As part of an assignment for a screenwriting class I went through the Grimm fairy tale “Little Snow White," line by line to translate it into a screenplay. Let’s just say I know Snow White really well now. As I went through I was actually surprised by how closely the 1937 classic Disney film followed the fairy tale. I know comparatively there were a lot of changes with “The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and other fairy-tale-based princess films. The two Snow Whites do have notable differences, of course.
The Disney version missed out on a lovely introduction of Snow White’s mother sewing at a window of black ebony as it snowed. She pricks her finger and thinks three droplets of blood look pretty against the white snow. She wishes she had a child, “as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window frame.” As in inevitable she dies in childbirth, and both stories begin with an evil stepmother as the new queen.
Oh by the way, the Grimm Fairy Tale version? Snow White is seven. It doesn’t change the plot really except it’s kind of odd that she gets married. But it doesn’t specify the Prince’s age, so I just headcanon him as another 7year-old.
The Queen hiring a hunter to kill Snow White? Totally happened, except in the Grimm tale it was Snow White’s idea to go into the forest instead of the hunter’s. Also in the fairy tale the Queen eats the pig’s heart, thinking it’s Snow White’s.
Snow White didn’t clean with animals and sing when she found the dwarves cottage; she ate their food, a little from each of seven plates, and then clocked out.
In the Grimm tale the Dwarves had the decency to let her sleep through the night though.
She only took up one bed and so “the seventh dwarf slept with his companions, one hour with each, and so got through the night,” which is really cute, if you ask me.
Oh, but the whole “you can stay here if you cook and clean” deal was the dwarves’ idea, not Snow White’s.
In the Grimm tale the stepmother comes to the cottage to kill Snow White three separate times…. And Snow White keeps falling for it! She had three different disguises, two of them being old ladies just by painting her face and changing her clothes rather than through magic. I guess Snow White being seven instead of fourteen made it easier for her to be tricked.
The first time, Snow White buys a lace, and the evil queen temporarily kills her by lacing her bodice super tight. The cure was just for the dwarves to cut the lace and Snow White can breathe again, good as new.
The second time we do have witchcraft. The Queen crafts a poisonous comb, and Snow White, completely forgetting her traumatic bodice experience and the dwarves' warning and buys the comb. She lets the “old peddler” place the comb in her hair. Then of course it’s as easy as taking the comb out for the dwarves to then save her.
The third and most famous murder attempt was the poison apple. The Queen is even more clever this time by making a half-white half-red apple, and eats the white-unpoisoned half to trick Snow White into thinking it’s safe. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
Then things get a little weird. When a prince comes to see Snow White in her glass coffin, he hasn’t met her before and hasn’t sung her a beautiful love song by a wishing well. Apparently he liked this dead girl so much he just had to have the coffin. He tells the dwarves he’ll give them whatever they want for it. Then the dwarves say “we won’t part with it for all the gold in the world.” Wow, so how will the prince get his hands on this coffin? He then asks the dwarves to just give it to him because he will honor and prize a dead girl in a coffin as his “dearest possession.” Then the dwarves just let him have it.
I would have taken some gold, though.
At least in the Grimm version the prince doesn’t kiss a corpse. When his servants start to carry Snow White’s coffin they trip, and the piece of apple comes out of her throat. Then just like the laces and comb, simply removing the murder weapon brings Snow White back to life.
The prince then, not being clingy or forward at all says tells Snow White he loves her “more than everything in the world” and asks for her hand in marriage.
Snow White, of course, does marry him. She’s seven, so again I’m just going to head cannon the prince as being close to her age. Back in 1812 fairy tales were meant for children, so maybe the children back then were delighted to hear of a fellow seven-year-old girl finding a marrying a prince. Girls still do that right? I wouldn’t know, I was never one to dream of handsome princes as a seven-year-old.
Then the stepmother is invited to the wedding feast and of course, she only attends after agonizing about in front of her magic mirror.
“But what happens to her if the dwarves didn’t chase off the side of a cliff like in the Disney version?” you ask.
At the wedding she’s given iron slippers that were put on a fire. She’s forced to wear them “and dance until she dropped down dead,” because that was a thing in the fairy tale universe.
Also, who makes these decisions? It’s written to seem agentless, but who knows about the Queen’s crimes other than the dwarves and Snow White? Are our “innocent” protagonists telling the servants to do these things? We may never know.