Hello Champions, today we are going to jump right in on the origins of Snow White! (But I did want to say a big thank you to everyone who has read Snow White, and to all of you who are reviewing it! You’re awesome!)
When I first started my research, I found some very surprising information. Like most of the fairy tales I’ve written about, Snow White is a German fairy tale published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm in their first collection of fairy tales. But while researching it, I discovered a Russian man by the name of Aleksandr Pushkin wrote a poem in 1833 titled “the Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights.” The two stories are nearly identical, but Pushkin made a few minor adaptions that made the story at lot less…icky. I’ll be going into the Russian version later because–as you might be able to tell by the title–I used Pushkin’s tale for inspiration as well. But today we’re going to focus on the more well known version by the Brothers Grimm.
Before I get started, just a gentle reminder that as we go over this fairy tale and I poke fun of it, I really do love the original story, and there’s a lot more complexity to fairy tales than we can comprehend because we don’t have the same experiences and knowledge that the average person back in 1812 would have. But, teasing the original story is so fun, so let’s get started! 😉
In the Brothers Grimm version, a queen with some weird and inexplicable thoughts about blood on snow has a baby and names her Snow White. The queen dies in childbirth, and after a year her husband, the king, marries a beautiful but arrogant woman who somehow came to possess a magic mirror.
This woman–the new queen–is so arrogant that the only thing she uses this magic, sentient mirror for is to tell her how pretty she is every morning. That works out great for the queen until Snow White turns seven and the mirror–which is apparently a snitch–decides to tell the queen “You, my queen, are fair; it is true. But Snow-White is a thousand times fairer than you.” (Stop right here. Mirror, dude, WHY ARE YOU COMPARING A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD TO A WOMAN? You sicko!)
So the queen, who had been pretty apathetic to Snow White before, now looks at her with hatred. (Thanks for that, mirror!) She comes to hate her so much that she tells a huntsman to take this seven-year-old-girl into the woods and kill her, then to bring back her lungs and liver as proof of her death. (Where is the King in all of this? Like, how could he miss this happening??)
The huntsman takes Snow White out to the woods, but Snow White–despite being seven–apparently has the charisma and speaking ability of a empress, and sweetly asks the huntsman to spare her, promising she will never return home. The huntsman lets go her because he thinks she’ll get killed by a wild animal.
Snow White runs through the woods and finds a neat little house where everything is clean and tidy. Apparently her beautiful manners were a show for the huntsman, because she breaks in with no remorse and proceeds to mess everything up. Then she goes to sleep in one of seven little beds. (Because it’s a GREAT IDEA to sleep in a house that you’ve broken into, when there is evidence everywhere that the home owners are soon coming back!)
The seven dwarves, who work as miners, come home and find Snow White sleeping. Since they’re very thoughtful, they don’t wake her, and instead they all go to sleep.
When Snow White wakes up in the morning she explains everything to them. The dwarves very wisely note that her stepmother won’t give up easily, and invite her to stay with them as long as she cooks and cleans. (Based on the fact that she was the one who had messed everything up earlier, I’m pretty sure they just didn’t want her making their cottage a pigpen in their absence when they went to work every day.)
Back on the ranch, the Queen flips her lid because she ate what she thought was Snow White’s lungs and liver, but the mirror tattle-tales that Snow White is still, in fact, alive. (The mirror does this for no particular reason other than that he is a jerk, as he specifically tells the Queen that Snow White is far away, beyond mountains.)
Angry that she comes behind a seven-year-old in terms of beauty, the queen disguises herself as a peddler and sells oblivious Snow White a bodice lace. The queen offers to help Snow White put it on, then yanks it so tight Snow White can’t breathe, and she flees, uttering perhaps the first recorded instance of a villain making snide comments while fleeing, “You used to be the most beautiful!” (I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!)
The dwarves come home and find Snow White passed out . They see her tight bodice string and cut it so Snow White can breathe again, then warn her the peddler woman must have been her stepmother, and that she needs to be more careful in the future.
Apparently Snow White didn’t learn her lesson, because the queen tricks her again with a poisoned comb–which the dwarves free her from–and eventually a poisoned apple. (Though in Snow White’s defense, she’s only willing to eat the apple because the queen, disguised as a peasant woman, cuts it in half and gives Snow White the poisoned half.)
After Snow White eats the poisoned half of the apple and “dies,” the seven dwarves come home, but they can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. They try all sorts of tricks before giving up and making a glass coffin for Snow White, because they couldn’t bear burying her in the cold earth. The dwarves and animals mourn Snow White, and “a long time passes.” (It doesn’t give me years, but I hope for the incoming Prince Shallow’s sake, it was upwards of 7 years! Or he’s just as bad as that mirror!) Despite years–hopefully–passing, Snow White does not decay. (Hopefully she grows, too.)
A prince–the aforementioned Prince Shallow for reasons that will soon become apparent–passes through the dwarves’ forest. He sees Snow White in her coffin, and asks the dwarves to SELL HER TO HIM!
The dwarves refuse, but the prince declares he cannot live without her (Why?? You, sir, haven’t even see what color her eyes are because she’s DEAD!) and eventually the dwarves give in.
The prince has his servants carry Snow White in her gold and glass coffin on their shoulders–which is horribly mean because gold is really heavy. Understandably, the servants stumble and perform the first accidental Heimlich maneuver (impressive given that it wasn’t invented until the 1970s) and the poisoned apple pops out of Snow White’s mouth.
She wakes up, understandably confused, and Prince Shallow declares his love for her (Impressive, given she has only spoken one entire sentence to him) and asks her to marry him. She instantly falls in love with him (because guys who buy dead bodies in pretty coffins are sooooo dreamy) and agrees.
Snow White’s stepmother is invited to the wedding, and while she’s prepping for it she asks her mirror who is the fairest of all, and what does that tattle-tale say? Yes, of course he tells her the young new queen is far more fair. The queen is frightened, but because the mirror for once did not name Snow White, she wants to see this woman who is more beautiful than her, so she goes to the wedding.
She instantly recognizes Snow White and is filled with fear and in a very strange ending, Snow White and her hubby force the queen to dance in iron shoes that had been heated in a fire until she dies. (Yay?)
So that’s the Grimm Brothers’ version! We’ll go over the Russian version next–which, I promise you, Pushkin must have my same sense of sarcasm because of the changes he made. You guys are going to love it! Until then, Champions, thanks for reading!
Historically people have bought and stolen corpses for anatomical studies. So maybe the prince was a science nerd. Which would have made it even more awkward when Snow woke up… “Whoops, there goes my science fair project.”
…I’m a pre-med student, and sadly, in a similar situation to prince, the scientist part of my brain would be probably be going “Omigosh, a perfectly preserved specimen! Lemme see it!!!” While the rest (ie, normal/sane/kind part) of my brain went “Nooo…waaiitt…!!” XD
Okay so it is important to note that the brothers Grimm were not writing original tales for the most part, but were collecting stories from the locals in their travels. The original tales were not intended for children but were shared by traveling story tellers to the entire village as entertainment (usually at the local pub). Each story teller would embellish the tale to suit their own quirks and their audience. The brothers Grimm collected these tales and often combined the variations into a single story. So the Snow White in Grimm’s is probably a compilation of several similar stories which is where some of the Ick factor comes in.
Oh, I see. Thank you. It makes more sense if it was not intended for children, and created from the depths of many minds.
So all the court officials and the seven dwarves just let a seven and nine-year-old get married and attach red hot boots to their former queen? Seriously? Like, I understand that it’s supposed to be a fairytale, but why do the Brothers Grimm always have such sick stories. Eating children, curses galore, now kids getting married! There are so many ways to write interesting stories, as Kitty always manages to do (love you, by the way) without making them totally sick.
Wait, so was Snow White still seven when she got married? I mean, even if she was physically fourteen or so, her mind would still have been seven when she woke up, right? So, how old was the prince, and why is he such a sicko?
Maybe he was nine? The whole hot-irons thing sounds like the sort of punishment a particularly vengeful kid might come up with. Same with buying the coffin??? To gross out his friends???
And the weight of gold might not occur to a nine year old…
XDDD I’M DYING. I love your response, Megan!
I love this train of thought. It’s the best XD
Also Kitty’s commentary is on point. 🙂
Merie Shen says
AGREED LOL xD As usual Kitty never fails to make fairytales a form of satire!