Fairy Tale Fail – Snow White

Hi everyone! Quick note before I begin: I’m still reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness but I have less than one hundred pages left! I’m sorry for the delay in the reviewing process. Nevertheless, here’s another Fairy Tale Fail!!

I don’t know about you guys but I’ve never been a huge fan of the much older Disney movies – not that I don’t like them, because I do. Disney movies are beyond magical! But movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are way too damsel-in-distress-like for me. They don’t really have anything that might make them unique or likable. Their stories are mostly about how a man saved them from near-death. I, personally, like my Disney Princesses to have charisma and charm – and their own opinions.

That said, I’ve done some more research and I’m kind of pissed at my findings. The Brother’s Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White was actually much darker than I thought it was originally (yes!), but still kinda weird. And I find Snow White to be even more of an idiot in the movie.

Much of the beginning of the story remains in both the Grimm’s version and the Disney version: a beautiful Queen is sewing one day and pricks her finger. Upon seeing the blood she wishes for a daughter who is as fair as snow, with lips red as blood, and hair black as night (ebony, in the Grimm’s version). When the Queen gets her wish, she names her daughter Snow White. But shortly after she dies of birthing complications. The King marries a new woman who happens to be a witch, both literally and metaphorically.

The Queen has a magic mirror that she talks to and asks “who is the fairest in the land?” with the answer always being “you are the fairest in the land!” But this time, the mirror tells her that she is not the fairest, that Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than she. The Queen gets pissed and sends a huntsmen to kill Snow White, rip out her heart, and bring it back as proof that she’s dead. The huntsmen doesn’t have the heart to do it (see what I did there? heh!) and tells Snow White to run as far away as she can.

This is when the similarities between the two nearly come to a halt. Because as far I know, little woodland creatures don’t usually take to one particular human, befriend that human, and lead that human to a safe-house. No, the Grimm’s version is much more realistic. So we’re gonna do a bit of a compare and contrast at this part because there are very slight but important details that I want to point out.

In the movie, she obviously is led to the dwarves house by friendly animals – isn’t that how everyone finds their home? Who uses Zillow? She then enters the house with a whole bunch of chairs and beds in it, and notices how messy it is. So she tidy’s up their home, and by the end of her cleaning she’s just pooped! Too exhausted to worry if maybe seven tiny, crazy axe-murderers live there, she plops down on three little beds and sleeps. When the dwarves come home from working in the mine, they’re taken aback, but then agree she can live there provided she clean the house, sew, knit, and cook (that last provision is also in the Grimm’s version).

Now the Grimm’s version. First, I’d just like to say that this particular story was published around 1812. This is a time when slavery still exists, when the age of consent for marriage is 10-13 years old, and when the freaken United States is only a 36 year old. THIRTY-SIX! And yet, in the Grimm’s version, Snow has more common sense and resolve than the much newer Disney version. When Snow White runs away from the huntsmen, she finds a tiny house far away from nothing and no one is home. Snow white is hungry, and tired, and sees an opportunity to steal their food, wine, and sleep in their beds before anyone comes home. A regular squatter. She completely messes up their entire home and everything is out of place. When the dwarves come back they’re pissed. But Snow White tells them all about the evil Queen and the huntsmen and they take pity on her, again as long as she can take care of the house (although, I get the feeling that in this version they’re also kind of just mad she messed up their house in the first place, and just want her to clean it up).

So here’s what I learned from that: the 1939 version (postbellum, the age of consent is 16 – as it is today, and the U.S. is 239 years old – women can vote, also) is more sexist than the original that is more than 200 years old! Snow White is the perfect woman in the 1939 version, walking in to a home and seeing a mess and thinking “by golly! I have to clean this up before anyone sees! I know I’m running for my life, but please, let me do the dishes first.” In Grimm’s version Snow is more about being unclean, a slob, and pretty much a hobo stealing their stuff. Not very ladylike, but I like it a damn sight more than the Disney version!

Anyway, the Queen learns she’s alive and in the movie she stops by as an old hag and has Snow White eat part of a poisoned apple that will put her to sleep unless “true love’s kiss” wakens her. The dwarves find out via woodland creatures that the Queen killed her and they chase after the Queen, trapping her, and she eventually falls to her death. The dwarves don’t want to bury her in the ground so instead they put her in a glass coffin above ground (because apparently they didn’t think about decomposition). After a while a prince shows up and falls in love with her, kisses her out of sadness that she’s dead, and she wakes and they live happily ever after.

In the story, it’s a bit different, though still weird that a prince loves a dead person he never met when she was alive, I’ll admit. When the Queen learns of Snow White whole still-alive-thing she comes by the dwarves house and first gives her a bodice that she laces up so tightly that Snow White can’t breathe and faints. The dwarves come home and find her just in time to unlace the bodice. The Queen then comes back with a brush, brushes Snow’s hair and Snow faints again, but the dwarves save the day (again). Lastly, the Queen shows up with a poisoned apple which Snow eats (stupid girl, you’d think she’d have learned her lesson) and chokes on a piece of apple. The Queen goes home and the mirror finally tells her she’s the fairest in the land.

The dwarves can’t figure out what happened to her, so they put her in a glass coffin. Again, after some time, a prince walks by and is enchanted by the dead girl. He convinces the dwarves to let him take the coffin and the girl with him. As his servants take the coffin, they trip over a branch and the apple is dislodged from her throat. The Prince proposes to her and she accepts.

They invite everyone to their wedding, including the Queen. The Queen wasn’t going to go until looking into her mirror, the voice back said that the new Princess is the fairest in the land. So the Queen goes to see this new woman, but Snow know’s it was the Queen all along and punishes her. She is forced to put on straight out of the fire hot iron shoes and dance in the burning shoes until she dies. The end.

So basically, what I’ve learned from all of this is that the men who wrote this back in 1812, were more in favor of women being actual humans with feelings better things to do than clean, than the men in 1939 who orchestrated the movie. I’ve also learned that I wouldn’t want to live in either time, because apparently they’re both filled with evil witches who want to rip peoples hearts out.

That’s all for now. If you want to say hi, or have a fairy tale you want me to talk about let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com. Until next time!

Rachel

Fairy Tale Fails – Beauty and the Beast

Well, well well… Looks who’s alive after the move! Me!! We’re loving our new place – but we don’t care for all the boxes we have to throw out. Still, I’m just so glad it’s out of the way and is one less thing to worry about. Now, on to books!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved fairy tales. I can recite every Disney Princess song forwards and backwards and in pig Latin. I love everything about the fantasy world, and ever since I got the Grimm’s Fairytales out of my grandparents bookshelf, I’ve been hooked for life.

But something happened when I read Grimm’s for the first time… I was horrified. The hard truth of the matter is that the fairy tales that have been recited to us thousands of times gloss over some of the most terrifying parts of the famous stories, and a lot of them are written by different authors! It’s like these authors just collectively said, “yeah, the 1700s are a really crappy time. Let’s just make everyone a jerk.”

I’ve always been one for Beauty and the Beast. As someone with brown hair, hazel eyes and a love of books, I’m pretty sure the story was written entirely for me. Sadly, that’s not the case, as it was published in 1756. In the original Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont version (I know, quite the name, right?!) Belle is actually the youngest of three sisters, the elder two are women who love jewels and material items, and who are really just nasty at heart. Their father was once a very wealthy merchant, but has lost all of his money so the four of them are forced to work on a small farm in France for a living.

The promise of wealth comes to him one day and he asks his daughters what they’d like as a present when he comes home. The two daughters ask for clothing and jewelry, while Belle only asks for a rose. The father leaves and gets no wealth or presents, but on his way home he gets lost in the woods and a creature that calls himself “Beast” invites him in to eat and spend the night.

In the morning, the father notices a rose garden and plucks a beautiful rose for Belle. The Beast notices his theft and tells him that he must die for stealing the rose (a little dramatic, Beast). The father comes up with a bargain – he can leave and give Belle the rose, as long as he promises to come back and he promises not to say a thing about the bargain to Belle. Belle, being awesome, gets the news out of her father when he returns home with the rose and decides to take his place instead, heading to the castle. This is really the only correlation between the two stories, and it’s really the best part. So much self-sacrifice! You go, Belle!

When Belle gets to the Beast’s castle he tells her that she is now the mistress of the castle and he is her servant. He begs her to marry him multiple times but she refuses every time. Every night that he proposes, though, she dreams of a really beautiful prince and believes that the Beast has this prince locked up somewhere in the castle, but never finds him. Eventually the Beast lets her leave to visit her family with the condition that she return in a week. She leaves with a ring and a mirror – the mirror allows her to see what is going on at the castle, and the ring allows her to return there instantly.

When she goes home she has every intention of leaving in a week, but her sisters are jealous of her lavish life at the castle and  put on a big show and make her believe that they really miss her and want her to stay – even rubbing onions in their eyes to make it look like they’re crying – while they really hope that the Beast will be angry and kill and eat her. Nice sisters! Belle decides to stay, but feels really guilty about leaving him so she looks in the mirror to see what he’s up to and sees that he’s dying from heartbreak in the rose garden. She uses the ring to go to him immediately and when she cries on him, telling him she loves him, her tears bring him back to life… as the prince in her dreams.

Now, in my opinion this is one of the most tame fairy tales. There’s no mutilation and not everyone dies. But, as this is the first of my new installment of Fairy Tale Fails, I wanted to start with the story that I feel bound to the most. Even without the magic rose, the kooky inventor father, and Gaston (noooo one fights like Gaston! Douses lights like Gaston! In a wrestling match no one bites like Gaston!) I still love this story. It has the same “magic” that Disney stories do and it even ended with a “happily ever after!” I really recommend reading this and seeing for yourself what a difference the two stories have. And can I just say, those sisters are complete assholes.

Until next time! If you have any fairy tales you want me to look up, read and compare to the family-friendly versions we all know, let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Rachel