Editor Note: In all the films Walt Disney produced during his lifetime, it was generally rare for one to be based on an original story. Walt drew extensively from outside sources, primarily existing fiction and traditional tales and stories. In many cases, the resulting "Disney version" has become the popular culture definitive, for better or for worse. We are launching a new series here at 2719 Hyperion entitled Consider the Source, where we explore these original stories, novels and traditional tales that ultimately evolved into tangible representations of Disney entertainment. First up, we deal with the Grimm realities of a certain classic fairy tale . . .
There exist numerous variations of the story that forms the basis of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Bella Venezia is an Italian version; Myrsina has roots in Greek folklore, while Nourie Hadig is Armenian in origin and Gold Tree and Silver Tree is a part of Celtic tradition. Walt Disney drew his inspiration from the most well known version of the tale, Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, as famously chronicled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century.
Walt remained quite faithful to much of the Grimm rendition. The fundamentals such as the Wicked Queen, the Magic Mirror and the poisoned apple remained in place while he expanded on other elements. He was much lauded for creating distinct names and personalities for each of the dwarfs, who were generic and unnamed in the original Grimm text. In their account, the Brothers Grimm chronicled two other failed attempts by the Queen to kill Snow White, first with a tightened corset and then subsequently with a poisoned hair comb. Walt had considered the comb sequence for the film but ultimately decided that the pace of the story was better served by just the single encounter involving the poisoned apple.
The Disney version also proved much more romantic. Added was the early scene where Snow White and the Prince first meet, a sequence entirely without basis in the Grimm story. Walt also added the penultimate awakening kiss which had actually originated in a 1914 silent film version of the story; the Grimms had revived her by simply having the piece of poisoned apple accidentally dislodged from her mouth.
The Grimm brothers being grim indeed, Walt excised two of their harsher and distinctly more graphic story elements. Wisely removed was the evil queen's intended act of cannibalism. Upon the huntsman's return from the forest, the Queen consumes what she thinks is the heart and tongue of her step-daughter. Due to the machinations of the huntsman, she had actually eaten the parts of a wild boar. Also, the ultimate fate of the Queen varied greatly from page to screen. In the film, she dramatically falls to her death after a lightning strike. In the Grimm version, upon attending the wedding of Snow White and her Prince at the very end of the story, she was fitted with a pair of red-hot iron shoes and forced to, ". . . dance in them till she fell down dead."