First literal versions of Snow White
Snow White is one of the youngest European fairy tales. The most famous version of Snow White was written by the Brothers Grimm but there were stories about ladies sleeping in glass coffins told in the earlier literature as well.
In 1630´s Naples Italian author Giambattista Basile wrote a story about a girl who slept in a glass coffin. She was killed by her mother who had hit her head too hard with a comb. Basile´s fairy tale collection Il Pentamerone stories for the little ones was filled with grotesque tales which often made fun of Italian court of the time.
In 1782 popular German fairy tale writer Johann Karl August Musäus published a book called "Folkmärchen der Deutchen" (German folk tales). Book included a story called "Richilde" and it is believed that this story was the inspiration for Brothers Grimm´s story.
Richilde was a proud and a beautiful woman who owned a magical mirror which she had received as a baptizing gift. She had a step-daughter called Blanca (referring to the color white). Each day Richilde would go to her magic mirror asking who is the fairest of them all? and each time the mirror would answer you my queen.
On Blanca's 15th year birthday the mirror answers to the queen that Blanca is the fairest of them all. Richilde becomes outraged. She orders poison from her doctor and prepares a gift basket and sends it to Blanca.
Blanca lives in a castle of her own where she has dwarfs as her servants. Dwarfs recognize the poison and save Blanca´s life. Richilde attempts again and again until one day Blanca opens a letter which is filled with poison and she falls into coma.
Dwarfs build a glass coffin and Blanca´s body is taken to the castle´s crypt. Handsome prince is on a pilgrimage and he hears about a beautiful princess in a glass coffin. There is no true love´s kiss in this story. Prince wakes Blanca with a relic he has brought with him from the holy land.
Prince and Blanca fall in love and together with the dwarfs they start planning revenge for the evil queen. Prince visits the queen´s castle and starts to flatter her. Vain queen wishes to marry the young prince. Weddings are being organized but soon queen finds out that her step-daughter is alive and she is the one who prince wishes to marry. Dwarfs have prepared burning steel slippers and the queen is forced to wear them while dancing the wedding waltz with one of the soldiers. She is locked into the highest tower to think her evil deeds while Blanca and prince live happily ever after.
Fairy Tale Motifs
Dwarfs were most likely inspired by gruesome custom of the 18th century European aristocrat families who "collected" divergent people. Tsarists of Russia was even known from organizing a Wedding ceremony to one of her little chamber maidens. Another popular character to appear in fairy tales is the evil stepmother. We can find her from fairy tales such as Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. Stepmothers in the fairy tales are known from trying to turn the life of their step-children to living hell. Here are some methods from the stories of Brothers Grimm how stepmothers have tortured their step-children:
- turning into an animal
- marrying to a beast
- poisoning with an apple
- poisoning with a comb
- poisoning with a shirt
- abandoning to the forest
Snow White by Brothers Grimm
During one beautiful midwinter day when snow flakes were falling from the skies like feathers. There was a queen sewing by the window. She hurt her finger to the needle and three drops of blood dropped into the snow. Queen watched the snow thinking:
"I wish I had a child. Red as blood, white as snow and black as the wooden frames of my window"
Soon after that she had a baby girl who had lips red as blood, skin white as snow and hair black as Eben wood. Queen died and the king married again. New queen was beautiful and a proud woman and she owned a magical mirror. Each day she asked:
"mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all"
and each time the mirror would answer:
"you my queen"
King died and the evil queen treated Snow White as her servant. One day mirror said that Snow White was the fairest of them all. Queen got outraged and ordered one of her hunters to bring liver and lungs of Snow White. Hunter felt sorry for the young princess and helped her to escape. Snow White hide into the cabin of the seven dwarfs where she became their servant. Queen found out she was alive and disguised as a witch gave her a poison apple. Snow White fell into a coma but everyone thought she was dead. Dwarfs build her a glass coffin which they took into the top of a mountain. The moment handsome prince lifted the coffin to carry it away, the piece of poisoned apple falled between her lips and princess Snow White was awakened.
Albert Ludwing Grimm
Many of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales were not orally collected folktales, like brothers wanted people to believe. Most of them were collected from the books from the library of Kassel and majority of the Grimm fairy tales were not even German but of Italian or French origin. What it came to Snow White brothers were honest for once and they admitted that the inspiration for the story came from Musäus´s "Richilde". Another story that inspired Brothers Grimm version came from a fellow German writer called Albert Ludwig Grimm (who was not related to the Brothers). In 1809 three years before the first fairy tale collection of the Brother´s Grimm was published Albert Ludwig Grimm published his book called "Kindermarchen" (stories for children). There was a play in the book, very similar to Snow White. In the play stepmother orders two hunters to take Snow White into the woods and kill her. In the woods hunters escape when they see seven dwarfs approaching holding torches in their hands.
Dwarfs Great Minors of the Mountains
In Brothers Grimm fairy tale dwarfs are minors who mine copper and iron. Inspiration for the dwarfs most likely came from old pagan German myths such as story of Nibelung and Norse Edda poems.
In the fairy tale dwarfs are introduced with a repetition:
Who has been sitting in my chair?" one of the dwarfs asked
"Who has eaten from my plate?" second dwarf asked
"Who has taken a bite from my bread?" third dwarf asked
"Who has eaten my vegetables" fourth dwarf asked
"Who has used my fork?" fifth dwarf asked
"Who has cut with my knife?" sixth dwarf asked
"Who has drank from my glass?" seventh dwarf asked"
Snow White of the Brothers Grimm is kind and obedient. In 19th century fairy tales noble lady was always good-tempered and good-hearten. She takes care of the dwarfs and becomes their servant. She cleans and she cooks for them. Nature always plays big part in Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Dwarfs don´t take the glass coffin into a castle crypt. Instead they take it into the top of a mountain. Each night and day one of the dwarfs looks after the coffin. Snow white loves birds so there are always birds flying around her as well. Usually crows, doves or owls.
Russian Snow White
There is an interesting folk tale version of Snow White found from Eastern Russia. In this version of the fairy tale evil queen uses group of beggars as her "mirror" asking them: Have you ever seen anyone as beautiful as me?
Answer of the beggars does not please the queen.
Baby in that cradle is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen
Outraged queen orders beggars to leave empty handed. She takes the baby to the edge of the forest and leaves her there. One of the beggars, an older lady, finds the baby and adopts her. Snow White grows to a beautiful young maiden. When the old woman dies girl is forced to find a new home for herself. She finds a beautiful small cabin hidden in the woods. There she meets eight brothers who promise to treat her as their sister. Brothers are not dwarfs in this version of the story. They are dragon killers and each day they go fight against the dragons. One evening dragon attacks to the cabin. Clever Snow White boils water in the cauldron and drops some heavy stones there. She invites the dragon to eat with her but when the dragon enters inside Snow White throws the burning stones to the dragons mouth and kills it. Brothers find the dead dragon and they become even more attached to Snow White and the following nights they kill more dragons together.
Stepmother finds out that Snow White is still alive and she sends a poisoned shirt for her. Snow White puts the shirt on and falls down to the floor. Brothers believe that she is dead and take her into the forest in a coffin made of gold and glass. Son a of a priest is riding by and sees the beautiful girl. He steals the coffin and takes it to his bed chamber where he sleeps next to the dead girl.
Son of a priest gets thinner and soon he himself start to look like a corpse. He goes to see the local witch who promises to help her. First she turns man´s home into a banya (Russian sauna). Room is heated and the poison in the shirt starts to disappear. Snow White wakes up very dizzy after being in a sleep for a week. Son of a priest wants to marry Snow White but she can not agree without talking to her brothers first for they are now her guardians. Brothers are thrilled when they find out that Snow White is alive. Evil queen is on her way but the brothers manage to kill her.
Russian Snow White has lots of elements from traditional Slavic folklore tradition. Unlike her western counterpart she is very active character who does not wait around for her prince to come. There are elements of necrophilia which makes this version ten times darker than the Brothers Grimm version. Brothers who are dragon killers can be seen as an allegory of Russian´s ancient past where warriors of distant tribes were sometimes referred as "dragons". This fairy tale was written by Russian fairy tale author Alexander Puskin in 1830. It is believed that he had based his story to the French translation of Brothers Grimm Snow White. At that time Puskin was father of small children and was very found of creating fairy tales for Russian children.
Disney´s Snow White
Most famous film adaptation of Snow White was made by Walt Disney in 1937. Young Walt Disney had ambitious dream to create a full-length animation film. Hollywood movie industry refereed the film as "Disney´s folly" while it was on production. To get a loan for the film Disney had to pledge his own house among other things. But it was all worth it because Snow White became a huge financial success with $ 1.48 million budget bringing $480 millions in the box offices world wide.
Disney´s animation was based on Brothers Grimm version of Snow White but the biggest difference was that Walt Disney gave individual personality to each of the dwarfs. They became Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey. There was over 700 animators working on Snow White and over 20 million drawings were made. Film was a critical success and recommended for both children and adults.
Disney´s Snow White is sweet and kind-hearten in her nature but she also has sassy side of her that people often tend to neglect. This comes out especially in scenes that she shares with Grumpy. Snow White is also the first official Disney princess in the Disney princess merchandise.
Snow White and the seven dwarfs is Disney animated film appeared in 1937 and it was the first full length animated movie in the entire world. Finland's premiere was in December 1938.
Disney classics movie list Snow white and the seven dwarfs is number 1.
Snow white and the seven dwarfs is based on German folktale. Most famous version of the fairy tale was written by brothers Grimm and it appeared in their collection of fairy tales in 1812.
As a teenager Walt Disney worked as a newspaper delivery boy. Once he was invited to watch silent movie about Snow White played by actress Marguerite Clark. Movie made huge impact on young Walt.
When Walt Disney announced that Disney company was preparing a full-length animated film Snow White was called "Disney's folly". People believed that studio would be bankrupted and no one would want to sit in a movie theater over an hour watching a cartoon. Disney didn't gave up and Snow White became a box office success. Movie won 11 academy awards (including 7 miniature Oscars) and it was start of the Disney empire we know today.
Snow White is 78-year old movie and still runs in movie theaters across the globe.
Movie starts with a prologue. Snow White is a princess. After her father has passed away she was forced to work as a slave for her step mother the evil queen. In the beginning of the movie Snow White is singing by the well and cleaning the floors. She is singing of her hearts secret wishes and suddenly prince appears and starts to sing for her.
Queen is afraid that some day Snow White becomes more beautiful than her. Everyday she asks her magic mirror who is the fairest of them all? one day mirror says that Snow White is the fairest of them all. Vain queen becomes outrageous. She orders huntsman to take Snow White in to the woods, kill her and bring her heart to the queen in a trinket box.
Huntsman takes Snow White in to the forest but he can not kill her. He tells Snow White that queen wants her dead and tells Snow White to escape. Snow White runs into the forest and spends a restless night there. When the morning arrives she has calmed down. Forest animals come to her and she sings for them. They show her the way to the house of the seven dwarfs. Snow White believes that there is seven children living in the house.
Soon queen finds out that Snow White isn't dead.Queen is also an evil witch. She has potion making room in the dungeons. She makes a potion that turns her into an old hag. Then she makes another potion. A sleeping potion where she dips an apple. When Snow White bites it she falls a sleep until her true love kisses her. Queen believes that dwarfs will bury her alive.
Evil Queen arrives to dwarfs house in her disguise. She tricks Snow White to bite the poison apple. Forest animals recognize the evil queen and run to find the dwarfs. Dwarfs and animals start to chase the queen. Witch/queen tries to roll a huge stone upon them. However lightning strikes to the cliff and queen falls down and dies under the stone.
Dwarfs grief their beautiful Snow White and build her a glass gasket. Prince has heard about the beautiful princess who lays in a glass coffin. He recognizes Snow White and kisses her. Snow White wakes up. Dwarfs, animals and the happy couple rejoice. Movie ends when Snow White and prince Charming ride to their castle.
And they lived happily ever after.
I think best qualities of Snow White are her empathy and kindness. She is very approachable.You can see this the way forest animals come to her without any fear. Snow White is also determined and very courageous in her own way as well.
One of the most powerful scenes in Snow White is the scene where Snow White runs into the forest. As a child I always though that she got scared of the shadows of the trees. Truth is that she is in depths of despair after she hears that queen wants her death. Since her parents have passed away step mother is only one who she has left. Snow White is also courageous because she decides to hide from her and control her own life.
Snow White makes friends with the dwarfs. She can also be sturdy. This we can see in the scene where she tells dwarfs to wash themselves before dinner. She is also optimistic by nature and loves to sing while working.
Disney animators used Hollywood actresses as their inspiration for Snow White. Snow White is 14 years old.
In the beginning of the movie Snow White is dressed up in rags. When she is in the forest with the huntsman she is wearing more royal outfit. Upper part of the dress is dark blue with lighter blue puffs leaves that has red stripes. Skirt is yellow. These two complementary colors work well against the backgrounds that are most often different shades of green and other very earthy colors.
One of the greatest strengths Walt Disney added to his feature film was the different characteristics of the dwarfs. Snow White and Prince Charming are the romance element of the story, Evil Queen is the drama and horror, Dwarfs and the animals are the comical relief.
Doc is not very wise. He is actually quite stupid and doesn't always remember his own name. Because he is the oldest of the dwarfs he is also the leader..or maybe he made himself a leader? Dopey is a comical relief. Since he can not talk he uses funny sign language. Grumpy is funny when he doesn't try to be funny. He doesn't like that things change that is why he is so against Snow White staying with them. Scenes with Grumpy also show Snow White's witty side. She finds Grumpy's attitude amusing. Of course they become good friends. In the end of the movie Grumpy cries big tears when he believes that Snow White has passed away.
In the first scripts of Snow White prince had way bigger part. For some reason or other writers made his part smaller and smaller. Personally I've never really cared about Prince Charming. Perhaps because his part is very small in the film. He is also a bit comical and stiff. Reason for this is that back then Disney animators didn't have that much experience animating male characters. Purpose of Prince Charming in the movies is to be Snow White's dream man. Bring hope to her that some day she gets away from all the misery and rules her kingdom together with her prince.
First concept drawings of Snow White Evil Queen was designed to be more comical and cartoon-ish character. When story evolved queen became more close to the evil queen in the brothers Grimm story. Her face is beautiful but cold. Unlike Snow White she never smiles. When the villain is completely emotionless and self-centered that makes her very dangerous character indeed.
Evil Queen wears a hood. We can only see her face and that is the most important thing for her in the whole world. Everything else in her body is covered accept her hands. She is wearing a violet dress. She has cape that could belong to Dracula and she wears a crown. We don't really know is she the most beautiful woman in the world. We can only see her face. We don't know her hair color. She might even be bald.
Queen is also an evil witch. She has a potion making room in the cellar. I personally believe that queen is looking for away to make herself immortal. Think about it. She tries to kill Snow White who is her only heir. She is also obsessed with her beauty and wishes to stay young forever. She is drunken with her power.
Biggest difference between Snow White and the Evil Queen is that queen lives in constant insecurity. She tries to convince herself that she is on control by asking everyday from the magic mirror who is the fairest of them all? Snow White doesn't care about her beauty. She cares more about the others. Her kindness and inner beauty also reflects her outside beauty. Snow White feels sorry for the old lady who is the queen in disguise. Snow White greatest strength is also her biggest weakness. She is a trustful person and tries to see good in everyone. Sometimes she is a bit too trustful and it gets back at her when she falls in to the trap.
Why did evil queen became evil? this is something that fairy tales and Disney movie can't tell. Queen only sees herself and only trusts herself. In modern days I guess she could be described to be a narcissistic person. Maybe that makes her such scary and complex character. She is lacking empathy and she has no conscience.
Snow White is complete opposite of the evil queen. In the difficult times she goes and seeks for help. Her kindness is appreciated by all of those who she meets. This is what eventually saves her life..not only prince that wakes up her with a kiss.
As a child I never really got into to the world of Snow White. I saw her as a very passive Disney princess. Just later on as an adult I have started to appreciate Snow White as a character and as a movie way more. There is many psychologically fascinating characters, extremely beautiful backgrounds, humor, romance, drama and horror elements (which is something that current Disney films are often lacking). Snow White definitely has it's place in the history of animated movies and in popular culture.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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