Snow White Overview


Snow White is a nineteenth-century German fairy tale published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

The Grimms completed their final revision of the story in 1854. The fairy tale features such elements as the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, matricide, filicide, and the characters of the Evil Queen, the huntsman, Snow White, a handsome prince and the Seven Dwarfs.

Author: Unknown, but published by Brothers Grimm

First published: 1812

Edition: KHM I

AT Number: 709 – Snow White

Similar tales: See commentary

Alternate names: Sneewittchen (aka Schneewittchen), Little Snow-white

Protagonist: Snow White

Antagonist: The Queen

Other characters: Magic mirror, Huntsman, dwarfs, prince, King, Good Queen, wedding guests

Story Synopsis


One day, a queen pricks her finger and three drops of blood drip onto her snowy windowsill. She wishes for a daughter with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony, and some time later, she gives birth to Snow White. Shortly thereafter, she dies.

Snow White’s father takes another wife. The new queen has a Magic Mirror, which she asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always replies: “My Queen, you are the fairest one of all.” But one day the Mirror says, “My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.”

The Queen orders a huntsman to kill Snow White and bring back her lungs and liver. The huntsman finds himself unable to do so and returns with an animal’s heart instead. After escaping, Snow White finds a cottage belonging to Seven Dwarfs, and when the Dwarfs return, they discover her and allow her to stay.

Meanwhile, the Queen learns that Snow White is alive. She tries unsuccessfully to kill her—once as a peddler selling lace bodices and once as a comb seller. As a final murder attempt, the Queen makes a poisoned apple and disguises herself as a farmer’s wife. Snow White eats the apple and falls into a state of suspended animation. Assuming she’s dead, the Dwarfs place her in a glass casket.

Time passes, and a prince finds Snow White. Enchanted, he falls in love, and the Seven Dwarfs agree to let him have her. The moment he lifts the coffin, a piece of poisoned apple falls from her lips and Snow White awakens. The Prince declares his love and a wedding is planned.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s mirror tells her that the new Queen is lovelier than her. Appalled, she goes to the wedding—not knowing that the new queen is her stepdaughter—and when she arrives, she sees that the bride is Snow White, who she thought long dead. The Queen is then forced to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance until she drops down dead.

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Snow White Commentary

Commentary from Wikipedia, reposted under Creative Commons


In the first edition that the Grimms published, the villain is Snow White’s mother.

In a version sent to another folklorist prior to the first edition, she does not order a servant to take Snow White to the woods, but takes her there herself to gather flowers and abandons her. In the first edition, this task was transferred to a servant. It is believed that the change to a stepmother was to tone down the story for children.

Many later versions omit the Queen’s attempted cannibalism, eating what she believed to be the lungs and liver of Snow White. This may be a reference to old Slavic mythology which includes tales of witches eating human hearts.

One version of Snow White is the 1937 American animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney.

Disney’s variation of Snow White gave the dwarfs names and included a singing Snow White. Instead of her lungs and liver, as written in the original, the huntsman is asked by the queen to bring back Snow White’s heart. Snow White is much more mature (about 14). And she is discovered by the dwarfs after cleaning the house, not vandalizing it. Furthermore, in the Disney movie the evil queen tries only once to kill Snow White (by a poisoned apple) and fails. She then dies by falling down a cliff, after the dwarfs had chased her through the forest. In the original, the queen is forced to dance to death.

How dark is Snow White?

Snow White contains many dark elements, including several murder attempts on the main character’s life. In early versions, Snow White’s mother planned on killing her and eating her lungs and liver. At the end, the queen’s comeuppance is particularly gruesome: she’s forced to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance until she drops down dead.

Number of deaths: 1

Ending: Happy

Dark elements: poisoning, cannibalism, torture with red-hot iron shoes

Gore Score: 8/10

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Snow White illustrations


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Snow White: Original Story

Original story published by the Brothers Grimm | English translation by Margaret Hunt


ONCE UPON A TIME in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and the frame of the window was made of black ebony. And whilst she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. And the red looked pretty upon the white snow, and she thought to herself, “Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame.”

Soon after that she had a little daughter, who was as white as snow, and as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony; and she was therefore called Little Snow-white. And when the child was born, the Queen died.

After a year had passed the King took to himself another wife. She was a beautiful woman, but proud and haughty, and she could not bear that any one else should surpass her in beauty. She had a wonderful looking-glass, and when she stood in front of it and looked at herself in it, and said, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

The looking-glass answered, “Thou, O Queen, art the fairest of all!” Then she was satisfied, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth.

But Snow-white was growing up, and grew more and more beautiful; and when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and more beautiful than the Queen herself. And once when the Queen asked her looking-glass, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?” It answered, “Thou art fairer than all who are here, Lady Queen. But more beautiful still is Snow-white, as I ween.”

"Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

THEN THE QUEEN was shocked, and turned yellow and green with envy. From that hour, whenever she looked at Snow-white, her heart heaved in her breast, she hated the girl so much.

And envy and pride grew higher and higher in her heart like a weed, so that she had no peace day or night. She called a huntsman, and said, “Take the child away into the forest; I will no longer have her in my sight. Kill her, and bring me back her lung and liver as a token.

The huntsman obeyed, and took her away but when he had drawn his knife, and was about to pierce Snow-white’s innocent heart, she began to weep, and said, ah dear
huntsman, leave me my life. I will run away into the wild forest, and never come home again.

And as she was so beautiful the huntsman had pity on her and said, run away, then, you poor child. The wild beasts will soon have devoured you, thought he, and yet it seemed as if a stone had been rolled from his heart since it was no longer needful for him to kill her. And as a young bear just then came running by he stabbed it, and cut out its lung and liver and took them to the queen as proof that the child was dead. The cook had to salt them, and the wicked queen ate them, and thought she had eaten the lung and liver of Snow-white.

But now the poor child was all alone in the great forest, and so terrified that she looked at every leaf of every tree, and did not know what to do. Then she began to run, and ran over sharp stones and through thorns, and the wild beasts ran past her, but did her no harm.

She ran as long as her feet would go until it was almost evening; then she saw a little cottage and went into it to rest herself. Everything in the cottage was small, but neater and cleaner than can be told. There was a table on which was a white cover, and seven little plates, and on each plate a little spoon; moreover, there were seven little knives and forks, and seven little mugs. Against the wall stood seven little beds side by side, and covered with snow-white counterpanes.

Little Snow-white was so hungry and thirsty that she ate some vegetables and bread from each plate and drank a drop of wine out of each mug, for she did not wish to take all from one only. Then, as she was so tired, she laid herself down on one of the little beds, but none of them suited her; one was too long, another too short, but at last she found that the seventh one was right, and so she remained in it, said a prayer and went to sleep.

When it was quite dark the owners of the cottage came back; they were seven dwarfs who dug and delved in the mountains for ore. They lit their seven candles, and as it was now light within the cottage they saw that some one had been there, for everything was not in the same order in which they had left it.

The first said, “Who has been sitting on my chair?”

The second, “Who has been eating off my plate?”

The third, “Who has been taking some of my bread?”

The fourth, “Who has been eating my vegetables?”

The fifth, “Who has been using my fork?”

The sixth, “Who has been cutting with my knife?”

The seventh, “Who has been drinking out of my mug?”

Then the first looked round and saw that there was a little hole on his bed, and he said, “Who has been getting into my bed?” The others came up and each called out, “Somebody has been lying in my bed too.” But the seventh when he looked at his bed saw little Snow-white, who was lying asleep therein. And he called the others, who came running up, and they cried out with astonishment, and brought their seven little candles and let the light fall on little Snow-white.

“OH, HEAVENS! OH, HEAVENS!” cried they, “what a lovely child!” and they were so glad that they did not wake her up, but let her sleep on in the bed. And the seventh dwarf slept with his companions, one hour with each, and so got through the night.

When it was morning little Snow-white awoke, and was frightened when she saw the seven dwarfs. But they were friendly and asked her what her name was.

“My name is Snow-white,” she answered.

“How have you come to our house?” said the dwarfs.

Then she told them that her step-mother had wished to have her killed, but that the huntsman had spared her life, and that she had run for the whole day, until at last she had found their dwelling.

grimms_fairy_tales_-_snow_white_-_anne_andersonThe dwarfs said, “If you will take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew, and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean, you can stay with us and you shall want for nothing.”

“Yes,” said Snow-white, “with all my heart,” and she stayed with them. She kept the house in order for them; in the mornings they went to the mountains and looked for copper and gold, in the evenings they came back, and then their supper had to be ready. The girl was alone the whole day, so the good dwarfs warned her and said, “Beware of your step-mother, she will soon know that you are here; be sure to let no one come in.”

But the Queen, believing that she had eaten Snow-white’s heart, could not but think that she was again the first and most beautiful of all; and she went to her looking-glass and said, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?”

And the glass answered, “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.”

Then she was astounded, for she knew that the looking-glass never spoke falsely, and she knew that the huntsman had betrayed her, and that little Snow-white was still alive.

And so she thought and thought again how she might kill her, for so long as she was not the fairest in the whole land, envy let her have no rest. And when she had at last thought of something to do, she painted her face, and dressed herself like an old pedlar-woman, and no one could have known her. In this disguise she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, and knocked at the door and cried, “Pretty things to sell, very cheap, very cheap.”

Little Snow-white looked out of the window and called out, “Good-day, my good woman, what have you to sell?”

“Good things, pretty things,” she answered; “stay-laces of all colours,” and she pulled out one which was woven of bright-coloured silk.

schneewitchen_1“I may let the worthy old woman in,” thought Snow-white, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty laces.

“Child,” said the old woman, “what a fright you look; come, I will lace you properly for once.”

Snow-white had no suspicion, but stood before her, and let herself be laced with the new laces. But the old woman laced so quickly and laced so tightly that Snow-white lost her breath and fell down as if dead. “Now I am the most beautiful,” said the Queen to herself, and ran away.

Not long afterwards, in the evening, the seven dwarfs came home, but how shocked they were when they saw their dear little Snow-white lying on the ground, and that she neither stirred nor moved, and seemed to be dead. They lifted her up, and, as they saw that she was laced too tightly, they cut the laces; then she began to breathe a little, and after a while came to life again. When the dwarfs heard what had happened they said, “The old pedlar-woman was no one else than the wicked Queen; take care and let no one come in when we are not with you.”

But the wicked woman when she had reached home went in front of the glass and asked, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?” And it answered as before, “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.”

But fortunately it was almost evening, when the seven dwarfs came home. When they saw Snow-white lying as if dead upon the ground they at once suspected the step-mother, and they looked and found the poisoned comb. Scarcely had they taken it out when Snow-white came to herself, and told them what had happened. Then they warned her once more to be upon her guard and to open the door to no one.

The Queen, at home, went in front of the glass and said, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?” Then it answered as before, “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.”

When she heard the glass speak thus she trembled and shook with rage. “Snow-white shall die,” she cried, “even if it costs me my life!”

snow_white_c1919_5686351086Thereupon she went into a quite secret, lonely room, where no one ever came, and there she made a very poisonous apple. Outside it looked pretty, white with a red cheek, so that every one who saw it longed for it; but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die. When the apple was ready she painted her face, and dressed herself up as a country-woman, and so she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs. She knocked at the door. Snow-white put her head out of the window and said, “I cannot let any one in; the seven dwarfs have forbidden me.” “It is all the same to me,” answered the woman, “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”

When the apple was ready she painted her face, and dressed herself up as a country-woman, and so she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs. She knocked at the door. Snow- white put her head out of the window and said, “I cannot let any one in; the seven dwarfs have forbidden me.” “It is all the same to me,” answered the woman, “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”

“It is all the same to me,” answered the woman, “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”

“No,” said Snow-white, “I dare not take anything.”

“Are you afraid of poison?” said the old woman; “look, I will cut the apple in two pieces; you eat the red cheek, and I will eat the white.” The apple was so cunningly made that only the red cheek was poisoned. Snow-white longed for the fine apple, and when she saw that the woman ate part of it she could resist no longer, and stretched out her hand and took the poisonous half. But hardly had she a bit of it in her mouth than she fell down dead. Then the Queen looked at her with a dreadful look, and laughed aloud and said, “White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony-wood! this time the dwarfs cannot wake you up again.”

And when she asked of the Looking-glass at home, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?” It answered at last, “Oh, Queen, in this land thou art fairest of all.” Then her envious heart had rest, so far as an envious heart can have rest.

"'Oh, Queen, in this land thou art fairest of all." Then her envious heart had rest, so far as an envious heart can have rest."

THE DWARFS, when they came home in the evening, found Snow-white lying upon the ground; she breathed no longer and was dead. They lifted her up, looked to see whether they could find anything poisonous, unlaced her, combed her hair, washed her with water and wine, but it was all of no use; the poor child was dead, and remained dead. They laid her upon a bier, and all seven of them sat round it and wept for her, and wept three days long.

schneewittchen2Then they were going to bury her, but she still looked as if she were living, and still had her pretty red cheeks. They said, “We could not bury her in the dark ground,” and they had a transparent coffin of glass made, so that she could be seen from all sides, and they laid her in it, and wrote her name upon it in golden letters, and that she was a king’s daughter. Then they put the coffin out upon the mountain, and one of them always stayed by it and watched it. And birds came too, and wept for Snow-white; first an owl, then a raven, and last a dove.

And now Snow-white lay a long, long time in the coffin, and she did not change, but looked as if she were asleep; for she was as white as snow, as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony.

It happened, however, that a king’s son came into the forest, and went to the dwarfs’ house to spend the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain, and the beautiful Snow-white within it, and read what was written upon it in golden letters. Then he said to the dwarfs, “Let me have the coffin, I will give you whatever you want for it.” But the dwarfs answered, “We will not part with it for all the gold in the world.” Then he said, “Let me have it as a gift, for I cannot live without seeing Snow-white. I will honour and prize her as my dearest possession.” As he spoke in this way the good dwarfs took pity upon him, and gave him the coffin.

And now the King’s son had it carried away by his servants on their shoulders. And it happened that they stumbled over a tree-stump, and with the shock the poisonous piece of apple which Snow-white had bitten off came out of her throat. And before long she opened her eyes, lifted up the lid of the coffin, sat up, and was once more alive. “Oh, heavens, where am I?” she cried. The King’s son, full of joy, said, “You are with me,” and told her what had happened, and said, “I love you more than everything in the world; come with me to my father’s palace, you shall be my wife.”

And Snow-white was willing, and went with him, and their wedding was held with great show and splendour. But Snow-white’s wicked step-mother was also bidden to the feast. When she had arrayed herself in beautiful clothes she went before the Looking-glass, and said, “Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, Who in this land is the fairest of all?” The glass answered, “Oh, Queen, of all here the fairest art thou, But the young Queen is fairer by far as I trow.”

snow_white_iron_shoesThen the wicked woman uttered a curse, and was so wretched, so utterly wretched, that she knew not what to do. At first she would not go to the wedding at all, but she had no peace, and must go to see the young Queen. And when she went in she knew Snow-white; 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.

References

Alexander Zick, upload by Adrian Michael (Märchen, Grot'scher Verlag, Berlin 1975) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAnne Anderson [Public Domain], via Wikimedia CommonsArthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsCarl Offterdinger [Public Domain], via Wikimedia CommonsE. Jónssonar, printed with Louis Klein [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons. 1852.Franz Jüttner, "Sneewittchen", Scholz 'Künstler-Bilderbücher, MainzJacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt, "Little Snow-white". London: George Bell, 1884, 1:207-215.

Jessie Braham White, The brothers Grimm (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsLothar Meggendorfer [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsRoland Risse, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves""Snow White." Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_White.Warwick Goble (1913), “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. [Public Domain]