Illustration from Little Brother and Little Sister and Other Tales By the Brothers Grimm. Arthur Rackham, illustrator. London: Constable & Company Ltd, 1917.

“Snow White and Rose Red” by The Brothers Grimm

Although I’ve heard of this story, I’ve never actually read it. I am much more familiar with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” a totally different story. This one does involve a dwarf, but he’s a nasty little man who gets killed in the end.

Snow White and Rose Red are sisters who live with their mother, a widow. All three live together happily. The sisters are dearest friends and wander the woods without fear, as all the animals are kind to them— the girls/young women  are just that perfect.

One day, when the three woman are reading by the fire, they hear a knock at the door. They open it, assuming it’s a traveler looking for lodging, and find a bear. The bear speaks, telling them he won’t hurt them he just needs some warmth. They welcome him  in and he returns every night until summer. the girls tease, flirted and wrestled with the bear.

The bear submitted to everything with the best possible good- nature, only when they went too far he cried: “Oh! children, spare my life!

“Snow-white and Rose-red,
Don’t beat your lover dead.”

But think he even said that in a nice, joking manner. No one could hold anything against the two sister.

Summer comes and the bears has other things to attend to; he has to protect his treasure from a wicked dwarf. The girls meet such a dwarf three times following this, each time saving him in some way, but he is never grateful.

The girls see the dwarf a first time with his treasures near him. Just as the dwarf begins to yell at Snow White and Rose Red, along comes the bear. The dwarf suggest that the bear should eat the girls, but instead the bear kills with dwarf with one swipe of his paw.

The girls had run away, but the bear called after them: “Snow-white and Rose-red, don’t be afraid; wait, and I’ll come with you.” Then they recognized his voice and stood still, and when the bear was quite close to them his skin suddenly fell off, and a beautiful man stood beside them, all dressed in gold. “I am a king’s son,” he said, “and have been doomed by that unholy little dwarf, who had stolen my treasure, to roam about the woods as a wild bear till his death should set me free. Now he has got his well-merited punishment.”

And could there have ever been any doubt? Snow White marries the prince and Rose Red marries his brother. Two such perfect girls have to have a happy ending. After all, they were nothing but kindness and innocence throughout the story. And they had to stay together, and since they couldn’t both marry the prince it was convenient that he had a brother.

You can read the story several place, including here. The first thing that struck me is that the family gets along quite well, the mother is kind and intelligent, the father is dead but that beats a dad whose a wimp in my opinion. There’s no competition among the siblings, even though their personalities are distinctly different.

I know it’s a fairy tale, but the girls are just over the top nice and trusting. They help the dwarf multiple times, even though he’s a nasty little creature, and hitting a bear is not really a good idea no matter the situation. On the other hand, it’s their goodness that allows them to earn their happy ending, which they share with each other and with their mother who comes to live with them. The Grimms do love their innocent, too good to be true girls who are just on the verge of becoming adults, don’t they?

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on “Snow White and Rose Red” and to share your own thoughts. Next week we’ll be looking at “The Snowman” by Hans Christian Andersen.

The above is my honest opinion.


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