The Dark History Of Disney’s Snow White

Tam
-
June 07, 2024

MOVIES
The Dark History Of Snow White
Disney
Snow White singing by a well
Disney’s animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” not only saved Disney Studios, but helped grow the company into the entertainment giant it is today. Its first animated feature film changed how audiences thought about animation. From then on, we would regard animation as a legitimate art form, suitable for telling stories the whole family would enjoy (per Den of Geek). This animated masterpiece also began sanitizing once gruesome fairy tales into family-friendly entertainment. Disney would continue this endeavor throughout the 20th century as it transformed multiple fairy tales into commercially successful animated classics.

In her book “The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales,” professor and scholar Maria Tatar suggests Disney finished the work the Brothers Grimm began in 1812 when they published their first compilation of fairy tales. She wrote, “Wilhelm Grimm rewrote the tales so extensively and went so far in the direction of eliminating off-color episodes that he can be credited with sanitizing folktales.” The Brothers Grimm revised their fairy tale collection 17 times between 1812 and 1864, and “Snow White” experienced some important changes during that time (per Vox).

Despite Wilhelm Grimm’s efforts to tone down and tame some of the darker elements in the European folktales, the Brothers Grimm versions were still far more violent, disturbing, and adult than the versions Disney popularized. In the last decade, we have seen many new films returning to the macabre, twisted, and dark origins of these fairy tales. Join us as we explore the dark history of Snow White.

The Grimm version began with a wish for a child
Disney
The 1819 Grimm version of the story begins like many fairy tales, with a queen wishing for a daughter. After pricking her finger while sewing, three drops of blood land on the snow, and the queen is struck by the beautiful contrast, thinking, “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame.” Soon after, the queen is blessed with the birth of a daughter, but the queen dies during childbirth.

Within a year, the king remarried “a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant” (per Grimm). The new queen worries someone will eclipse her beauty, so she asks her magic mirror if she is still the most beautiful. All is well until Snow White becomes more beautiful, and then there is hell to pay. In this version of the Grimm story, the king is never mentioned again, leaving us to wonder if he also died, or if he allows his new wife to mistreat Snow White.

Disney’s version skips Snow White’s origins, setting the stage by telling us Snow White lives with her “Wicked Stepmother” who dresses Snow White in rags and makes her work as a “scullery maid.” There is no mention of Snow White’s parents in the Disney classic, leading audience members to assume both parents were dead. Mari Ness with Tor suggested they streamlined the story because of the time constraint of an 88-minute running time.

The evil queen eats the internal organs
In the Disney animated classic, the evil queen asks the huntsman to take Snow White into the woods to kill her. The queen is a distrustful person, and tells the huntsman to bring her Snow White’s heart as proof the girl is dead. Of course, the huntsman can’t bring himself to kill the beautiful child, and allows her to run away into the woods. He then kills a wild boar and takes its heart to the queen.

In some Brothers Grimm versions of the fairy tale, it is Snow White’s liver and lungs that the queen requests, while in other early versions it is her heart she asks the huntsman to bring back. The gruesome detail Disney left out of the story is the wicked queen cooks and eats the organs the huntsman brings to her. “The cook had to boil them with salt,” one Grimm version reads, “and the wicked woman ate them, supposing that she had eaten Snow-White’s lungs and liver.”

Cannibalism certainly is dark and twisted. Disney would never explore such depraved themes, but this macabre element of the story was explored in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” when the magic mirror tells Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) that eating the heart of Snow White (Kristen Stewart) will restore the queen’s waning magical powers, thus returning her eternal youth and beauty. This version was far darker and more mature than previous big screen adaptations, and a sign of the return to macabre fairy tale retellings we would see in the coming years (per The Atlantic).

The evil queen tries to kill Snow White three times


Disney
In the Grimm version, the evil queen tries to kill Snow White three times; four if you count the huntsman’s failed attempt. In Disney’s animated version, the queen only tries to kill Snow White once with a poisoned apple. Disney streamlined the plot for two reasons. Time constraints are the most obvious, but they also probably cut out the first two attempts on Snow White’s life because being tricked three times made her seem more gullible than sweet.

The first time the queen tries to kill Snow White, the queen dresses as a peddler, selling Snow White new laces for her corset. She cinches the laces so tightly that Snow White ceases breathing, and falls down dead. The seven dwarfs return home and cut the laces and Snow White revives. During the second attempt, the queen disguises herself as another peddler and kills Snow White with a poisoned comb. The seven dwarfs remove the comb when they return home, and Snow White wakes up.

The third time, the queen disguises herself as a crone, and kills Snow White with a poison apple. She tricked Snow White into eating the apple by making one side tainted and one side safe, and taking a bite of the apple to entice Snow White into eating her half. The Disney animated version is essentially the same. While in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Queen Ravenna uses an illusion to disguise herself as William (Sam Claflin), someone Snow White trusted from her childhood.

The prince and Snow White don’t meet until she wakes from death


Disney
In the Disney animated classic, Snow White and her prince meet once before she runs away to the woods. He discovers her singing while working at the palace, and approaches her. It is love at first sight, but Snow White is embarrassed she is dressed in rags, and runs away. When the evil queen gives Snow White the poisoned apple, the queen entices Snow White to eat the apple by telling her it is a wishing apple. Snow White wishes her prince would come for her before taking a bite and falling down dead. When Snow White awakens, from her perspective, it is almost as if the wishing apple worked.

Source: looper

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