Disney Princesses are beloved by little girls and boys worldwide. But, how did the stories we know come to be? In this series of Disney Princesses: Origins, we’ll delve into the original backstories and creation of the Walt Disney princesses we know and love. Our first Disney Princess is Snow White, star of the 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The story of Snow White originated as a fairy tale in Europe, published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. This original version was included in the first edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. In this tale, Snow White’s mother dies during childbirth, and indeed, it is an evil Queen who marries the princess’ father. The Queen decides to sends a huntsman to take her step-daughter deep into the woods to be killed, demanding proof of her death in the form of her lungs and liver. The huntsman can’t go through with the request and brings back the lungs and liver of a boar. The queen then eats these, believing it is from Snow White. Yuck!
Our beloved Princess finds a tiny cottage in the woods owned by none other than the Seven Dwarfs. She enters and eats, drinks, and tests all of their beds. Sounds a lot like Goldilocks, doesn’t it? The dwarfs discover her and strike a deal, allowing her to stay if she takes over the housework. They warn her not to allow anyone in when they are away.
The Queen doesn’t go unaware of the existence of Snow White for long. Her mirror reveals where Snow White is staying and the Queen dresses as a comb seller and gets Snow White to take a comb as a present. The twist? The comb is poisoned! She faints, but is eventually revived by the seven dwarfs. The next day, the Queen learns, again, that Snow White is still alive. This is where the poisoned apple scene takes place. Sadly, the dwarfs can not revive Snow White this time. They place her in a glass coffin.
Along comes a handsome Prince who falls in love with Snow White, upon seeing her in the coffin. He tells his servants to carry the coffin away. However, while carrying the coffin, they trip on some roots. The trip causes the piece of poisoned apple to dislodge from Snow White’s throat. She is instantly awakened to a declaration of love from the Prince. A wedding is planned, and even Snow White’s stepmother is invited. The evil Queen, believing once and for all that her step-daughter is dead, asked her mirror again if she was the fairest in the land. However, the mirror reveals that the “young queen”, and not the evil step-mother, is the fairest of them all.
The Queen accepts the invitation to the wedding. At the wedding, she realizes that her stepdaughter is the young Queen! The evil Queen is then punished by having to dance in a pair of glowing-hot iron shoes which she will dance in until she dies. Now that is what I call revenge!
Walt Disney’s Snow White – How Does It Compare?
While the Snow White that we know bears many similarities to the Brothers Grimm version, we are left to believe that Snow White lives happily ever after. In Walt Disney’s version, we get to see the evil queen fall off a crumbling cliff rather than dance to her death.
Other notable differences between the Brother Grimm’s fairy tale and the Walt Disney version of Snow White are that, at the beginning of the film, we are told that the Queen knew that Snow White was very fair. She dressed her in rags to try to compensate for this fact. Additionally, the Prince knew about her from the beginning, as they had a song duet at the beginning.
When it comes to the proof that the Queen asks for, in the Walt Disney version, the Queen asks for her heart rather than her liver and lungs. Also, she doesn’t eat the “proof” as she does in the Brothers Grimm version. Another small difference is that Snow White cleaned the dwarfs’ home before they came in hopes that they would let her stay. In the Brothers Grimm’s version, they asked her to clean to earn her keep. Finally, loves first kiss saves Snow White from eternal sleep in the Walt Disney version, whereas an unplanned stumble dislodges the apple from Snow Whites throat in the Brothers Grimm version.
While I can certainly understand the reason for many of the changes in the story, to make the story more family friendly, I still find the history of the story fascinating!