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The Gruesome Side of Snow White that Disney Doesn’t Show You

Ah, Snow White! A wonderful tale of a young, beautiful woman escaping the clutches of an evil stepmother and getting the man of her dreams! She overcomes difficulties at home and escapes to create a new, better life. It represents everyone’s dreams of beating the odds and escaping problems at home.

If life doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger — or Snow White anyway. At least, that’s what Disney would have you believe.

The Disney tale itself is a bit odd and macabre in its own way by today’s standards. The actual tale by the Brothers Grimm is… well, quite Grimm. Are you ready to see the gruesome side of Snow White that Disney doesn’t want to show you?

We thought so, so keep watching!

Once Upon a Time in Mainz, Germany

Our story starts with the typical sister of a powerful Archbishop of Germany. Okay, maybe not typical. The year is 1725 and the setting is in the prince elector’s castle in Lohr am Main about 100 kilometers west of Bamberg, in the south of Germany. Our heroine is born.

Maria Sophia wasn’t exactly a princess but family members did describe her as the “angel of mercy and kindness” as well as being “Charitable toward the poor and the suffering in the hearts and minds of the people.” She might as well have been born to be a Disney princess.

Dr. Karlheinz Bartels is a fable researcher, someone who studies old fables from the past and their origins. Dr. Bartels says that while Sophia’s father, Philipp Christoph von Erthal, wasn’t a king, he was treated as such by the local people of Lohr.

Even though he wasn’t royalty, his position as an ambassador for the Archbishop of Mainz meant that Christoph von Erthal rubbed shoulders with royalty enough to have that special sparkle you expect in a Disney story.

In 1743, when Maria Sophia was 18, her mother died and her father, Philipp, was desperate to find a new wife to manage his children. He married Claudia Elisabeth Maria von Venningen, the countess of Reichenstain.

The “evil stepmother” was now in the house.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Most Evil of them All?

Shortly after their marriage, von Erthal gave his wife a magnificent gift — a “magic mirror” over 1.5 meters tall, covered in elaborate flourishes and embellishments.

According to Dr. Bartels, the mirror was made by von Erthal’s own company around 1720 and can be viewed in the Spessart Museum.

The museum even claims it’s the mirror that inspired the Brothers Grimm in their famous fairytale. Something of note — the mirror carries the inscription “amour propre” which is French for “pride” or “self-esteem”, similar to “vanity”.

In the fairytale, when the evil Queen gazed in asked, “Who is the fairest in the land?” the mirror would reply, “My Queen, you are the fairest in the land.”

But, when Snow White turned seven and became a great beauty, the mirror tells the Queen, “You are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.”

Let’s pause a moment to consider the Grimm brother’s tale involving a seven-year-old being a sought-after marriage prospect and love interest of the story.

The truth-bomb that exploded over the Queen resulted in a rage. She was determined to kill her beautiful step-daughter so she could, once again, lay claim to the title “the fairest of them all”.

To us, it sounds like she was suffering from a hallucination.

Will the Real Snow White Please Stand Up?

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote Snow White in 1812 but the story didn’t reach international audiences until Disney’s groundbreaking animated film debuted 125 years later.

In the Grimm tales, Snow White’s mother is the queen and the stepmother is the witch. In the earliest versions, the mother is the witch — let’s let that sink in a moment.

The Grimm tale has her as a real princess by birth. Her mother dies during childbirth and then remarries a year later, instead of 17 years later. In the Disney film, though, there’s no mention of her original mother at all.

There’s no surprise why, as you’ll come to find out.

The king is only mentioned once, and that’s when he marries the evil stepmother queen. But Snow White in Disney doesn’t mention him at all. Although many versions imply the evil queen as the king’s killer.

Disney’s evil queen performs magic and turns herself into an old crone, but there’s no implication that she’s an actual witch. In the Grimm tales, it was said she is an actual witch — explicitly and outright a witch.

In the animated film, the huntsman is ordered by the queen to take Snow White into the woods and then to kill her. Before he can accomplish his task, he decides that he can’t kill an innocent princess.

Instead, he lets her go, telling her to run into the woods and away from the witch. In the Grimm tale the huntsman isn’t so warm and fuzzy.

He has his blade against her chest, ready to plunge in and retrieve her heart (and organs). Looking into her beautiful eyes full of fear, he just can’t do it. To his credit, he allows the young girl (seven years old) to run away into wolf-infested woods, assuming she’ll be torn to shreds by an animal.

He then goes and slaughters a pig to bring the liver, lungs, heart, and other organs to the queen so she can feast on them. Yes, she wanted to feast on Snow White’s organs in an act of pagan cannibalism.

The Disney version speaks only of Snow White’s heart as proof of her death — which for a child’s story is more than enough to make a queen evil. Let’s remember, though, that in the first edition of the Grimm tales, the evil queen is Snow White’s natural mother, not her step-mother!

In the Grimm tale the huntsman prepares the organs of a boar to trick the queen. The mirror, though, sees through the rouse.

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The Many Attempts on Snow White’s Life

We don’t believe that Maria Sophia’s life was under quite the threat of Snow White’s, but we have no evidence for an evil queen trying to kill her to feast on her organs to remain young.

Either way, her life wouldn’t have been very easy. Maria Sophia, the woman we think Snow White was based on, may have traveled over the real seven hills to reach the seven dwarves in the tale. There’s even an abandoned mine and forest that at the time was filled with wild animals and robbers.

In the Grimm tales, the queen made several attempts on Snow White’s life. She realizes that the organs were fake and tries to suffocate Snow White with a bodice or corset. Next she tries a poisoned comb. Finally, there’s the famous poisoned apple.

Dr. Bartels claims that the area around Lohr has many orchards, and she may have been poisoned by the atropa belladona, or black cherry.

The dwarves may have actually been men of smaller stature that worked the mines.

Considering at this point Snow White is seven, in the Grimm tales, not only is she a slow learner and quite gullible but in an odd position.

Her step-mother surely could have actually killed her by this point with little effort and stayed out of sight. Also, it would be odd for a random seven-year-old girl to be living with seven random men. Even if those men are of similar height to the girl.

The Prince is a Creeper

In the movie, Snow White sings while doing her chores. The prince joins in and then moves on. Later, she’s put into her magical, undying, unchanging slumber.

In the Grimm tales, the prince comes along later and stays with the dwarves. The dwarves tell the prince of the attempts on the girl’s life and he decides to just bring her with him.

Why? Because she’s “too beautiful to keep living without looking upon her beauty”.

She wakes up in the animated film due to a true love’s kiss, but in the tale it’s because a piece of the apple dislodges from her mouth or throat.

In one version a servant of the prince becomes frustrated he has to carry around a heavy casket with a girl and slaps her, which causes the apple to leave her mouth. In another, she’s dropped and it falls out.

Suddenly, she wakes up and he proposes. She decides, at seven years old, that it’s a good idea and marries him. What a creep!

Dance Till You Drop

In the Disney version of the story, the queen dies due to a lightning strike which sends the evil queen down a sheer cliff.

In the Grimm tales, she instead attends a wedding of a prince. She is told by the mirror on the wall that the new bride is fairer than all others in the land. Not being one to come in second place, she goes and discovers that the bride is none other than Snow White.

The prince, recognizing her, orders that she be captured. He also orders to red-hot iron shoes be strapped to her feet and she dance until she dies. Ick.

All’s Well That Ends Well

The tale ends with Snow White and the Prince continuing to live their lives.

Maria Sophia, however, died in 1796, according to a gravestone in a church in Bamberg. The headstone was found once again in the 1970s and looked after by a local family before being donated to the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg.

The Brothers Grimm lived only 50 kilometers away and often made tales out of local stories. However, Maria Sophia’s life didn’t seem to have a happy ending.

There was no prince, no kiss, and no witch. She went blind at some point and lived in a convent until the age of 71.

The gravestone reads: “The noble heroine of Christianity: here she rests after the victory of faith, ready for transfigured resurrection.”

What do you think? Is the story of Snow White more tragic in reality or in the Grimm tales? If you enjoyed this episode of Facts Verse, make sure to hit the like button and the bell to subscribe!

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