Snow White – the fairy tale

One of the most popular fairy tales in the Western world, Snow White was the first to be turned into an animated colour movie, and the first full-length Disney movie ever, in 1937. That movie is now a classic, as the story itself has been for centuries. It goes so far that the dress this Disney Snow White wears has become iconic in itself, a synonym for ‚princess‘.

Disney's classic fairy tale princess

The folk tale as told by the Brothers Grimm

The first mention of the story in written form dates from 1812, when it was put down in the collection of fairy tales by the German brothers Grimm. Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, authors, linguists and folklorists, travelled to many villages and small towns in rural Germany, collecting folk tales and writing them down to form their famous collection of ‚Household and Fairy Tales‘. ‚Little Snow White‘ formed part of that original first edition and the Disney version has stayed quite close to it, although the Grimm’s version does not feature light-hearted songs or (rather silly) names for the dwarves.

Other ways in which the famous Disney version differs from the Grimm’s original are most obvious towards the end. Snow White is not awakened by a kiss, but rather through a servant’s clumsiness in carrying the glass coffin: he stumbles and the coffin falls, thereby dislodging the bit of the poisonous apple from Snow White’s throat, which brings her back to life, allowing the prince to make his declaration of love. The step-mother also doesn’t get off lightly in the orginial: she is made to dance at Snow White’s wedding in iron slippers that have been heated in the fire until she falls down dead.

original illustration of the Brother Grimm's collection of fairy tales

Different versions of the fairy tale

Snow White’s story was not only told in Germany, however: many different versions existed all across Europe, and although  the names and some of the accessories change (a ring for the poisoned apple, the moon for the mirror, etc.), the basics are the same:

  •  an older woman, jealous of a younger woman/girl’s beauty, out to destroy the competition
  • the attempt to kill and/or abandon the girl, either through herself or a servant
  • the girl’s rescue by a group of males (dwarves, knights, dragons, et. …)
  • three attempts of the female adversary to take out the girl
  • the apparent success at the third attempt, usually with a poisoned item (apple, ring, etc. …)
  • the rescue at the last minute by the hero and the consequent marriage of the heroine and hero
  • punishment for the (evil) older woman

Because the story is so well-know, so popular and has such a deep resonance in so many cultures, it has also very often been used in popular culture, either very openly and obviously, or as the hidden, underlying plot of a story that superficially seems to be about something else. Many modern adaptations, film versions and derivative stories exist of Snow White, keeping the classic tale alive and carrying it into the 21st century.

book cover of a modern fairy tale adaptation


Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman movie banner

The movie Snow White and the Huntsman, an adaption of the fairy tale, starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, came out in early 2012 and was highly anticipated. Despite the fact that the movie only has the most basic plot points in common with the original fairy tale, watching the movie is a wonderful experience, not least because it’s a visual joyride, packed with intricate details of a dark, dangerous, war-like world, interspersed with visions of a green, lush, light-filled peace.

Ravenna, the evil stepmother, so coldly and superhumanly perfect, is almost painful to watch in her beauty, and she offsets Snow White’s very human, very natural, very warm beauty. Indeed, the story insists that her beauty comes from being pure and innocent – having a beautiful soul.

Snow White is not only beautiful, she is also kind and courageous. To help the Huntsman, who is about to be defeated by a troll (a huge, scaly, roaring monster), she jumps out from her hiding place and although she has a sword, she does not even attempt to hurt or even kill the troll. Instead, she roars back at the troll, ‚fighting‘ it on its own terms – resulting in one of the few really funny scenes of the movie.

Snow White and the Huntsman - movie still: Snow White and the troll And despite all expectations, it works: the troll, probably surprised by her action, calms down and even lets her touch it. Snow White demonstrates her kindness in many small ways throughout the story, making her something special in the rough, dark world that her father’s kingdom has become during her imprisonment.

It is no wonder that not only her childhood friend, William (played by Sam Claflin) is smitten by her, but also the Huntsman, a loner and trouble-maker, and the fierce Dwarves are willing to follow her and give their lives to protect her.

Snow White and the Huntsman - movie still: huntsman and dwarves

Not only humans, however, recognize in Snow White the person who can rescue the country and defeat the evil Ravenna. Nature itself acknowledges her as she wanders into a secluded glen, where animals and fairy creatures live in peace and harmony. The White Stag, a legendary personification of nature, appears and the men who watch her are surprised and touched to see it bow its head to Snow White.

Snow White and the Huntsman - movie still: Snow White and the White Stag

With her devoted followers she finally makes it to the Duke’s castle, where she rallies the men and woman collected there to follow her into a battle to take back their world from Ravenna, her stepmother. The ensuing battle, and the focus on the fight between Snow White and Ravenna, is another visually beautiful scene. Which ends, as all fairy tales do, in the defeat of evil and the triumph of innocence over greed and egoism.

The movie is a joy to watch and it transports the viewers into a visual, sensual world and lets them take part in a story that is both touching and well told.

all photos taken from  the official website