10. Snow White
As Halloween draws ever closer, I’m taking a look at 10 of favourite animated films comparing their roots as disturbing and horrifying folk stories to their modern day image as classic children’s fairy tales, beginning with Snow White.
The version you know
Disney’s first length feature animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs follows the beautiful and young Snow White who lives happily in her castle in the forest with her Stepmother the evil Queen. The wicked Queen possesses a magic mirror and every day she asks “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all”, to which the mirror always replies telling the Queen that it is her who is the fairest in the land. This is until Snow White comes of age and one day when the Queen asks her daily question the mirror replies that Snow White is now the fairest of them all. In a fit of rage the Queen orders a huntsman to follow Snow White into the forest and kill her, bringing back her heart as proof that she is dead, and that once again the Queen is the fairest in the land.
The huntsman cannot bring himself to kill Snow White and instead tells her to run off into the woods and never come back and takes for the Queen the heart of a pig instead, the Queen sees through this however when she asks her magic mirror and it replies that Snow White is still the fairest of them all. In the mean time Snow White with the help of some friendly woodland animals finds a cottage in the woods and after cleaning it she falls asleep across the seven tiny beds. When the seven dwarfs who work in the local coal mine return home they eventually warm to Snow White and agree to let her stay.
The wicked Queen decides the best way to retain her title as the fairest of them all is to off Snow White with poison, so disguised as an old woman she hunts Snow White down in the forest and offers her a lovely red apple. Snow White falls into an eternal slumber that can only be woken by true love’s kiss and the dwarfs place her in a glass coffin. One day a Prince happens upon the scene, he having fallen in love with Snow White when she lived at the castle opens the coffin and kisses Snow White, breaking the spell and awakening her. The seven dwarfs and Snow White’s animal friends all rejoice, and everyone lived happily ever after.
The original version
There are a few early versions of Snow White but perhaps the most well known one is German folk tale Schneewittchen written by the Brothers Grimm (remember Grimm by name, grim by nature) who wrote many different versions of the story themselves. Whilst Disney does stay true to a lot of the original folk tale its deviations happen mostly after Snow White has, at the advice of the huntsman, fled and taken shelter in the home of the seven dwarfs. The dwarfs warn Snow White not to let anyone into the cottage whilst they are out mining in the mountains.
The Queen does not find it so easy to kill Snow White as she does in the Disney version, first she pretends to be a gypsy offering Snow White a lacy bodice as a present, she laces it up so light Snow White passes out and the Queen leaves assuming she will die. The next morning however when she asks her magic mirror it informs her of Snow Whites survival, the dwarfs having returned just in time to loosen the bodice saving Snow White. The Queen’s next attempt at returning to be the fairest of them all involves her posing as a comb seller and combing Snow White’s hair with a poisoned comb, but again her plan is thwarted when again the dwarfs arrive just in time and manage to revive her. The final attempt made by the Queen to get rid of Snow White is with the famous poisoned apple, taking half for herself and offering the poisoned half to Snow White who then falls into a state of suspended animation. The dwarfs are unable to save her as they cannot find the cause of her apparent death.
The next part is fairly similar to the Disney re-write wherein the Dwarfs place Snow White in a glass coffin and a Prince eventually finds them. However the Prince does not kiss Snow White bringing her back to life, instead he barters with the dwarfs for the coffin as he has fallen in love with her beauty. The dwarfs eventually give in and allow the Prince to take the coffin, whilst being carried by his servants they stumble and drop the coffin which dislodges the apple from Snow White’s throat and she wakes up. The Price declares his love for Snow White and they announce their engagement, all the Kings and Queens of the land are to be invited, including Snow White’s stepmother.
The Queen asks her mirror again who is the fairest of them all, to which it replies “You, my queen, are fair so true. But the young Queen is a thousand times fairer than you.” She tentatively accepts her invitation to the wedding, unbeknown to her that Snow White is the bride. At the wedding she realises the truth and a pair of red hot iron boots are brought forward for her and as punishment for her evil acts she is forced to put them on and dance herself to death. Everyone else lives happily ever after.
Other variations include the Queen being Snow White’s own mother, and rather than a huntsman the Queen instructs a servant to take Snow White into the woods to pick flowers and abandon her.