Fairy Tales in Different Cultures--Snow White

This week we are going to take a break from Cinderella and introduce Snow White. Snow White is a German tale and was first published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. The original Snow White did not involve a stepmother, but was actually her mother who became jealous of her beauty. This was changed to a stepmother in the next edition and it is believed this change happened to tone the story down for children. In the initial story the mother also took Snow White into the woods herself and abandoned her, but this was changed to a servant by the first published edition. In 1912 the dwarfs were given names for a Broadway Show and then in 1937 Disney changed their names for the film. (Source)

Margarete von Waldeck (Source)

An interesting side to this story is an article written by a German scholar, Eckhard Sande, in 1994. His article titled (translated) Snow White: Is It a Fairy Tale, stated that there are many similarities in the story of Snow White and the life of Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess who was the mistress of a Spanish prince during the 1500's. She suffered an early death that some believed could have been due to poison. Her stepmother who had sent her away and the King of Spain were not happy with their children's relationship. Whether this is the source of the story, no one knows, but it is interesting to see the similarities. (Source)

Now onto our story. For the text of this story you can click here. Now last month we had the pleasure of seeing this story performed live as a musical. Although a few of the differences from the Disney version scared Hazel, she really did enjoy seeing it. I should also add that Hazel has not seen the Disney movie. This was the first movie I saw and my mother was rather upset with my father for taking me as I had nightmares for several weeks afterwards. I believe I was five when I saw it. Having watched it as an adult, I now know why I had nightmares. There are some scenes that they did rather scary for a young child.

Ok, now onto the Brothers Grimm version. A queen sat doing her needlepoint and pricked her finger. A drop of blood fell into the falling snow out the window that was framed with ebony. She liked the color combination and made a wish to have a daughter with skin as white as the snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony. Soon she had her daughter and named her Snow White. The mother died shortly after this.

The king remarried a year later. The stepmother had a magic mirror which she stood in front of each morning asking "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in this land is the fairest of all?"
File:Snow White Mirror 3.png

The mirror would answer, "You, my queen, are the fairest of all." This would satisfy the queen since she knew the mirror could only speak the truth. Snow White grew up and grew more beautiful every day. At age seven she was as beautiful as the light of day. One day the mirror answered that Snow White was more fair than the queen. The queen filled with jealousy. She summoned a huntsman and ordered him to take the princess to the woods and to kill her. As proof of her death, the queen demanded he bring back Snow White's lungs and liver. The huntsman obeyed, but Snow White pleaded with him for her life. He let her live thinking wild animals would kill her anyway. He killed a wild boar and brought its liver and lungs to the queen. She had the cook boil them in salt, and she ate them.
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The young princess was scared in the woods alone and did not know what to do. She began to run. She ran through the woods. The wild animals did not harm her. She ran as far as she could and then as evening was falling she found a small house to rest. Inside the house there was a table neatly set with seven places and seven beds neatly made. The house was clean and neat. Because she was hungry and thirsty she ate a few small bites of vegetables and bread from each plate and drank a drop of wine from each mug. Then she tried each of the seven beds. She had issues with each one--too long, too short, etc.--until the seventh one which was just right. There she fell asleep.

After dark the masters or the house came home. They were seven dwarfs. They noticed right away that someone had been eating their food and sitting in their chairs. Then the noticed their beds and the seventh reported that someone was in his. The dwarfs looked at the child and were excited to have such a beautiful visitor. They let her sleep in the bed through the night. The seventh dwarf shared beds with his brothers. Sleeping an hour in each one throughout the night.

The next morning Snow White woke up and was a bit frightened by the dwarfs, but they were very friendly with her. She told them about how her stepmother tried to kill her. They told her if she would cook, clean, sew, knit for them she could stay and have whatever she wanted. She happily agreed. When the dwarfs went to dig for gold in the mines, they warned her not to let anyone in.
File:Snow White Ribbon.png

One morning the queen asked her mirror about who was the fairest and the mirror told her it was Snow White and told her where Snow White was. The queen dressed as an old peddler woman and went to visit Snow White. She sold a beautiful silk bodice lace to Snow White and offered to lace her up properly. Snow White thought for sure she could trust this woman and let her in. The queen pulled the lace so hard, Snow White could not breathe. That evening the dwarfs came home and found Snow White lying on the floor lifeless. They noticed the lace was too tight and loosened it. Snow White slowly began to breathe an life returned to her. When the dwarfs heard what happened, they told Snow White the peddler woman must have been the godless queen. They warned her again not to let anyone in.
File:Snow White Poisoned Haircomb.png

The queen asked the mirror and again it told her Snow White was fairer. She was angry to hear Snow White was alive still. She dressed as a different peddler woman and this time sold Snow White a hair comb. The queen put the poisoned comb barely in Snow White's hair before she fell to the ground. The dwarfs came home and found Snow White on the floor again. They examined her and found the comb. When they removed it, she came back to life.

Again the queen asked the mirror and again it replied Snow White was the fairest. The queen went into her secret room and made a poisoned, poisoned apple. She tricked Snow White into trying the apple by cutting it and sharing it with her. Only half the apple was poisoned. Snow White fell to the ground with one bite. When the dwarfs returned home they found her dead on the floor. They could not bury her in the black dirt, so they made her a glass coffin and put her on display so they could always see her beauty.

File:Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1.png
Now a prince was riding through the woods and came upon the beautiful girl in the glass coffin. He tried to buy the coffin from the dwarfs, but they would not sell it. Then he asked them to give it to him since he felt he could not live without seeing Snow White each day. The dwarfs took pity on him and let him take the coffin. The prince had his servants carry the coffin on their shoulders. One of them stumbled and that dislodged the poisonous apple from Snow White's throat. Snow White soon woke up and opened the coffin. The prince asked her to come to his father's castle and marry him. Snow White did. They invited the stepmother queen. 

The queen asked her mirror who the fairest was and the mirror told her the bride was far fairer than her. She did not know what to do, but decided on going to see this beauty. She recognized Snow White immediately. They brought a pair of iron shoes that had been sitting in the hot coals of the fire to the queen and forced her to dance in them until she fell down dead.

Next week I will share another version of Snow White. I hope you will join us!