Most people have watched the classic Disney movies Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Cinderella. The films often inspire a feeling of nostalgia and happiness in the viewer, reminding them of their childhood when they likely watched the film. These Disney depictions of fairy tales are near and dear to my heart, as they are for many others, but most people do not know how far the Disney versions stray from the harsh and gruesome realities in the classic stories by the Brothers Grimm.
The first Disney film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, based loosely off “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm. In the Grimms’ version of the tale, the evil queen and Snow White’s stepmother makes two unsuccessful attempts to kill Snow White before she gives Snow White the poisoned apple. The first attempt is with staylaces, or the laces used to tighten a corset. The stepmother pretends to be selling them and then laces Snow White up so tight in her corset she collapses. However, the dwarves save Snow White by cutting the laces when they return home. Next, the evil queen makes a poisoned comb that Snow White takes and uses from a once-again disguised queen and collapses. Again, the dwarves return home and bring Snow White back to life by removing the comb from her hair. Finally, the queen feeds Snow White a poisoned apple. This seems to stick because there is no way for the dwarves to remove the apple once Snow White has eaten it. In Disney’s version of events, there is only one attempt with the poisoned apple. Despite this, both versions have a young and handsome prince come along to find Snow White preserved in all her beauty. While the prince brings Snow White back to life with true love’s kiss in the Disney film, the prince’s servants bring Snow White back to life in the Grimms’ story because they trip while they are carrying her coffin and dislodge the piece of poisoned apple stuck in her throat. Finally, a large difference between the two is how the evil queen comes to an end, though both accounts are somewhat violent. The queen falls from a cliff during a storm in the Disney adaptation, although the evil queen in the Grimms’ tale is forced to dance around in hot iron shoes until she falls down dead.
Another classic Disney film is Cinderella—most anyone will be able to tell you about the magnificent blue dress and glass slippers that Cinderella wears in this film. While it may be logical to think that this film was based off of the Grimms’ “Cinderella,” this film was actually based more closely on Charles Perrault’s “Cendrillon.” Though the evil stepsisters hardly get their own happily ever after in any version of the tale, the punishment for their crimes is particularly horrid in the Grimms’ story. First, each of the stepsisters slice off parts of their feet to fit into the prince’s golden slipper, but the blood staining the stepsisters’ stockings gives away that their feet do not actually fit. Then, as punishment for their wrongdoings, the sisters get their eyes pecked out by doves when they attempt to attend Cinderella’s wedding to the prince. This violence is completely omitted from the Disney film—there are no blood-stained stockings or doves pecking out eyes.
The glaring variations between these versions of fairy tales may have had something to do with the differing time periods in which each was created. When the Brothers Grimm wrote their stories in the 1800s, conditions were much harsher than a century later when Disney began releasing his film adaptations. Walt Disney himself, when asked about the differences from the Grimms’ fairy tale of Snow White, said, “It’s just that people now don’t want fairy stories the way they were written. They were too rough. In the end, they’ll probably remember the story the way we film it anyway.” He was correct, too; as time continues on, the fairy tales that people remember are not the classic Grimms’ tales, but the idealized stories from Disney movies.
Edited by Morgan Mitchell