I know I said I wanted to look for unusual fairy tales, not the typical fare. But I learned a new factoid about this one over on Tor.com, which has some really great examinations of fairy tales, in their piece Charmed, I’m Sure: A Closer Look at Everyone’s Dream Prince.
So let’s dive in. Source is pitt.edu. This is the Brothers Grimm 1812 edition.
First up, there’s Snow White’s origin. Her mother, while sewing on a winter’s day, pricked her finger and when blood fell on the snow, she thought to herself, “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as this [window] frame.” Yes, the window frame. And lo, such a child was born and they called her Little Snow-White.
Instead of a wicked step-mother, it’s Snow White’s actual mother who is vain and has a magic talking mirror that strokes her ego. Until one day, when Snow White is seven years old, the mirror up and goes, “Sorry, that little girl is more beautiful than you. Sucks.” And the queen gets all furious and plots to kill her own daughter.
She tries four times to kill her. She hires a huntsman to take her into the woods, kill her, and bring back the lungs and liver so the queen can eat them. With salt. Natch. But the Huntsman thinks that Snow White is so very pretty, and wild animals are going to eat her anyway, that he just leaves her there in the woods. He brings the queen the lungs and liver of a boar, and she is none the wiser.
Meanwhile, Snow White, being a wise seven year old, goes running around the woods. She eventually comes upon the home of the Seven Dwarves, who aren’t home at the time. There’s a whole Goldilocks routine where she samples everyone’s food and beds and stuff and falls asleep. When the Dwarves get home they do the “Who’s been stabbing with my fork!?” thing until they find her. And she’s so beautiful that they leave her to sleep until morning. In the morning she tells them about her mom trying to kill her and they see an opportunity. They agree to let her stay with them so long as she does all the cooking and cleaning (which they were managing just fine on their own, because the place was spotless when she arrived). Then they go off back to work.
The queen’s mirror tells her that Snow White is still alive and living with the Dwarves. She comes up with her second evil scheme. Queenie disguises herself as an old peddler woman selling bodice laces. Snow White is happy to buy some, and the Queen pulls the new laces so tightly that Snow White faints and dies.
Only not, because the Dwarves just loosen the laces and she wakes up again.
Mirror tells Queen the girl’s still alive, she comes up with a new plan. She makes a poisoned comb. (Cuz that makes sense, right?) She disguises herself differently and this time Snow White is a little reluctant to open the door to a stranger but the comb’s just so pretty she has to have it. As soon as it’s in her hair she collapses. Dead.
Only not, because the Dwarves take the comb out of her hair and she wakes up.
Queenie’s really pissed now. This time she makes a poisoned apple. A fancy one, where only the red part is poison. With a new disguise on, she has to win Snow White’s trust by first biting into the green part of the apple. Sure enough, Snow White eats the apple and BAM she’s gone.
The Dwarves come home, but there’s nothing wrong with her laces and nothing in her hair so they give her up for dead this time. They realize she isn’t rotting, so they make her a glass coffin and watched over her.
Enter: the Prince. This random prince needs a place to stay the night, and he happens upon the Dwarves’ cottage. He’s smitten at first sight with this seven year old dead child in a glass coffin. He offers to buy her, but they won’t sell her. Then he asks them to just give her to him, for he adores her and will watch over her etc. etc. They relent and the prince’s servants carry her off to the castle.
Now, here’s where the 1812 story is different from later versions. You may know that it wasn’t True Love’s Kiss that woke Snow White, it was one of the servants tripping while carrying her coffin so that the apple piece fell from her mouth.
The older version is way weirder.
The prince is so besotted with this casket and the girl inside it that he has to be near it all the damn time. ALWAYS or he gets really depressed. But he’s a prince who can’t stay in one place all day, so his poor servants have to haul her around after him. Here’s the actual text:
Now the servants who always had to carry the coffin to and fro became angry about this. One time one of them opened the coffin, lifted Snow-White upright, and said, “We are plagued the whole day long, just because of such a dead girl,” and he hit her in the back with his hand. Then the terrible piece of apple that she had bitten off came out of her throat, and Snow-White came back to life.
Some annoyed servant wants to do his master’s favorite toy a damage and he winds up waking a dead girl.
Aren’t fairy tales MAGICAL!?
Anyway, the mirror rats out Snow White again and the Queen is horrified. She’s pretty freaked out, but she goes to the wedding of Snow White and the Prince anyway. They have someone heat iron shoes red-hot and force her to dance herself to death.
I love when fairy tale tellers seem to get lazy and accidentally veer into another popular tale. This one has a Goldilocks and the Three Bears interlude, and the ending is reminiscent of The Red Shoes. Why? I dunno, the Brother Grimm got bored or forgot what came next or something.
WTF Scale: Whut.
She’s SEVEN YEARS OLD! SEVEN! This makes no sense whatsoever. At least not in our modern context, where seven is absolutely a child.
And then there’s the fact that it’s her actual mother who’s so jealous of her, even after wishing for a beautiful child. That totally makes sense, right? And then there’s all the stupid ways of trying to kill her–the laces and the comb, wtf.
And am I the only person who thinks Snow White and Rasputin have something in common? You can go at them over and over again and they just won’t die. It’s kinda freaky.
Let this be a lesson to you: don’t trust random princes who fall in love with dead seven year olds.
Wait, was that not the moral I was supposed to take away? Hm. I guess it should be, ‘Leave well enough alone, woman, you can’t be beautiful forever.’
Or just smash the damn mirror. Whatevs.