We all think we know the story of ‘Snow-White’, but original fairy tales (and by this I mean not the Disney versions) have some unexpected quirks. Of course, it’s hard to get this image out of your head, but the traditional stories are far darker than we know.
The Grimm brothers were the first to make fairy tales stories for children but since then Disney has gone over the darkness, the sorcery and the violence with a fine-toothed comb.
In the original ‘Snow-White’, the evil Queen is a master of the ‘black arts’, thick with jealousy over Snow-White’s beauty. She orders the huntsman to kill Snow-White and bring back her lungs and liver as a token of the deed being done. Of course, like the decent huntsman he is, pity gets the better of him and he lets her go. But it’s not long before the magic mirror tells the Queen the truth:
‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest one of all?’
‘Lady, you are the fairest here,
But Snow-White, living far away
With the seven dwarves this day,
Is still a thousand times more fair.’
Three times the evil sorceress disguises herself and attempts to murder Snow-White, once by suffocating her with a lace bodice, once by poisoning her with a comb and once with a ‘poisonous, poisonous apple’.
After the third attempt she is assumed dead and placed in a glass coffin by the dwarves. A King’s son happens to be riding by – how convenient – and falls in love with the Princess on sight. He begs the dwarves to have her and they gift her to him. However, the servants carrying her away stumble and fall. The little piece of poisonous apple is dislodged from Snow-White’s throat and she comes alive again. She marries the handsome Prince straight away, but the black magic of the mirror quickly informs the Queen that she is alive.
‘Lady, you are the fairest here
But the young Queen is a thousand times more fair.’
This is when the quirky, violent ending steps in. The original tales, in this example the Grimm’s version of the story, ensure the vindictive are punished and the good are rewarded. The evil Queen attends the wedding and is made to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies a slow, painful death. I don’t remember that in the Disney version.