Monday, January 18, 2016

Snow White: Disney vs. the Grimm brothers

By Walter Zweigle (1859-1904)

I hope you all did your homework and read and/or watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This Disney classic is based on Little Snow-White, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. And, while Disney did cover the basics of the story, there were a few differences to their animated tale.

Here are some of the differences I noticed between the movie and the story:

-In the story, we learn about Snow White’s mother, her death, and the subsequent remarriage of her father. I understand why Disney chose to leave this out. While it was nice to know when reading, it really didn’t move the story along in the animated version and could easily be left out.

-In the animated movie, the queen asks the huntsman to bring back Snow White’s heart, but in the story, she wants her lungs and liver. AND she cooks them and eats them. I’m actually grateful that Disney left that little scene out!

-When Snow White stumbles upon the Seven Dwarfs house, it’s clean with everything in its place. In the movie, however, those Dwarfs are a messy crew.

-In addition, when introduced to the dwarfs home, the story takes on the feel of Goldilocks (at least it did for me) with Snow White eating from each of the plates and trying out all of the beds. Even the dwarfs reactions to finding her are reminiscent of Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear.

-The Disney folks added in a turtle (I believe he was for comedic purposes) that isn’t mentioned in the tale. While as an adult I am tempted to fast forward through the scene of the turtle on the stairs, I’m sure as a kid I was urging him to get to the top!

By William Creswell (c. 1919)

-In the animated film, the queen comes bearing a shiny, poisoned apple. In the story, the queen attempts to get rid of her competition with poisoned lace and a poisoned comb before finally succeeding with the apple. Disney may have cut these extra attempts to keep the film shorter. In both cases, the dwarfs warned her about letting in strangers, yet Snow White didn’t listen. (More on this in the “Are they a good couple” post in a few weeks.)

-In the story, the prince seeks shelter with the dwarfs and then barters for Snow White’s coffin. When his men drop the coffin, it dislodges the apple and Snow White awakens. In the movie, he passes the bier while the dwarfs are mourning their loss and kisses her awake. In both version, they fall instantly in love. (I’ll talk more on this in the “Are they a good couple” post in a few weeks.)

-And now we are at the end of the tale, with yet another difference. In the Grimm story, the evil queen is invited to the wedding, and is afraid to attend. She really should have stayed home, as when she arrives, she is placed in hot, iron shoes and forced to dance to her death.(This reminded me of The Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Andersen.) In the Disney movie, she falls to her death while running from the dwarfs. Either way, she dies at the end of the tale, but I’d rather see the cliff scene than the hot, iron shoes!

All in all, I felt that Disney kept with the theme of the story written by the Grimm brothers, with some minor changes to make it appropriate for all age level and the fit with the time period it was released in.

For a more detailed comparison between the story and the movie, Mari Ness has a wonderful overview of both the written story and the movie, and how the movie is a reflection of the time it was written in. Hop on over to her site and check out her posts here and here! Trust me, you don't want to miss them!

Now it’s your turn. What differences did you notice? Would you have made the changes Disney did? Why (or why not)? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. I didn't know about the "homework", but, as a child, I read the fairytale and saw the movie. Both were gripping for me at the time, but the scene in the movie when Snow White was running through the forest and all the trees seemed malevolent scared me spit-less. For weeks I was afraid of tree shadows outside my window.

    1. That is quite a scary scene! Interesting, it's quite a realistic adaptation of the description from the story.

      Thanks for stopping by and joining in the discussion!

  2. Interesting comparison of the two versions. I've been reading a lot of the old version of fairy tales, and I've noticed a lot of overlap with images, themes, and symbols throughout. A lot of these tales came from an oral tradition and were only written down later (by the likes of the Grimm brothers). Some of the different fairy tales might even be different versions of the same original tale. Fun series, Mary! I look forward to more.

    1. Thanks, Katie, and what a great point! I didn't think about the oral tradition having an impact on the tale that was written down. Maybe that's why I picked out some similarities between Snow White and the other tales.


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