LC Van Savage
Snow And Pals Wilhelm, Jacob, And Walt + 7
As promised in my last column or somewhere in the recent past, I’ll write this week about that wonderful old children’s story called “Snow White” written by the Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob in 1812. These two guys wandered around Germany and in particular the town of Kassel and wrote down folk tales and children’s fairy stories so they could rewrite and make books out of them so they could become rich, successful authors which most of us writers recognize as a maddening oxymoron.
From my exhaustive research of these stories and the bros. Grimm, I conclude that German kids who read these tales must have lived lives of abject terror, which might explain a lot of things. They were told these frightening stories in order to keep them in line or something. Well actually, so were we. We all had those messagey stories read to us too, but at least our versions in the USA were tamed a bit. Those grim Grimm stories told to German kids back then must have made die kleine Kinder prime candidates for Dr. Freud’s Oriental carpet-covered couch, only Dr. Freud wouldn’t be born for another 44 years. I guess German parents thought that their Kinder would mind their Pays and Koos if they heard those tales. I wasn’t a German kid, and yet the practice wasn’t lost on me. My WSM used to get me to gag down my Brussels sprouts by telling me that “Peter” was coming for me from out of the basement if I didn’t eat the stuff and woe be unto me if Peter showed up and saw untouched sprouts on my plate. She’d then go around the corner and make Peterish disgusting guttural noises, and as a heavy abuser of Lucky Strikes, she could carry that off pretty well. I have never touched a Brussels sprout since, I avoid basements tend to back away from men named Peter.
Anyway, the real story of Snow White, not Uncle Walt’s version which I happen to love, really started out with a beautiful girl named Lisa from Italy. It was one of nine folk tales from something called the Pentamerone. Anyway, at the age of seven, Lisa falls unconscious when a comb gets stuck in her hair. That’s kind of a stretch, unless the teeth of that comb were maybe coated in the poison excreted from the skin of the poison dart frog which, when you think of it, must have been hard to find in old Italy because those frogs hop around in South America I think. But whatever, some kind of poison was on that comb because poor little Lisa fell into a dead---well, a dead.
So the locals dumped poor Lisa into a glass coffin and oddly, weirdly, she got prettier as she aged in that glass box. Ew. A female relative, grinding in jealousy over Lisa’s beauty, popped open the coffin and hauled Lisa out by the hair, dislodging the comb and naturally bringing Lisa back to life. I’m not sure where the great shining Prince stepped in to carry the now grown-up, fully mature and hottie Lisa off to a castle for that happily ever after stuff, but who knows? Anything’s possible in the world of fairy tales. BTW, where were the fairies, anyway?
Enter the Grimm Bros. and a bit later one W. Disney. Here’s their version, quick -style. Beloved, kind queen in a land far away is sewing next to a window. Snow’s falling. A bird flies by and startles her, she pricks her finger and a couple of drops of her blood fall onto the fresh snow. She thinks, “I sure wish I had a daughter with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony.” Since she lives in fairy tale world she quite soon delivers a baby girl with all those criteria and names her Snow White. Right on schedule, good kind loving mother/queen ups and dies. Grieving King Dad soon marries a gorgeous woman who’s just plain mean. Overly vain. Has an unnatural relationship with a talking mirror whom she keeps badgering with just one question; “Mirror Mirror on the wall/Who’s the fairest of them all?” And that mirror who clearly knew how and when to suck up, always answered, “Thou O Queen, art the fairest of all.” Satisfied, Queen Ignominious would back off, at least until she passed that smarmy mirror again when she’d once more ask the same-O question.
Well, one morning she asked the question and that timorous mirror, finally growing a pair, answered “You my queen, are fair ‘tis true/But Show White is even fairer than you!” That queen threw one shattering, shrieking tantrum the likes of which no one in that palace had ever seen or heard. It was really something to behold. She screamed for a palace huntsman to kidnap Snow White, take her into the forest, kill her and to bring back her heart in a golden box as proof the deed had been done. Ew. The huntsman couldn’t do it, set Snow free, killed a wild boar and took its heart back to the queen who fried it up with a bit of salt, a few onions and mushrooms and ate the thing. Ew. Queenie was happy again and didn’t even get heartburn from eating heart.
Snow ran and ran through the dark forest, came upon a small house with seven of everything, and fell asleep in one of the tiny beds. The home’s owners, seven dwarfs, came home from their jobs in the mountains and found her, fell in love with this pretty girl and struck up a deal; she could stay safely with them if she’d cook, make beds, wash everything, sew and knit, clean and keep everything tidy. You know, like a wife. She went for it. Everyone was happy.
Back to Queenie. Just to feed her ego she asks the mirror the same old question. This time the mirror answers “You my queen are fair, ‘tis true/But Snow white (who’s now living in the forest with seven dwarfs) is still a thousand times fairer than you.” Yes, that lily-livered mirror ratted-out our Snow White. I suspect at just about now, that huntsman was high-tailing it outta there and heading for distant castles.
The livid, wily queen disguised herself as a nice old lady who sells apples,went to the dwarf’s house while they’re at work, convinces Snow to taste an apple the old queen had laced with lethal poison, the stupid girl goes for it and drops dead. The grieving, wailing dwarfs had a glass coffin made because Snow White looked so fresh and rosy, and carried it out to the woods so she could be with her animal friends. A Prince happened by on his steed, saw Snow in that glass box, fell in love, smooched her good, the poison apple piece came flying out, ew, Prince and SW fell in love and rode off into the sunset.
The queen heard of this, went to their wedding with evil plans, and was either banished from the kingdom forever, or was forced to wear some metal shoes heated in a fire, and danced herself to death. Nice touch. I’d vote for the latter. She was one bad apple.
So that’s the scoop on the real history of Snow White. Little Snow got the Prince and the HEA thing. I have no idea what happened to the dwarfs. Can you name them? Dopey, Sneezy, Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy. Hi Ho, Hi Ho!
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