Illustration by Anne Anderson in Anne Anderson's Fairy Tales and Pictures. Whitman Publishing Company, 1935.

Image source: Sur La Lune Fairy Tales

“Little Snow White” is the Snow White story I know, complete with the seven dwarfs and the talking mirror. It’s actually closer to the Disney version I remember than I expected. The Grimm version I read is from Household Tales, translated by Margaret Hunt, published in 1884.

At the beginning of the story, a queen sits at a window, sewing. She pricks her finger with her needle and when she sees the drop of blood on the snow outside, she wishes for a child “as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame.” A lot of fairy tales start with someone wishing for a baby, don’t they? Snow White is born, but the queen dies. After a year the King remarries; enter the evil step-mother.

The new Queen is obsessed with being the most beautiful woman in the land, and she has a mirror that when asked always tells her the truth, that she is the fairest, until Snow White turns 7. Then, the mirror responds to the Queen’s question by saying that while the Queen is fair, Snow White is more beautiful.

Being a horrible woman, the Queen hires a huntsman to take the child into the forest, kill her and bring back her heart. The huntsman can’t do it, lets the child go and brings the Queen a boar’s heart, which she eats. Apparently the Queen thought that by eating Snow White’s heart she would not only be making sure she was dead, but also would gain some of her beauty. Snow White meanwhile runs deep into the forest and enters a cottage. She eats the food and six other beds, falls asleep on the seventh, reminiscent of Goldilocks in the Three Bears’ house. The dwarfs come home and find her. At first she is frightened but they are friendly and she agrees to do all the household work if she can stay with them.

The Queen is informed by her mirror that Snow White is still alive.

“Oh, Queen, thou art fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-white is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she.”

The Queen tries three times to kill the girl. Posing as an old woman, she first ties the stays on the girl’s dress too tight so she can’t breathe, then she puts a poisoned comb in her hair, and finally she convinces Snow White to eat a poisoned apple which “kills” her. The dwarfs can’t bear to bury her, so they put her in a glass coffin and keep vigil. Eventually, a Prince comes to the forest, sees the beautiful girl and begs the dwarfs to let him take the coffin. They agree. As the Prince’s servants carry the coffin, they stumble and the jolt dislodges the bite of poisoned apple from Snow White’s throat, waking her. (No kiss here.) The Prince is overjoyed, and the two of course get married.

Snow White’s stepmother is invited to the feast. Before going she asks her mirror who is fairest and it replies, “Oh, Queen, of all here the fairest art thou, But the young Queen is fairer by far as I trow.”

The Queen was miserable, but had to go to the wedding to see the young Queen. She recognized Snow White immediately.

and she stood still with rage and fear, and could not stir. But iron slippers had already been put upon the fire, and they were brought in with tongs, and set before her. Then she was forced to put on the red-hot shoes, and dance until she dropped down dead.

It’s one of the longer Grimm tales, with a lot going on. You can read the entire story here. You’ve got the evil step-mother, a common theme, and the dad who doesn’t do anything about it. He actually just disappeared from the story after he remarried.

I find it a little disturbing that the girl is only 7. I always tpictured Snow White as an older teenager. It doesn’t seem like much time passes while Snow White is with the dwarfs. I doubt the Queen would put up with not being the most beautiful for long. At least the young age kind of explains why she was tricked by Queen in disguise three times. You would have thought she would learn after the first time, or at least listen to the dwarfs’ warnings. She did lay a “long, long time” in the coffin, but she doesn’t change during that time. So the Prince is marrying a 7 or 8 year-old. Different time, different place, I guess, but still alarming.

And of course, there’s the punishment at the end. The Grimms do a good job at making sure the villain receives her punishment.

Snow White is one of the classic Disney princess movies. Which is your favorite?

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.