we dive into this story, we have to talk about the title. The Russian title is actually “The Tale of the Dead Tsarina and the Seven Bogatyr.” Tsarina, as you can likely guess, means female monarch, but Bogatyr is more of a stock-character term found in East Slavic folklore. Bogatyr are extremely similar to the British/European notion of a knight-errant. They’re warriors who were known for protecting their homelands. Generally, translated literature call them knights but I decided to go for warriors which is how–you likely guessed it–I came up with the idea of the Seven Warriors.
Unlike the Brothers Grim version with the queen and her strange fascination with blood and snow, this story starts by describing a King who leaves his wife and goes on a long voyage. His wife misses him A LOT, but ends up giving birth to their daughter. Immediately after she does, the King returns. The queen dies from happiness and exhaustion the day he returns.
Like Snow White’s father, the King–a year later–remarries a woman who is acknowledged as beautiful and clever…and willful and jealous. This arrogant new stepmother of the little princess also has a magic mirror–one that compliments her beauty.
The young princesses (who is never called Snow White but is said to have dark hair and a fair complexion) grows up and becomes engaged to Prince Yelisei–whom I like a GREAT DEAL MORE than Prince Shallow from the Brothers Grimm version.
The night before the princess and prince are to wed, the mirror tells the vain queen that she is no longer the most beautiful of all, but that the young princess is. (While I still don’t appreciate the mirror’s tattle tale ways, at least this one had the decency to wait until she was a teenager!)
The jealous queen orders a servant girl to take the princess out to the forest and tie her up so wolves would kill her. The servant girl takes the princess deep into the forest, but out of pity leaves the princess untied and returns to the evil queen.
This is where things get interesting. Prince Yelisei hears that his bride has gone missing, and instantly sets out on a quest to find her, making him one of the most honorable and pro-active princes I have come across in fairy tale literature. (You go prince!)
Back in the forest, the princess finds a hut, but no one is home. Like Snow White she breaks in, but unlike Snow White she realizes someone kind is living there and thinks it unlikely they’ll be angry with her for coming inside, so she cleans the place up before falling asleep.
Right on cue the knights (bogatyrs) return home for dinner. They find the home cleaned and are ridiculously happy (I guess house work isn’t their thing) and promise the princess they’ll call and consider her their dearest sister. The princess does not tell them her story, instead the knights figure out based on the way she acts that she must be royalty.
The princess settles into her new life of cooking and cleaning while the knights each day ride off to battle to fight off invaders and the like. Eventually all seven of the knights come to fall in love with her, and together as a group they ask her to choose one of them to marry and promise the rest will still think of her like a sister. The princess confesses she is engaged to and already in love with Prince Yelisei. The knights accept this–and put the last few pieces of the mystery together, realizing who she is–and they go back to their every day life.
But of course, things can’t be this way forever–the evil queen still has that over-talkative mirror, remember?
So of course one day the queen asks the mirror who is most beautiful, and the mirror who needs to learn to SHUT ITS MOUTH tells the queen that the princess who lives in the house and watches the knights leave every day is the most beautiful. (Basically, he gave the queen her exact location. So despite my greater appreciation for the princess and Prince Yelisei in this tale, the mirror is still on my villain list.)
This makes the queen ticked, and she sends the servant girl to kill the princess–this time under threat of death. So the servant girl disguises herself as a peasant and through a series of events gives the princess a poisoned apple.
The princess bites it, swoons, and dies.
The knights all return and instantly recognize the poisoned apple as the source of the princess’ death. They are heartbroken, but they also notice that even though she doesn’t breathe, her cheeks are rosy and she looks more like she is sleeping. They wait three days before they decide she isn’t going to awake, and they place her in a crystal coffin and put her in a cave.
Back on the ranch, the queen asks the mirror who is the most beautiful, and her snarky little minion tells her she is once again most beautiful.
Meanwhile Prince Yelisei has been searching for the princess. I suspect he must be related to the gal from East of the Sun West of the Moon because he asks the sun, then the moon, and then the wind to help him find the princess. The wind leads him to the cave with the crystal coffin.
Prince Yelisei–in his grief–throws himself on the crystal coffin which breaks and…immediately brings the princess back to life?? (Seriously, no joke here, and no explanation to why this works.)
The two have a good chat as they ride home, and once again the vain queen’s mirror spills the beans that Snow White is alive, the queen is enraged and leaves her room to find Snow White alive. She falls dead of….jealousy? Agony? Perhaps both, and after she is buried the prince and princess are married.
As you can probably tell, this story is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more to my liking as it entirely ditches the icky feeling from child-Snow White and the prince who is creepily into collecting corpses, though there are few things that make me raise my eyebrow (like, didn’t anyone think to tell the poor knights the princess was alive? And what happened to the king?) but all in all this is one of the best fairy tales that actually depicts both the hero and the heroine in love and dedicated to one another. (If you want to read a translated version, you can see it HERE!)
As you can see, the Disney version of Snow White borrows from this version as well. (For starters, Snow White is older, she has seen the prince before and he is sort of looking for her, and Disney skipped the poisoned bodice stays and combs and went straight for the apple.)
Like Disney, I ended up stitching the two stories together as well–though I decided to use knights instead of dwarves because they fit into my story world better. (And, frankly, because I was sick of having my heroines end up with princes, and I thought it would be fun to have one marry a warrior.)
I hope you enjoy the extra and this dressing down of the poem! Thanks again for all the reviews, and have a lovely night!