Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not-So-Obscure Fairy Tale: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Over the nine months since I started writing this blog, my favorite part has been writing the recurring segment on obscure fairy tales. I've really enjoyed giving you my take on some of the less-well-known fairy tales that I ran across while doing "research" for my forthcoming novel, INTO THE WILD. Today, in honor of the upcoming publication of INTO THE WILD (it comes out on June 21st -- that's this Thursday!!!), I'm going to give you my take on a not-so-obscure fairy tale. Okay, a super-famous fairy tale: Snow White.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (retold in lots and lots of places)

A queen longs for a child. One day, she pricks her finger, a drop of blood falls on the snow, and she says, "I wish I had a child with hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, and skin as white as snow."

Very poetic, but why not wish for a child who is healthy? Or smart? Or nice? Or lucky? Why specify hair color? My theory: she's sick of all those blonde princesses.

In time, a child is born with hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, and skin as white as snow...

Freaky looking baby. Doesn't that describe the Bride of Frankenstein?

... and the queen dies. The king remarries. His new wife has a magic mirror.

This whole story would have been totally different if his new wife had had a pet cat instead.

Every day, the new queen would look in the mirror and say, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

Out of curiosity, where did she put the mirror? Most mirrors are in bedrooms or bathrooms. Personally, I wouldn't want a talking mirror in either place. Think about the comments it could make.

And the mirror would answer, "You are."

OK, you caught me -- I'm not actually looking at a copy of the story as I write this. I'm sure the mirror rhymed his answer. But the gist of it is the same. This (and all other mistakes) should be blamed on my being too lazy to reach over to my bookshelf where there are, like, three thousand different books with various versions of this story.

One day, when the child (called Snow White) is seven years old, the queen looks in the mirror and says, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" and the mirror replies, "Oh, beautiful queen, you still look fine, but that child there is really divine."

Again, that's not exactly the traditional phrasing.

The queen summons a huntsman and orders him to take Snow White into the forest, kill her, and then bring back the child's heart so that the queen can eat it.

Poor innocent Snow White, yada yada. But let's talk about the queen here. What flair! If you're going to overreact, this is the way to do it. Not that I'm advocating murder and cannabalism. Let's be clear here: murder bad. Cannabalism bad. But there's just something deliciously wonderful about how extremely insane Her Majesty is. Really, I think she's one of the best fairy-tale villains out there.

The huntsman takes Snow White to the forest and tells her to run away. He kills a wild animal instead and brings its heart to the queen who eats it with ketchup.

I added the bit with the ketchup. She doesn't use ketchup in the traditional tales, of course. She actually uses A-1 Steaksauce.

Frightened, Snow White runs through the forest until she finds a small cottage. She enters, notices the size of the furniture, and falls asleep in one of seven small beds.

Snow White, as you will notice, is not exactly the brightest bulb on the porch. She is, however, rather lucky. Goldilocks also found a cottage in the woods, but hers had less forgiving inhabitants.

The owners of the cottage, seven dwarves, return from work to find Snow White in their house. They agree to allow her to stay if she will cook and clean for them. And so she does.

The arrangement may be a bit sexist, but at least it's practical. The dwarves get a clean house, and Snow gets to keep her vital organs.

The dwarves caution her not to talk with strangers while they are away at the mines. And they are correct to worry -- the magic mirror has revealed to the queen the huntsman's duplicity and Snow White's location. One afternoon, while the dwarves are gone, a peddler woman (who is actually the queen in disguise) comes to visit Snow White.

As you may have noticed, the queen has some serious issues.

The peddler woman offers Snow White a corset, which Snow White accepts. Snow White allows the woman to lace up her corset. The woman laces her up so tight that Snow White cannot breath. She falls to the floor as if dead. Satisfied, the queen leaves.

The queen here commits the classic James Bond villain mistake of leaving before she is certain her victim is dead. Or perhaps the queen is the original inspiration behind those classic James Bond villians... Hmm...

The dwarves return and are dismayed to find Snow White laying as if dead on the floor. They loosen the corset, and she begins to breathe again.

Theory one: it wasn't actually cinched so tight that she couldn't breathe, but instead it was a magic corset that merely needed to be removed to restore life. Theory two: Snow White is actually so dumb that she could survive hours of oxygen deprivation without any noticable side effects.

Next time the peddler woman returns, she offers Snow White a poison comb. When Snow White puts it in her hair, she falls down as if dead.

I hope the queen at least disguised herself as a different peddler woman.

The dwarves return and remove the comb. Snow White awakens. The third time the peddler woman returns, she offers an apple that is half red and half white. The red half is poisoned.


Snow White is not inclined to accept any more gifts from peddler women, so the queen takes a bite of the white half to prove that the apple is safe. Convinced, Snow White takes a bite of the red half and falls down dead.

Hey, at least she showed a modicum of sense with the whole taste-test thing.

The dwarves return and are unable to wake her. They place her in a glass coffin and stand guard over her day and night.

The glass coffin thing... ick. If they really think she's dead... serious ick. Also, if they're able to skip work in order to stand guard over her dead body, why couldn't one of them have skipped work to guard her while she was alive?

A prince, riding through the forest, finds the glass coffin and falls in love with the beautiful maiden inside.

There are, like, twelve things wrong with this. For one thing, if time didn't pass while she was with the dwarves, then she's SEVEN years old. For another, regardless of her age, she's DEAD. Ick.

He issues instructions for the coffin to be carried to his palace. As it's being carried, it's jarred, and a bit of apple flies out of the throat of Snow White. She wakes.

No one thought to try the Heimlich maneuver earlier?

The prince and princess are married, and Snow White invites her father and stepmother to the wedding. When the evil queen arrives, she is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance to death. And they all live happily ever after.

Except the queen, of course. And her husband probably isn't very happy to be a widower again (unless he's relieved to be free from his crazy wife). And the dwarves probably miss Snow White. And the prince and Snow White never really had any chance to get to know each other before the wedding, so who knows if they're really meant to be together. And the magic mirror is still out there, driving some other woman insane...

If you'd like to check out some of my posts about obscure fairy tales that are actually obscure, here are links to: Godfather Death,
The Tinderbox, The Princess in the Chest, The Juniper Tree, Molly Whuppie, Tatterhood, Jack My Hedgehog, or The Wishing Table.

2 days until the Wild is unleashed...

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At 8:28 AM, Blogger Faith said...

Didn't Snow White's father ever think, "Hey! Whatever happened to, oh, what's-her-name, um, Snow White! Yeah! My daughter!"

I'm just askin', is all.

Hey! Into the Wild is coming out on Thursday! Squee!

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am SOOOO excited for my copy to arrive on Thursday! I love reading your blog posts and can't wait to see you in August. Wheeee!

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Faith: LOL. Such a good point! And ditto on that "squee"!!!!

Val: I didn't know you read these. Yay! Can't wait to see you too!

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read this fairy tale called Dopey Dennis (http://www.scribd.com/doc/2881082/DOPEY-DENNIS ). After all the times Snow White was nearly killed by probably the same old peddlar woman, she makes Dennis look like Einstein.

P.S. check out my comments on "The Princess in the Chest".

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

snow white was definitely not so bright. she repeatedly found herself in precarious situations in which her life was in danger...and yet, she never listened to the dwarves who specifically said, "don't let nobody or nothin' in the house." if i had been taken at knifepoint to a secluded dark forest, im just saying, I would learn to be more aware of my surroundings, as well as the company i let into a house... that isn't even mine.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and i especially wouldn't eat food from them freaky-looking, wart ridden, cape-wearing peddlar women.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: Absolutely agree. If she were in a horror movie, she would have been the idiot girl who walked down into the basement with the scary monster.

At 10:04 PM, Blogger Jakob Dailes said...

The one question I have is: what's up with the apple? What, was Scow White just so dumb that she didn't chew and choked until she was unconscious? And the queen didn't check to make sure she was dead? At least that would support the stupidity-affecting-need-of-oxygen theory.

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Suris said...

Did the father ever ask where the queen got the magic mirror? and if so why did he never ask to use it to find his daughter is he maybe stupid or did the queen steal his brain.

If i was the witch queen i wouldve just waited till adolescence,just so the Snow white got pimples.

Also did the queen never consider maybe slightly disfiguring sow white instead of haveing her killed still really mean but everyone lives.

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

......What?! Are we saying she got married at seven?! ew...

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What with the father's stupidity and Snow White's, I'd say it has to be inherited. On the subject of the apple, however, why would Snow White ever take the apple when it's been bitten anyway? Does she want to consume this random peddler-woman's saliva? Who knows what illnesses this woman could carry! I'm going to say everyone in this fairy tale is weird, though. The queen, ignoring all of her obvious issues, could've killed Snow White in the castle and chalked it up to an accident. The father hasn't maintained contact with his daughter for just short of forever. The dwarves could've learned to do their own cooking and cleaning if they could afford to stand guard over Snow White's "corpse." The prince goes around peering into glass coffins and developing crushes on reportedly dead seven-year-olds, and, speaking of those seven-year-olds, I'm not even going to talk about Snow White. As I said, her stupidity is hereditary. The hunter is quite possibly the only sensible character. I suppose that's the charm of fairy tales, though.

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