Schneewittchen by Alexander Zick
"Snow White" is a 19th-century German fairy tale which is today known widely across the Western world. The Brothers Grimm published it in 1812 in the first edition of their collection Grimms' Fairy Tales. It was titled in German: Sneewittchen (in modern orthography Schneewittchen) and numbered as Tale 53. The name "Sneewittchen" was Low German and in the first version it was translated with "Schneeweißchen". 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, and the characters of the evil queen and the Seven Dwarfs. The seven dwarfs were first given individual names in the 1912 Broadway play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and then given different names in Walt Disney's 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Grimm story, which is commonly referred to as "Snow White", should not be confused with the story of "Snow White and Rose Red" (in German "Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot"), another fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.
In the Aarne–Thompson folklore classification, tales of this kind are grouped together as type 709, Snow White. Others of this kind include "Bella Venezia", "Myrsina", "Nourie Hadig", "Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree", The Young Slave and La petite Toute-Belle.
At the beginning of the story, a queen sits sewing at an open window during a winter snowfall when she pricks her finger with her needle, causing three drops of red blood to drip onto the freshly fallen white snow on the black windowsill. Then, she says to herself, "How I wish that I had a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony." Some time later, the queen gives birth to a baby daughter whom she names Snow White, but dies shortly thereafter.
A year later, Snow White's father, the king, takes a new wife, who is very beautiful, but a wicked and vain woman. The new queen possesses a magic mirror, which she asks every morning, "Magic mirror in my hand, who is the fairest in the land?" The mirror always replies: "My queen, you are the fairest in the land." The queen is always pleased with that, because the magic mirror never lies. But as Snow White grows up, she becomes more beautiful each day and even more beautiful than the queen, and when the queen asks her mirror, it tells her that Snow White is the fairest.
This gives the queen a great shock. She becomes envious, and from that moment on, her heart turns against Snow White, whom the queen grows to hate increasingly with time. Eventually, the angry queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the deepest woods to be killed. As proof that Snow White is dead, the queen demands that he returns with her lungs and liver. The huntsman takes Snow White into the forest. After raising his knife, he finds himself unable to kill her and he spares her life. He tells Snow White that her stepmother wants her dead and orders her to flee as far away from the kingdom as possible. He instead brings the queen the heart of a wild animal.
After wandering through the forest, Snow White discovers a tiny cottage belonging to a group of seven dwarfs. Since no one is at home, she eats some of the tiny meals, drinks some of their wine, and then tests all the beds. Finally, the last bed is comfortable enough for her and she falls asleep. When the dwarfs return home, they immediately become aware that someone had snuck in secretly, because everything in their home is in disorder. During their loud discussion about who had snuck in, they discover the sleeping Snow White. She wakes up and explains to them what happened, and the dwarfs take pity on her and let her stay with them in exchange for housekeeping. They warn her to be careful when alone at home and to let no one in when they are away delving in the mountains.
Meanwhile, the queen asks her mirror once again: "Magic mirror in my hand, who is the fairest in the land?" The mirror replies: "My queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White beyond the mountains at the Seven Dwarfs is a thousand times more beautiful than you". The queen is horrified to learn that the huntsman has betrayed her and that Snow White is still alive. Planning to kill Snow White, the queen disguises herself as an old peddler. The queen appears at the dwarfs' cottage and offers Snow White colorful, silky laced bodices and convinces Snow White to take the most beautiful laces as a present. Then the queen laces her up so tightly that Snow White faints, causing the queen to leave her for dead. But the dwarfs return just in time, and Snow White revives when the dwarfs loosen the laces.
The queen then consults her magic mirror again, and the mirror reveals Snow White's survival. The queen dresses as a comb seller and convinces Snow White to take a beautiful comb as a present. She brushes Snow White's hair with the poisoned comb and the girl faints again. She is again revived by the dwarfs when they remove the comb from her hair. When the mirror again indicates that Snow White still lives, the queen makes a third and final attempt on Snow White by disguising herself as a farmer's wife, and offering a poisoned apple to her. The girl is at first hesitant to accept it, so the queen cuts the apple in half, eating the white (harmless) half and giving the red poisoned half to Snow White. The girl eagerly takes a bite and falls into a state of suspended animation. This time, the dwarfs are unable to revive Snow White. Assuming that she is dead, they place her in a glass casket.
After a short period of time, a prince traveling through the land sees Snow White. He strides to her coffin. Enchanted by her beauty, he instantly falls in love with her. The seven dwarfs succumb to his entreaties to let him have Snow White. The moment he lifts the coffin to carry it away, the piece of poisoned apple falls from between her lips and Snow White awakens saying "Where am I?" The Prince then declares his love for her and soon a wedding is planned. Snow White and the prince invite everyone to come to their wedding party, including Snow White's stepmother.
Meanwhile, the queen, still believing that Snow White is dead, again asks her magic mirror who is the fairest in the land. The mirror says: "Thou, lady, art loveliest here, I ween; but lovelier far is the new-made queen", which enrages the queen. Not knowing that the Prince's bride is her stepdaughter, the queen arrives at the wedding and sees that the bride is Snow White, whom she thought dead. She chokes with rage, falls down, and dies. Snow White and the prince reign happily over the land for many, many years and sometimes traveling into the mountains and visiting the dwarfs, who had been so kind to Snow White.
Many scholars have theorized about the possible origins of the tale. In 1994, a German historian named Eckhard Sander published Schneewittchen: Märchen oder Wahrheit? (Snow White: Fairy Tale or Truth?), claiming he had uncovered an account that may have inspired the story that first appeared in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. According to Sander, the character of Snow White was based on the life of Margaretha von Waldeck, a German countess born to Philip IV in 1533. At the age of 16, Margarete was forced by her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld, to move away to Brussels. There, Margarete fell in love with a prince who would later become Philip II of Spain. Margarete’s father and stepmother disapproved of the relationship as it was ‘politically inconvenient’. Margarete mysteriously died at the age of 21, apparently having been poisoned. Historical accounts point to the King of Spain, who opposing the romance, may have dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete.
Scholar Graham Anderson compares the story of Snow White to the Roman legend of Chione, recorded in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The name Chione means "Snow" in Greek and, in the story, she is described as the most beautiful woman in the land, so beautiful that the gods Apollo and Mercury both fell in love with her. Mercury put her to sleep with the touch of his caduceus and raped her in her sleep. Then Apollo, disguised as an old crone, approached her and raped her again. These affections led Chione to openly boast that she was more beautiful than the goddess Diana herself, resulting in Diana shooting her through the tongue with an arrow.
Karlheinz Bartels, a pharmacist and scholar from Lohr am Main, a town in northwestern Bavaria, found evidence that Snow White was Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharina, Baroness von und zu Erthal, who was born in Lohr on June 25, 1725. Her father, Philipp Christoph von und zu Erthal, was the local representative of the Prince Elector of Mainz. After the death of Maria Sophia’s birth mother in 1738, her father remarried in 1743. The stepmother, Claudia Elisabeth von Reichenstein, was domineering and employed her new position to the advantage of her children from her first marriage. A magic mirror referred to as “The Talking Mirror”, known as always telling the truth, can still be viewed today in the Spessart Museum in the Lohr Castle, where Maria Sophia’s stepmother lived. This mirror was presumably a present from Maria Sophia’s father to his second wife. It was a product of the Lohr Mirror Manufacture (Kurmainzische Spiegelmanufaktur).
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In their first edition, the Brothers Grimm published the version they had first collected, in which the villain of the piece is Snow White's jealous mother. In a version sent to another folklorist prior to the first edition, additionally, she does not order a servant to take her 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 in later editions was to tone down the story for children.
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.
In Snow White (1987), produced by Cannon Movie Tales, the Evil Queen, after being informed for the last time that Snow White is alive and the most fair, is consumed with rage and hurls an object at the mirror causing it to crack. As she travels to the wedding, the Evil Queen begins to age rapidly as the mirror continues to crack. By the time she reaches the wedding and bursts in, she is an old hag and is humiliated by the crowd. She leaves and, simultaneously with the mirror in her castle, disintegrates into a pile of dust while Snow White and the Prince are married.
In the 2012 adaptation Snow White and the Huntsman, directed by Rupert Sanders, Snow White becomes a warrior in order to overthrow the Evil Queen named Ravenna, and the huntsman named Eric is presented as her mentor and possible love interest.
In 2014, a version of Mattel schools of fairy tale characters, Ever After High, Snow White has a daughter, Apple White (Royal), which disputes with Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen and Rebel) who prefers the Rebels follow the heart, writing their own way.
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.
From other European traditions
Many other variations of the story exist across and outside Europe. In some of these variations the dwarfs are robbers, while the magic mirror is a dialog with the sun or moon.
- In a version from Albania, collected by Johann Georg von Hahn, the main character lives with 40 dragons, and her sleep is caused by a ring. The beginning of the story has a twist, in that a teacher urges the heroine to kill her evil stepmother so that she would take her place. The origin of this tale is debated; it is likely no older than the Middle Ages. In fact, there are possibly two Albanian versions of Snow White: one in which her stepmother tries to kill her, and another in which her two jealous sisters try to kill her.
- "The Jealous Sisters" is another Albanian fairy tale. In both fairy tales the death is caused by a ring.
- Bidasari is a Malay tale written around 1750 A.D which tells the story of a witch queen who asks her magic mirror about the prettiest lady in the kingdom.
- In parallel to the stepmother's question of her magic mirror, the Indian epic poem Padmavat (1540) includes the line: "Who is more beautiful, I or Padmavati?, Queen Nagamati asks her new parrot, and it gives a displeasing reply...";
- Nourie Hadag from Armenia was the daughter of a woman who asked the Moon, "Who is the most beautiful in the world?", and the response is always "Nourie Hadag". The mother plots to kill her daughter.
- The story in Russian writer Alexander Pushkin's poem The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights (1833) is similar to that of Snow White, with knights replacing dwarfs.
Modern uses and adaptations
- The story of Snow White is a popular theme for British pantomime.
- Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation as a poem called "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimm's Fairy tales.
- Snow White is a major character in the comic book series Fables (started 2002) created by Bill Willingham. This version was also adapted into the 2013 video game The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games.
- The 1998 video game Banjo-Kazooie has a Snow White-like plot, with the witch Gruntilda acting as the Evil Queen and Tooty acting as Snow White.
- Taeyeon's concept photo for Girls' Generation's third studio album The Boys (2011) was inspired by Snow White.
- A 1916 silent film titled Snow White was made by Famous Players-Lasky and produced by Adolph Zukor and Daniel Frohman. Directed by J. Searle Dawley, it was adapted to the screen by Jessie Braham White from his play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1912). The film starred Marguerite Clark as Snow White, Creighton Hale as Prince Florimond, and Dorothy Cumming as Queen Brangomar/Mary Jane.
- A 1933 film Snow-White, also known as Betty Boop in Snow-White, is a film in the Betty Boop series from Max Fleischer's Fleischer Studios released in 1933.
- The 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is based on the fairy tale.
- A 1951 Italian film I sette nani alla riscossa was released in the US in 1965 under the title The Seven Dwarves to the Rescue
- A West German "all new, all live" version, Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge, was released in 1955. The film was later dubbed in English and released in North America in 1965.
- A 1961 East German Schneewittchen
- Pamuk Prenses ve 7 Cüceler, a 1970 Turkish live-action remake of the 1937 Disney film.
- A 1984 Faerie Tale Theatre episode is based on the fairy tale and stars Vanessa Redgrave as the Evil Queen, Elizabeth McGovern as Snow White, and Vincent Price as the Magic Mirror.
- The 1986 picture book by Fiona French, Snow White in New York is based in 1920's New York.
- The 1987 Cannon Movie Tales film Snow White is based on the fairy tale and stars Diana Rigg as the Evil Queen and Nicola Stapleton and Sarah Patterson both as Snow White.
- The 1989 three episode Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros. OVA series features characters from the Mario series in different fairy tales. The third episode is based on this story.
- A 1992 German film where the dwarwes are royal craftsmen serving the crown and the ones who made the magic mirror. The true villain of the piece seems to be a priest who made Snow whites father go on crusade. The prince lives incognito as a jester at the court.
- The 1997 film Snow White: A Tale of Terror is based on the fairy tale and stars Sam Neill as Snow White's father, Sigourney Weaver as the Evil Queen and Monica Keena as Snow White.
- The 2000 album "Charmed" by Sarah Pinsker features a song called "Twice the Prince" which is told from Snow White's perspective. In the song, Snow White realizes that she prefers a dwarf to Prince Charming.
- The 2000 miniseries The 10th Kingdom features Snow White as a major character.
- The 2001 film Snow White: The Fairest of Them All is based on the fairy tale and stars Kristin Kreuk as Snow White and Miranda Richardson as Queen Elspeth.
- The 2001 music video of the song "Sonne" by Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein features the band as dwarves mining gold for Snow White.
- The 2005 film The Brothers Grimm features a character called the Mirror Queen, who is based on the Evil Queen from Snow White.
- The 2009 German made-for-television film Schneewittchen featured Laura Berlin (de) as Snow White.
- The 2011 TV series Once Upon A Time features Snow White, Prince Charming, their daughter and protagonist Emma Swan, and the Evil Queen, named Regina, as the main characters. Recurring characters include the seven dwarfs, Snow White's father, Snow White's mother, the Huntsman and the Magic Mirror, who is simultaneously the Genie of Agrabah from the fairy tale Aladdin.
- The 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman is based on the fairy tale and stars Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna, Chris Hemsworth as Eric the Huntsman, and Sam Claflin as Prince William. The film generated a sequel, 2016's The Huntsman: Winter's War, which features Snow White only briefly.
- The 2012 film Mirror Mirror is based on the fairy tale. It stars Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen Clementianna, Lily Collins as Snow White, Armie Hammer as Prince Andrew Alcott, and Nathan Lane as Brighton, the Queen's majordomo.
- The 2012 silent, Spanish film "Blancanieves" is based on the fairy tale.
- The 2012 film Grimm's Snow White is based on the fairy tale. It stars Eliza Bennett as Snow White and Jane March as the Evil Queen Gwendolyn.
- The 2013 web series RWBY features a character called Weiss Schnee, who alludes Snow White, as confirmed by Monty Oum, and her name is German for "White Snow". Weiss' butler, Klein Sieben, alludes to the seven dwarves, as his name is German for "Small Seven".
- Helen Oyeyemi's 2014 novel Boy, Snow, Bird adapts the Snow White story as a fable about race and cultural ideas of beauty.
- The 2015 animated film Charming features Snow White as one of the princesses engaged to one prince. Singer Avril Lavigne voiced the role.
- The 2015 novel Winter by Marissa Meyer is loosely based on the story of Snow White.
In 2013, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a trademark to Disney Enterprises, Inc. for the name "Snow White" that covers all live and recorded movie, television, radio, stage, computer, Internet, news, and photographic entertainment uses, excluding literary works of fiction and nonfiction.
Erin Heys' "Religious Symbols" article at the website Religion & Snow White analyzes the use of numerous symbols in the story, their implications, and their Christian interpretations, such as the colours red, white, and black; the apple; the number seven; and resurrection.
- List of Disney animated films based on fairy tales
- Margaretha von Waldeck
- Snežana, a Slavic female name meaning "snow woman" with a similar connotation to "Snow White"
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 film), first Disney film.
- Snow white salad
- Snow-White-Fire-Red, an Italian fairy tale
- Udea and her Seven Brothers
- Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree
- The Glass Coffin
- Sleeping Beauty
- Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm: Kinder- und Hausmärchen; Band 1, 7. Ausgabe (children's and households fairy tales, volume 1, 7th edition). Dietrich, Göttingen 1857, page 264–273.
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- Heidi Anne Heiner. "Tales Similar to Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs". Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- English translation of the original
- Sander, Eckhard (1994). Schneewittchen: Marchen oder Wahrheit? : ein lokaler Bezug zum Kellerwald.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XI, 289
- Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the ancient world. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
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- Vorwerk, Wolfgang (2015). Das ‘Lohrer Schneewittchen’ – Zur Fabulologie eines Märchens. Ein Beitrag zu: Christian Grandl/ Kevin J.McKenna, (eds.) Bis dat, qui cito dat. Gegengabe in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature. Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday. Peter Lang Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. pp. 491–503. ISBN 978-3-631-64872-8.
- Loibl, Werner (2016). Der Vater der fürstbischöflichen Erthals - Philipp Christoph von und zu Erthal (1689-1748). Geschichts- und Kunstverein Aschaffenburg e.V., Aschaffenburg 2016. ISBN 978-3-87965-126-9.
- Loibl, Werner (2012). Die kurmainzische Spiegelmanufaktur Lohr am Main (1698–1806). Geschichts- und Kunstverein Aschaffenburg, Aschaffenburg 2012. ISBN 978-3-87965-116-0. ISBN 978-3-87965-117-7
- Kay Stone, "Three Transformations of Snow White" pp 57-58 James M. McGlathery, ed. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ISBN 0-252-01549-5
- Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, p 36, ISBN 0-691-06722-8
- Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, p 194, ISBN 978-1-60710-313-4
- Hahn, Johann Georg von (1864). Griechische und albanesische Märchen,, Volume 2, "Schneewittchen". W. Engelmann, Leipzig. pp. 134–143.
- "The Jealous Sisters - Albanian Literature | Folktales". Albanian Literature. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
- Adapted by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson (2 June 2013). "Nourie Hadig (an Armenian folktale)". Uclick. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- Orr, Christopher (2012-06-01). "'Snow White and the Huntsman': The Visuals Dazzle, the Performances Don't". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
- Pushkin, Alexander (1974). The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights. Raduga Publishers.
- Anne Sexton. "Transformations". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
- "Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2014-06-03.
- Barrett, Annie. "Julia Roberts' Snow White movie titled 'Mirror, Mirror' | Inside Movies | EW.com". Insidemovies.ew.com. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
- "Update: Relativity Confirms Julia Roberts In Snow White Pic". Deadline.com.
- Breznican, Anthony (2011-03-26). "Armie Hammer cast as prince in 'Snow White'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- "Helen Oyeyemi's 'Boy, Snow, Bird' turns a fairy tale inside out". LA Times. 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
- "US Patent and Trademark Office – Snow White trademark status". Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- Heys, Erin. "Home". Religion & Snow White. Archived from the original on October 23, 2014.
- Heys, Erin. "Religious Symbols". Religion & Snow White. Archived from the original on October 28, 2014.
- Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm & Applebaum, Stanley (Editor and Translator). Selected Folktales/Ausgewählte Märchen: A Dual-Language Book. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-42474-X.
- Jones, Steven Swann (1990). The New Comparative Method: Structural and Symbolic Analysis of the allomotifs of 'Snow White'. Helsinki: FFC., N 247.
- Works related to Snow White at Wikisource
- Media related to Snow White at Wikimedia Commons
- Text of "Little Snow-white" from "Household Tales by Brothers Grimm" on Project Gutenberg