Evolution of Fairy Tales: Snow White

Today we delve into the world of Snow White. I’ll be comparing the Brothers Grimm version, first published in 1812, to the 1937 Disney film.

Red Apples


The Young Princess

Grimm: Snow White is born a princess, named after her mother wishes for a child as white as snow. Soon after the girl’s birth, the Queen dies. After a time, the king remarries a vain and beautiful woman.

Disney: Snow White is a princess living with her proud and wicked stepmother, the Queen. The Queen forces Snow White to work as a maid.

The Magic Mirror

Grimm: The Queen asked her magic mirror every day who was fairest. The mirror replied that she was, until Snow White’s 7th birthday. The Queen begins to hate Snow White.

Disney: The Queen possesses a magic mirror that will answer her questions. The Queen uses the mirror’s power to determine if she is the most beautiful woman in the land. As the film opens, the mirror declares for the first time that Snow White is more beautiful than the Queen.

The Huntsman’s Task

Grimm: The Queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White deep into the woods and kill her. To prove he has done her bidding, he must bring her lungs and liver to the Queen. The huntsman takes Snow White as ordered, but can’t bring himself to kill her after she begs for her life. He tells her to run away. He kills a boar and bring its liver and lungs to the Queen, who then eats the liver and lungs.

Disney: The Queen, in a jealous rage, orders her huntsman to kill Snow White and bring her heart back in a box. The huntsman takes her to the woods, but breaks down, admitting the Queen’s nefarious plan and urging Snow White to run away.

Flight and Rescue

Grimm: Snow White flees through the woods for days before finding, and making a mess of, a cottage belonging to seven dwarves. The agree to let her stay, as longs as she keeps house for them. They also warn her not to let any strangers into the house while they are away during the day.

Disney: Snow White is lost and frightened, until she finds some woodland animals who lead her to a house. She makes herself at home, and when the dwarves discover that she can clean and cook, the invite her to stay.

Discovery and Trickery

Grimm: The Queen again consults her mirror, only to find out that Snow White is still alive and living with the dwarves. She disguises herself and offers to sell Snow White a bodice, which she laces so tightly Snow White can’t breathe. The Queen leaves, believing she’s won, but the dwarves return home and free her. The Queen again speaks to her mirror and discovers that Snow White lives. She dons a new disguise and offers Snow White a poisoned comb. The dwarves again save her, throwing the Queen into a rage. She prepares an apple, one half normal and one half poisoned. When she again approaches Snow White in disguise, she gains her trust by eating the normal half of the apple. Snow White eats the poisoned half and enters a coma-like state. The dwarves can’t save her because they can’t tell what is wrong with her.

Disney: The Queen, enraged that Snow White lives, disguises herself and offers Snow White a poisoned apple. She eats it, and falls into a deep sleep. She can only be revived by love’s first kiss.

Glass Coffins and Broken Spells

Grimm: The dwarves place Snow White in a glass casket, assuming she is dead. Time passes, and a prince, travelling through the woods, finds her. He is entranced by her beauty and demands that the dwarves let him take her back to his kingdom. As he takes her away, the coffin is jostled, and the apple pieces falls out of her mouth. Snow White wakes and agrees to marry the prince. They plan their wedding and invite all the royalty from the surrounding kingdoms.

Disney: Saddened by Snow White’s death but unable to bury her and hide her beauty, the dwarves build a coffin of glass and place her in it. A prince finds her some time later and recognizes her as the girl he had long ago fallen in love with. He kisses her and breaks the spell. The two ride off into the sunset together.


Grimm: The Queen, preparing to attend the wedding, does not realize that Snow White is the bride. She asks her mirror if she is still fairest, but the mirror replies that the bride is more beautiful than the Queen. She attends the wedding and is appalled to find Snow White alive. As punishment for trying to kill her step-daughter, the Queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance until she dies.

Disney: The Queen, after poisoning Snow White, is pursued by woodland creatures and the dwarves. As she attempts to roll a boulder towards them, she is struck by lightening and falls off a cliff.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this series so far, it’s that the original fairy tales are much more violent than the ones I grew up hearing. I can’t say I blame Disney for changing them; I certainly would have been terrified if I had heard the Grimm versions as a child.

Until next time, fellow wonderers!

One thought on “Evolution of Fairy Tales: Snow White

  1. Wow! What a great format to portray the contrast. All the things you learn about Snow White. . . The Grimm Fairy Tales really were grim, weren’t they? I wonder. . . How would you compare ABC’s OUaT Snow White with their original movie?

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