All fairy tales start out as an idea. A story that explains away the sounds you hear in the darkness or the reason your buttons/postage stamps/loose change goes mission (according to Celtic legend, it’s due to boggarts, and I think I can blame them for my missing keys). A story that tells some kind of moral lesson.
In the case of Snow White, there might actually be some historical basis. According to a book, Schneewittchen: Marchen oder Wahrheit? by German scholar Eckhard Sander, there are real-life parallels to relationship between Spanish heir-to-the-throne Philip II and his supposed lover, Countess Margarete von Waldeck. As their affair was potentially harmful politically, many believe that Margarete was poisoned. Plus, she supposedly didn’t get along with her stepmother, which forced to leave her home when she was a teenager, and the village where she grew up employed child labor in the copper mines, the “poor dwarfs” of the folk tale. (Details – Goodreads article.)
The tale of Snow White isn’t just limited to the Germans and and the Spanish. In an Albanian version, the main character lives with forty dragons and her enchanted sleep is due to a ring. In other versions, the dwarves are robbers and the magic mirror is the sun or moon. Alexander Pushkin borrowed many elements of Snow White in his 1833 poem The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights, with the dwarfs being replaced by knights. You can find it here in prose. Also, look here for more fascinating folktales related to Snow White.
Over the years, many other writers have given a shot at retelling Snow White:
- Gregory Maguire’s Mirror, Mirror retells the story in Tuscany where the queen is the infamous Lucrezia Borgia.
- Neil Gaiman flipped the story around in his graphic novel Snow, Glass, Apples, with Snow White being the monster and the queen the victim.
- In White as Snow, Tanith Lee hangs a loose version of Greek mythology’s Persephone and Demeter onto the familiar storyline.
- Gail Carson Levine spins a musical, kid-friendly tale in Fairest.
- Shel Silverstein takes the magic mirror’s side in his poem Mirror, Mirror.
Had enough with Snow White spin-offs? If not, there’s plenty more to be found at SurLaLune’s excellent collection, complete with helpful summaries.
And as for my favorite, I would have to go with Roald Dahl’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from his Revolting Rhymes. It follows the usual storyline, with the exception that the magic mirror is flawless at predicting the future, and the dwarves are addicted to gambling. Snow White sneaks into the castle, steals the mirror, and the dwarves use it to learn who the winners will be in the next horse race.
Thereafter, every single day,
The Mirror made the bookies pay.
Each Dwarf and Snow-White got a share,
And each was soon a millionaire,
Which shows that gambling’s not a sin
Provided that you always win.
Which, while not Biblically sound, is a really fun way to end the story.
So, go ahead, explore a new version of Snow White, and when doing so, always remember to
Read the Extraordinary. Responsibly.
Next Time: Snow White — The Movie Edition!
Taste of the Fantastical
In the spirit of Snow White, let’s take a look at some different versions of glass coffins:
So, which one do you want beneath your tombstone? Or rather, which one do you want on a raise platform where you’ll wait for years until a lovelorn, desperate prince decides to come knocking?