In 1815, the Brothers Grimm published their second volume of collected fairy tales. It contained over 70 different tales, including The Goose Girl and today’s topic: Snow-White and Rose-Red. The full story can be read here, but I wanted to take a look into it today.
A Tale of Two Sisters
The story opens with a widow and her two daughters. The widow’s garden contained two rose plants – one grew white roses and the other grew red roses. She named her daughters after them, and the three were a happen family. The sisters were alike in almost every way. They were equally beautiful, kind, cheerful, sweet, etc. All the things required for a fairy tale heroine. The only real difference between the two is that Rose-Red is an adventurous extrovert, while Snow-White is the sensitive introvert.
Their life seemed to be one happy coincidence after another. They never came across misfortune, they befriended every animal they met, and they spent their days exploring the surrounding woods and their night happily ensconced in their family’s cozy cottage.
An Unexpected Guest
One winter evening, there’s a knock on the door. When Rose-Red answers it, it’s not a lost traveler, as the family expects, but a bear. While the two girls and their animal friends hide, the mother takes is all in stride. The bear very politely assures them he means no harm and is mearing looking for a place to get warm.
Reassured by their mother, Snow-White and Rose-Red quickly befriend the bear, growing comfortable with him to the point of playing practical jokes on him. They brush the snow off his coat and make him welcome. He stays the night, leaving at dawn the next day.
The following evening, the bear returns. He continues to do so every day, arriving at nightfall and leaving at dawn, for the rest of winter. When spring comes, the bear announces he will be leaving and won’t return until the end of summer. Snow-White is heartbroken and asks why. The bear explains that he has treasure in the forest that he must defend from greedy dwarfs. The dwarfs hibernate in the winter, so he could spend the winter away from his treasure.
As the bear leaves, some of his hair catches on the door. For a second, Snow-White thinks she sees something gold shining through, but the bear is out of sight before she can be sure.
Magic in the Woods
A short time later, the two sisters are out collecting firewood when they come across a strange sight: a dwarf with a white beard a yard long. The end of his beard is stuck in the trunk of a tree. After trying to pull the beard free, and listening to the dwarf hurl insult after insult at them, Snow-White finally pulls out a pair of scissors and cuts the end of the beard off. This prompts the dwarf to insult them even more before pulling a bag of gold out of hiding and running off.
The girls come across the dwarf two more times, once at the river (where a fish has gotten a hold of the end of his beard) and once along the road (where a bird is carrying him off), and save him both times. Though he disappears without any thanks both times, he finds them again shortly after they save him from the bird. He again berates and yells at them, but this time his yelling attracts some unwanted attention. A bear comes running out of the forest. The bear kills the dwarf with a single blow and calls out to his friends, for it’s the same bear that stayed with Snow-White and Rose-Red during the winter months.
Much to the girls’ surprise, the bear transforms into a handsome man dressed in gold. He is, in fact, a prince who had been cursed by the very dwarf they kept encountering. They gather the dwarf’s treasure and return the prince to his home. The prince marries Snow-White, and he has a convenient brother who marries Rose-Red. The girls’ mother brings the rose plants to the castle where they all live happily ever after.
If You’re Interested…
This is the part of the post where I recommend a retelling or modern version of the fairy tale, but you’ll have to bear with me (ha ha, bear with me, get it?), as this recommendation is a bit of a stretch. When I was reading the opening section of the tale, I got strongly reminded of one of my favorite books: The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. The story follows two sisters, alike in many ways, but different in terms of confidence: one sister being much more outgoing than the other. When one sister falls ill, it falls to the other to set out to find a cure. The catch? It’s the adventurous sister who gets sick, and the shy, homebody sister who must strike out alone. I first read this book in middle school, and I find myself coming back to it every few years. I highly recommend it!
What’s your favorite sibling-centric fairy tale?
Until next time, word nerds!