Disney's Dwarfs
Disney’s Seven Dwarfs – who are not the same dwarfs as in the story, thankfully.

I’m hoping to see The Huntsman: Winter’s War this weekend, which has me thinking about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I found the tale of the “Death of the Seven Dwarfs” at  D. L. Ashliman’s website. He credits the story to Ernst Ludwig Rochholz, who included it in Schweizersagen aus dem Aargau, vol. 1.

The story comes from Switzerland and as you can tell from the title, does not have a happy ending for the dwarfs.

On one of the high plains near the Black Forest, seven dwarfs lived together in a small house. Late one evening an attractive young peasant girl, who was lost and hungry, approached them and requested shelter for the night. The dwarfs only had seven beds, and they argued with each other about who would give up his bed for the girl. Finally the oldest one took the girl into his bed. I’m not sure what “took into his bed” means here. At first it sounds like the dwarfs were going to just let the girl have one of their beds and they could sleep elsewhere, but that phrase is odd.

Before they could fall asleep a peasant woman came to their house, knocked on the door, and asked to be let inside. The story doesn’t tell us why the woman showed up, but it is quite a coincidence. The girl got up immediately and told the woman that the dwarfs had only seven beds, and that there was no room there for anyone else. With this the woman became very angry and accused the girl of being a slut, thinking that she was living with all seven men. Threatening to make a quick end to such evil business, she went away in a rage.

That same night she returned with two men, whom she had brought up from the bank of the Rhine. They immediately broke into the house and killed the seven dwarfs. They buried the bodies outside in the garden and burned the house to the ground. No one knows what became of the girl. I’m hoping she escaped, but I have a bad feeling that the two men probably were not that kind.

I don’t know what to make of the story. On the one hand, the dwarfs could have been innocently helping the girl and were unfairly punished. In the Snow White I’m used to, the dwarfs are harmless good guys. But, they could have been taking advantage of a vulnerable girl in which case maybe they deserved what they got. And why did the woman want inside? Did she know the girl was there and wanted to protect her virtue or did she have evil intentions from the start? Killing all seven dwarfs and burning the house seems a bit extreme. And the two men, the killers, who are they and what is their purpose? They might be heroes, saving the girl, but they might also be just flat-out bad guys, willing to do whatever for a payment.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.


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