Snow White’s Story Was Much More Sinister Than Disney Let On
Is anyone more innocent than Snow White? With her girlish voice that brings all the fuzzy animals to the yard and her graceful, naive coos in the face of scary-looking trees, she’s the epitome of wholesome. The Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was an instant classic, too, but the beloved cartoon wasn’t telling kids the whole story.
Disney took the well-known fairy tale from the famous Brother’s Grimm collection of stories. When it came to writing the script, they left out a bulk of the scarier details that were totally unfit for children. Take a look through the more gruesome details of the ages-old original to see how far the Evil Queen was really willing to go.
The year was 1937, and a mustachioed man named Walt Disney debuted a film that was undeniably groundbreaking. Parents and children paid their 25 cents and filed into the movie theaters to experience the very first full length animated musical feature — Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The fairy tale gave life to a booming franchise — theme park rides, cartoons, spinoffs, TV shows, Broadway Musicals — and remains a go-to movie for any parent to pop on for a rainy day indoors. But our beloved version is based on a story that’s not so wholesome.
In the film version, a young innocent beauty spends her days washing pans and sweeping filthy floors. Even stuck as a scullery maid, Snow’s positive vibes can’t be squashed. She trills back and forth with her songbird pals happy as ever, to her evil Queen stepmother’s chagrin.
Disney’s version of the tale outlines the epic throwdown of good versus evil, pitting pure defenseless Snow White against the conniving, wart-faced wickedness of the Queen. Though there are moments of terror, it was a kid’s film, so Walt kept the details fairly PG.
In fact, many of the darker details from the original story had to be pruned away. At the story’s core, free of sugarcoating, the original source of Snow White was much grittier. You might say too scary for the kids.
The real credit goes to the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm for compiling the collections of what the westernized world considers the big fairy tales. Not authors in the fictional sense, Jacob and Wilhelm were respected historians and academics who rooted through European folklore to identify amusing stories.
After years of curating folktales, the brothers released their masterpiece, Children’s and Household Tales, in 1812. In total, the first edition included 86 stories, which marked the first written publication of a few little known fables: Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumpelstiltskin.
“Children” was part of the title, but the book was totally barbaric as far as kids literature goes. Jacob and Wilhelm made sure to pack each story to the brim with gory details. Most of these original versions contain twists and turns that would make even adult readers wince.
Mainstream audiences missed out on the part of Cinderella where the stepsisters resort to mutilation to make their feet slip into the infamous glass slipper. What’s so offensive about shaving off a couple of toes and a heel or two? For Snow White, the differences were even more pronounced.
The original Grimm story aged her at just 7 years, as opposed to the 14-year-old cartoon Snow. Either way, she was too young to entertain marriage, and it only gets bleaker…
Similar to the movie, the fairy tale begins with the jealous Evil Queen ordering a Huntsman to lure Snow White into the woods to eliminate her, since she posed a threat to her beauty title. Filmmakers nixed her graphic instructions: “Kill her, and as proof that she is dead, bring her lungs and liver back to me.”
Not keen on the idea of slaughtering an innocent, the Huntsman doesn’t follow through. Instead, he takes down a boar, retrieving the organs on the Queen’s grocery list and presents them to her as if they belonged to Snow White.
Acting as if Thanksgiving came early, the Queen doesn’t hesitate to prepare the boar parts, which she believes to be human, “The cook had to boil them with salt, and the wicked woman ate them, supposing that she has eaten Snow White’s lung and liver.”
Another major diversion from the Grimm version were the two other schemes the Queen concocted to fool Snow. Her first crack at taking Snow down involved fitting her into a corset. She pulled the strings so tight that the child fell unconscious. Then the dwarfs showed up.
Thank goodness, the dwarfs made the cut. Literally, they cut the girl out of the corset, saving her life. In the original version, the dwarfs spent less time singing because they had their hands full thwarting all of the Queen’s murderous plans.