Source Material of Snow White

11th February, 2011 - Posted by DisAnim - Comments Off on Source Material of Snow White

This scene wasn't in the original story.

The film attributes the source material to the Brothers Grimm. While it is likely true that their version popularized the story, they merely gathered it from others. Their book was published in 1857, and it is hard to say exactly when the folktale began (in fact, one of the elements of the definition of a folktale is that it has an uncertain origin). Some have suggested that there are similarities between the Snow White story and Margaret von Waldeck, a woman of remarkable beauty who didn’t get along very well with her stepmother. It’s hard to say whether this is true or not, however.

Certain elements of the Snow White story crept into the Disney version. For example, Snow White’s mother gives birth to her after wishing for a daughter with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. The Disney version cuts out any reference to Snow White’s mother or father, but the mirror mentions her white, red, and black features (I did notice, however, that the red blood changed into a red rose).

One element from the Grimm version is noticeably missing from Disney’s: the comb. Before the queen attempts to trick Snow White with an apple, she uses a poisoned comb. An article from Time magazine in 1937 makes a comment about its absence. Ironically, most of us today aren’t even aware of any sort of comb associated with the Snow White story. This just goes to show that while Disney’s version wasn’t the first one, it has become the definitive one.

In my opinion, the ending is the most changed. The Grimms’ version has the Prince come upon sleeping Snow White, but rather than kiss her, he arranges to take her away with him. When his servants stumble, the apple becomes dislodged from Snow White’s throat, breaking the magical effect. They marry, and when they catch back up with the Queen, the stepmother is forced to wear iron shoes heated from a stove and dance until she falls over dead. It’s a little odd, but it sure is more interesting. Ironically, a piece of apple dislodged from a girl’s throat seems more likely to revive her than a kiss. And yet, a boulder crushing an old woman is probably more likely than seeing her dance in scalding shoes until she dies. (After all, boulder crushings are just a bit uncommon, but have you ever heard of death by coal dancing?)

In the end, the adaption is good, keeping many of the essential elements such as the mirror and the apple, and cutting out those that get in the way of a good plot. But Disney got it where it counts, developing the seven dwarves into individual personalities and creating uncountable gags.

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