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The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairytales: Snow White

In today's installment of The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairytales we will be covering Snow White. Disney's version very closely resembles the early versions by Giambattista Basile and the Brothers Grimm. However small changes to the originals change this story from gruesome to the charming Disney version. We all know the Disney version Snow White's stepmother hates her and tells her huntsman to take her into the forest and kill her. Snow White runs into the forest and finds the home of the seven dwarves who take care of her. The stepmother finds out Snow White is not dead and disguises herself as a old women selling apples and gives Snow White a poisoned apple causing her to fall into a deep sleep, only to have her awaken with a kiss from a passing prince and they lived happily ever after. The originals are a bit different. There are also not only two other versions but these are the two I have chosen to highlight but if you click the link below you will find the other versions as well as these two.


Little Snow-White by The Brothers Grimm

This version of Snow White is very similar to the Disney version, it is also the version that Disney based his movie on.

In this early version, the Evil Queen is in fact Snow White's biological mother which makes her behavior all the more sinister. Disney didn't censor the Evil Queen's attempted murders, but this text from the Brothers Grimm story is horrifying: Finally she summoned a huntsman and said to him, 'Take Snow White out into the woods to a remote spot, and stab her to death. As proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me. I shall cook them with salt and eat them.'

Now imagine that Snow White is the Queen's own flesh and blood: Just then a young boar came running by. He killed it, cut out its lungs and liver, and took them back to the queen as proof of Snow White's death. She cooked them with salt and ate them, supposing that she had eaten Snow White's lungs and liver.

The rest of the story follows basically the same as the Disney movie but the ending is rather different. She ends up in her glass coffin and the prince sees her when he takes shelter at the dwarves cottage one night. He immediately is taken by her and convinces the dwarves to let him take her back to his castle, coffin and all. He had the coffin brought to his castle and he wouldn't eat without having it next to him, if he had to leave and couldn't see her he would be very sad. Servants were constantly packing the coffin back and forth and they became angry. One of them opened the coffin, lifted Snow White into a seated position and hit her in the back of the head with his hand. The piece of apple that was in her throat came out and she came back to life.

In the end Snow White does get her happily ever after, and when the Evil Queen attends her wedding, Snow White tortures her to death: They put a pair of iron shoes into the fire until they glowed, and she had to put them on and dance in them. Her feet were terribly burned, and she could not stop until she had danced herself to death.


The Young Slave by Giambattista Basile

This version of the story is different from The Brothers Grimm story but is still considered to be a Snow White variant.

Girls competed to jump over a rose bush; at last Cilia, the baron's sister, did so, but she knocked off a rose petal. To pretend she had cleared it entirely, she swallowed the petal and became pregnant. She bore a daughter, named her Lisa, and gave her to fairies to raise. The fairies gave her gifts, but one twisted her ankle and cursed Lisa to die when she was seven, because her mother, combing her hair, forgot the comb in her hair. This happened, and the lamenting mother put her in seven crystal coffins and put them in a room. Her health failed. Before she died, she gave her brother the key to the room and make him promise not to open it.

He obeyed, but he married, and one day while he hunted, his wife opened the door. Jealous of the girl's beauty, she pulled her out by her hair, which knocked out the comb and brought her back to life. The woman beat her and made her a slave, telling her husband that her aunt had sent her a slave and warned her that stern measures were necessary with this perverse slave.

The baron went to the fair and asked everyone for what they wanted. Lisa asked for a doll, a knife, and some pumice-stone, and cursed him not be able to cross a river to return if he did not. He forgot them, but the river swelled, reminding him. Lisa took them to the kitchen and told her story to the doll, and then threatened to sharpen the knife on the stone and kill herself if the doll did not answer. The doll did.

After several days of this, the baron heard this and eavesdropped. When the girl began to whet the knife, he broke into the kitchen and took it from her. Then he put Lisa in the care of a relative, where she regained her health and beauty. The baron brought her to his own home, dismissed his wife back to her relatives, and in due course married off his niece.



There we have it another look at what fairytales are "supposed" to look like. Do you have a favorite so far?


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