Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Horror Story!

Have you read Snow White lately? You should. The girls are hearing it at school and so, to temper the exposure, I bought a beautifully illustrated version of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale, hoping that it might somehow be better than the Disney version floating around the classroom. No, it seems the Brothers Grimm were just as gruesome and primitive as Walt Disney.

To review, Snow White's mother, an odd sort who thought having a daughter with really white skin would bring her happiness, dies. Her father, a spineless and pathetic man, remarries and allows his new wife to banish Snow White to a dungeon where she sleeps on a mat. Abandoned by her own father, she is now on course for a lifetime of failed relationships, looking for a father figure in every man she will meet.

The stepmother, a curiously vain woman who speaks to household objects and expects them to speak back, is sent spinning when she hears, from a mirror, that she is not the fairest of them all, all being an undefined boundary. She hires a hit man to kill Snow White and instructs the assassin to bring back her heart as proof. Thankfully he is a reasonably kind soul who only banishes her to a lifetime alone in the forest with nothing more than the shredded dress she wears. To save face, he offs a wild boar and brings that heart back to Queenie, who, while something to look at, is not a coroner, nor is she terribly bright, and so has no idea that the organ presented to her is not actually a human heart.

Snow White happens upon a small house, boldly enters and makes herself at home. In a Goldilocks moment, she samples a bit of food from each plate at the table and then moves on to the bedroom where, exhausted, she falls asleep in one of the tiny beds.

Seven unmarried small men who live together in this tiny house in the forest return from a long days work. Overjoyed to find an actual woman in their home they offer her a bed if she will "keep house" for them. Of course she agrees, having been completely deserted by the only other man in her life, her father, this seems like a pretty good deal.

But a life of pure heaven, cooking and cleaning for seven small men, can't go on forever, and the mirror, once again, tells the queen that Snow White is alive and still better looking than she is. The queen is understandably outraged, she had hired someone to take care of this problem, and realizing that you just can't find good help, decides to take matters into her own hands.

Snow White, while a bonafide beauty, was no genius. Three times she allowed a costumed old woman into her indentured servant dwelling: once to lace her bodice so tightly she could not breathe, once to comb her luscious locks with a poisoned comb and then the final blow, the poison apple. The dwarfs were able to revive their cleaning woman twice but the apple proved to be too much for the small men and, rather than call for help, they sat staring at her for three days, crying. At the end of this odd mourning period they put her in a box with a glass top and, finding her far too beautiful to put in the ground, set her in the forest.

Snow White still had it, her lips still red as blood, her skin still white as snow. Attractive enough, she caught the eye of a prince who happened to be riding by, but make no mistake, he was a truly creepy sort who offered to pay the dwarfs for the dead body in the casket. No, the seven dwarfs could not part with the body in the box, not for all the gold in the world; short sighted one might argue, surely the prince could have offered enough to hire another beauty to clean and cook. He appealed to their sense of romance, "I love Snow White more than anything in the world and I cannot live without looking upon her".

Personally I think it fair to assume that the prince and Snow White might have suffered similar childhoods, leading me to believe that all the royals in this land were essentially dysfunctional and peculiar. The man is openly pledging his love for a corpse, and seems content to do nothing but stare at her for the rest of his days.

The dwarfs, clearly true romantics, reconsidered and offered the stiff one to his highness. The course of true love sometimes does run smooth, or at least bumpy, for when the servants hoisted the heavy box onto their shoulders for the trip back to the castle, one stumbled and the poison apple was dislodged, at which time Snow White sat up, through off the glass cover and said "Where am I?".

"You are near me" the prince answered, wiping away the memory of the recent near death experience with one marriage command, "come with me to my father's castle and we shall marry". Having just been given away by the only people known to ever actually care for her, Snow White had no choice but to agree to marry this complete stranger who was, apparently, still living at home with his parents.

The queen, invited to the gala affair, was made to wear red-hot iron shoes and forced to dance until she died. A dead dancing queen, just what every little girl dreams of on her wedding day.


Rob Marvin MD said...

This is truly eye opening - and not in a good way!

I will admit, I had never read the truly Grimm version and, for some reason, had ass-u-me-d Disney had followed the original.

"the Dwarfs, true romantics ..... offered the stiff one to the Prince."

If Grimm couldn't make me laugh, at least you did!"

northsidefour said...

Disney followed Grimm, I think, both are scary stories that I cannot imagine reading to my girls with a straight face. When Snow White sits up and says "where am I?" we all laugh. Thank God.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


I like how you reframed the fairytale--brutal in summary, isn't it? As my children get older and head towards adolescence, and I see the dysfunctions in our culture, I am a little more open to dysfunctional fairy tales--not as something to celebrate, but for how they might make a teenager, or any adult, really, not feel crazy for something they experienced. Just a hunch, though. And thanks for the great topic.


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