Fairy Tale – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

This story was first collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and was translated into English in the 1820s. Its present status as one of the best loved of the stories collected by the Grimm brothers seems to derive from the fact that in 1937, Walt Disney turned it into an animated film. In the film the seven dwarfs have been given names, and personalities to match those names: Happy, Sleepy, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, and Dopey. The film remains hugely popular even today.

Once upon a time, when the snow lay thick and white on the ground, a Queen sat by her palace window, sewing her husband’s shirts. As she sewed she pricked her finger, and a drop of blood fell on to the snow gathered on the windowsill. The Queen looked at the red drops on the white snow, and at the ebony black frame of her window and liking the way the colours looked together, thought to herself, ‘I wish I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, as black as ebony.’ Soon a little daughter was born to her, with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony. She called her daughter Snow White. A few days after Snow White’s birth the Queen died.

A year later the King, Snow White’s father, married again. The new Queen was very beautiful, but so vain and haughty that she could not bear anyone to be more beautiful than her.

Now, the Queen had a magic mirror, that could talk, and would answer truthfully any question that it was asked. The vain Queen would look into the mirror and ask,”Mirror, mirror on the wall,who is the fairest of them all?”

And the mirror would reply, “You are the fairest, lady Queen.”

Then she would be happy, for she knew the mirror always spoke the truth.

Meanwhile Snow White was growing up, and the older she grew the prettier she became, so that by the time she was seven years old, she was far more beautiful than the Queen.

One day the Queen, as always, asked her magic mirror,”Mirror, mirror on the wall,who is the fairest of them all?”

This time the mirror gave a different answer. It said, “You were the fairest, lady Queen. Snow White is fairest now, I ween.

The Queen began hating Snow White. As Snow White grew prettier with every passing day, the Queen’s jealousy and anger grew. At last unable to bear Snow White’s beauty any longer, she called her Huntsman and said to him, ‘Take the child into the forest, and kill her, and bring back her heart and her tongue as proof that she is dead.’

The Huntsman did as the Queen asked – he took the little girl into the forest and prepared to kill her. ‘Please don’t kill me,’ cried Snow White, looking in terror at his big sharp knife. ‘I will run away into the forest and never come back again.’ The Huntsman relented, and let her go. The child ran off through the trees deep into the forest. ‘The wild beasts will kill you, you poor child,’ thought the Huntsman to himself. But somehow he was glad he had not killed the little princess. Just then a wild boar came blundering through the bushes. The Huntsman killed the animal, and cutting out his heart and tongue took it to the Queen, as proof that Snow White was dead. The Queen rejoiced and was happy that she was once again the fairest of them all.

Meanwhile Snow White ran through the forest, deeper and deeper, till she could run no more. It was getting dark, and Snow White was frightened, when she saw a little cottage in a clearing. She knocked, but no one answered. Tired and afraid of staying out in the forest, she pushed open the door and went in.

Inside, the cottage was neat and tidy and shining clean, except that everything in it was very tiny, as though made for children. The pots and pans on the kitchen shelves had been scrubbed and polished till she shone. A table with seven little chairs around it was laid for dinner, with seven little bowls and seven little plates, and knives and spoons and forks. Against the wall were seven little beds in a row, each covered with snow-white sheets. Snow White, hungry and thirsty, ate a spoonful of porridge from each bowl, nibbled a morsel of bread from each plate, drank a sip of wine from each glass, because she did not want to eat up all the food from one place. Then she lay down on one of the beds for a nap – but it was too hard. She tried another – that was too soft, the third too short, the fourth too long, but the seventh was just right. Snow White curled up in the seventh bed and fell fast asleep.

Now the cottage belonged to the Seven Dwarfs, who would dig for ore all day in the mountains, and come back to their cottage at night. As it became dark, the dwarfs returned. They lit seven little lamps and looked around. They saw at once that everything was not as they had left it. ‘Someone has been here,’ they cried. ‘Someone has nibbled at my bread,’ cried one. ‘Someone has tasted my porridge,’ cried another. ‘Someone has sipped my wine,’ cried a third. ‘Someone has used my fork,’ grumbled a fourth. ‘Someone has used my spoon,’ cried a fifth. ‘Someone has slept in my bed,’ cried a sixth. And ‘Someone IS sleeping in my bed,’ cried the seventh. The seven dwarfs crowded round the bed and stared at Snow White. She looked so beautiful that the dwarfs decided not to wake her. They moved away on tiptoe and let her sleep.

When morning came, Snow White awoke, and seeing the Seven Dwarfs, jumped out of bed in a fright. But the dwarfs smiled at her and were very kind. So she told them her sad story – how she was the princess Snow White, how her stepmother had tried to kill her, and how the Huntsman had let her go, to run into the forest and to never go back home again. The dwarfs felt sorry for the pretty little princess. ‘Will you look after our house, wash, clean, sew and cook for us? If you do we shall keep you safe here with us and look after you.’

Snow White agreed, and so she began living with the Seven Dwarfs in their cottage in the forest. Every morning the dwarfs would leave for their work in the mountains, bidding Snow White good-bye and telling her to be careful. She would wash and clean and tidy the cottage all day, and have their dinner ready hot and steaming for them when they returned in the evening. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were happy and content.

One day Snow White’s stepmother the Queen pulled out her magic mirror and asked again, “Mirror, mirror on the wall,who is the fairest of them all?”

The mirror replied:

You were the fairest, lady Queen
Snow White is fairest now, I ween.
In a cottage with the Seven Dwarfs
She lives amid the forest green.

When the Queen heard this she realised that the Huntsman had deceived her, for she knew that the mirror always spoke the truth. She decided she would have to kill Snow White herself – for this vain and jealous Queen could not bear the thought of someone being more beautiful than her.

So the Queen painted her face, and disguised herself as a poor old pedlar selling ribbons and stays. She walked to the forest, and to the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs where Snow White was busy with her daily chores. The Queen knocked at the door of the cottage and called, ‘Stays for sale, ribbons for sale!’ Snow White peeped out of the window and not recognizing her stepmother, thought, ‘I might let this harmless old woman in.’ The stepmother, seeing Snow White, held up a pair of colourful stays and called, ‘Come dear, let me lace these up for you.’ Snow White opened the door and let her in. The stepmother, pretending to do the stays, laced them so tightly that Snow White fell to the floor as though dead. Chuckling gleefully, the Queen hurried back to the palace, sure that she was now the fairest of them all.

That evening when the dwarfs came home, they found Snow White lying as though dead on the floor. They raised her up, and saw that her stays were too tight. They quickly cut the stays and soon Snow White opened her eyes and sat up. She told the dwarfs all that had happened. ‘That old woman was none other than your stepmother the Queen,’ they cried. ‘Don’t let her in again.’

Meanwhile the Queen reached the palace, and running up to her room pulled out her magic mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

The mirror replied as before:

You were the fairest, lady Queen
Snow White is fairest now, I ween.
In a cottage with the Seven Dwarfs
She lives amid the forest green.

The Queen was furious, and determined to go back to the cottage again to kill Snow White. This time she disguised herself as an old pedlar woman selling combs. She used some magic spells she knew, and poisoned one of the combs. Then she found her way as before to the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs and knocked at the door. Snow White peeped out and said, ‘I can’t let you in.’ But the pedlar woman persisted and called to her to at least see the pretty combs she had. She held up the poisoned one, which was the prettiest. ‘Come let me comb your hair for you,’ she called. Snow White, thinking there could be no harm in a comb, agreed and let her in. As soon as the comb touched her hair, she fell upon the floor as though dead. Once again, chuckling with glee, the Queen left her lying there and ran back to her palace, sure that this time she had indeed killed Snow White.

As before, when the dwarfs came back, they saw Snow White lying as though dead upon the floor. They saw the comb stuck in her hair and pulled it out. At once Snow White opened her eyes and sat up. ‘That old woman was your stepmother,’ cried the dwarfs. ‘Next time don’t let her in.’

Meanwhile the Queen reached the palace, and running up to her room pulled out her magic mirror as before and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

The mirror replied as before:

You were the fairest, lady Queen
Snow White is fairest now, I ween.
In a cottage with the Seven Dwarfs
She lives amid the forest green.

The Queen stamped her foot in anger. Then she thought and she thought and at last came up with a plan she thought was bound to succeed. She took a rosy apple and poisoned it, all except the core. Then, the next morning, disguising herself once more as an old pedlar selling apples, she found her way to the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs and knocked upon the door. ‘No, I cannot let you in,’ said Snow White. ‘I have some lovely apples,’ cried the pedlar. ‘See, I’ll give you one. You eat the rosy cheeks, and I’ll eat the core.’ And the stepmother took out the poisoned apple, polished it and cutting it up, ate the core, which was not poisoned. Snow White, seeing that she came to no harm, and tempted by the apple, took a bite of the proffered piece – and at once fell to the floor as though dead. This time the Queen was sure her plan had worked.

That evening when the dwarfs came home, they found Snow White lying on the floor as though dead. This time they could not revive her, no matter what they did.

And that evening, when the Queen pulled out her mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”, the mirror answered, ” You are the fairest, lady Queen.”

The dwarfs, meanwhile, wept and wept over Snow White. She looked so pretty even in death that they did not have the heart to bury her. So they built a casket of glass, and placed her in it, and set the casket upon a ledge of rock in the forest. One of the dwarfs always remained by the casket, watching.

One day a prince came riding by, and seeing the beautiful maiden lying as though asleep in the casket, he fell in love with her.

‘Give me the casket,’ he said to the dwarfs. ‘I cannot live without Snow White, and will take good care of her as long as I live.’

The dwarfs, seeing that the prince was really in love, agreed. The Prince ordered the casket to be carried away by his attendants. Now the men carrying the casket stumbled, and jolted the casket. The piece of poisoned apple in Snow White’s mouth fell out, and Snow White sighed, opened her eyes and sat up. The prince and the dwarfs were overjoyed, and soon it was agreed that the prince would marry Snow White.

A great wedding was arranged in which everyone from far and wide was invited. Snow White’s stepmother was also invited. Just before she left for the wedding, dressed in her finest clothes, she stepped before the mirror and asked:

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

The mirror answered:

You were the fairest, lady Queen
The Prince’s bride is more fair, I ween.

At this the Queen was furious, and left at once for the wedding to see for herself the bride who was so fair. Imagine her shock when she saw that the bride was Snow White!

Just then a pair of red hot iron shoes was brought and set down before her, and these she was forced to put on and to dance until she fell down dead.

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