Sunday, August 21, 2016

Snow White (Part 2)

Okay, it's time to continue talking about "Snow White."

But first, I have to say something that is off topic. Remember a few posts ago when I said I couldn't find a picture of the book I found at Walmart? Well, I found a picture of the cover yesterday.

That's the book that was at Walmart.

(Ironically, I actually had to look up the name of the guy who wrote the text of Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest, Peter Holeinone, to find an image of this book. I find that strange, because the text from the orange book is not the same as the text from GFTTC, despite having the same illustrations (which are not drawn by Peter Holeinone). I know for a FACT that the text in the following link was the text from GFTTC; That was NOT the text that was in the orange book. Did Peter Holeinone write two different versions, or is the information about the book false? I'll have to buy the book and see if my memory is failing me.)

Anyway, back to "Snow White."

When we last left her, she was sleeping in a bed in the house of the seven dwarfs. The dwarfs are waiting for her to wake up the next morning. She wakes up, and tells them why she has come to their house, and they agree to let her stay if she'll do the chores for them. They also warn her not to let anybody in while their away, as they might be the queen in disguise.

Of course, the queen finds out that Snow White is alive, because that mirror of hers rats her out. So the queen dresses up as an old woman and visits Snow while the dwarfs are away. She pretends to sell her some bodice laces, and ties them so tight that Snow passes out. She runs back home, but the dwarfs arrive in time to save Snow.

The mirror rats Snow out again, and this time the queen resorts to witchcraft to kill Snow. She disguises as a different old woman, and pretends to sell combs to her. She uses a (magically) poisoned comb to comb Snow's hair, causing her to die. But the dwarfs arrive again and remove the comb, ending the spell, causing Snow to revive.

But Snow is ratted out by the mirror again, and the queen pays her another visit. This time, she tricks Snow into eating a (magically) poisoned apple, and she dies. The queen rushes home,, and this time the mirror says she is the fairest in the land.

(Of course, the queen shouldn't have been too quick to talk to her mirror, because the dwarfs hadn't even come home yet at that time. The mirror DID say Snow was alive the other two times, but that was AFTER the dwarfs helped her. This time, the queen gets her answer before the dwarfs arrive home, so of course Snow is going to be dead at that point. You COULD argue that the queen asks the mirror more than once during those times, but the story implies that the queen is satisfied with the mirror's answer BEFORE the dwarfs have come home and tried to do anything, which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me. Am I the only person who noticed this?)

The dwarfs come home, and they can't break the spell because they can't remove the apple that Snow ate (I think the implication is that they don't even know about the apple). They remove her clothes and wash her, but nothing helps. They weep, and lay her in a coffin, where she lays for many days without her beauty fading.

An interesting part of the story here says, "she remained as red as blood, as white as snow, and her hair remained as black as ebony." This is interesting, because this is the only time that we're told what parts of her are which colors, and even then it's only the ebony black part. We're just used to the idea of her lips and skin being the red and white parts of her, but since the story doesn't tell us, we can't know for sure (though I can't think of how else it would make since). And in the first edition, her EYES are ebony black instead of her hair. I can't think of a reason the Grimms changed it (were they tired of the common blonde female heroine or something?), but it is an interesting change nonetheless.

A prince comes by and sees Snow in the coffin. He wants her because she is so beautiful (I read an informational book once that said that Snow was probably naked in the coffin, because the story never said that the dwarfs put her clothes back on after washing her. I'm not sure if that's what the Brothers Grimm wanted to imply, but if that's the case, than the prince is more of a creep than I originally thought). He asks for the coffin, and the dwarfs give it to him. As the walk, one of them trips and drops the coffin, and the jolt knocks the piece of apple out of her mouth, breaking the spell. The prince asks Snow to marry him, and she agrees to ( I sure hope she was at the dwarfs for quite a few years before the prince found her, because she was only seven at the beginning of the story).

(In the first edition, the prince has the dead Snow in his possession for quite some time, and one of his men gets frustrated with his obsession for her and slaps her on the back of the head, making the apple fly out. I guess the Grimms thought this part was weird or something.)

They invite the evil queen to the wedding, and of course the queen asks her mirror who is most beautiful again. The mirror says that the new bride is, and the queen goes there and finds that it's Snow. But this time, it's Snow who gets her revenge on the queen (or maybe the prince was mad at the queen or something). The queen is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies. Yeah. Weird.

"Snow White" is basically a story about jealousy. The queen and Snow White are the two central characters, with Snow being the innocent girl who can't help what she looks like, and the queen being the jealous mother/stepmother, who won't let anybody (not even her own daughter) stand in the way of her beauty.

The Disney version includes the same thing, but it's kind of pushed to one side once the dwarfs come along. The dwarfs in the Disney version are funny people who sing and dance in a style that's stuck with Disney films ever since. The queen also only uses the apple in this version, and the other two weapons are cut out, but this is forgivable, because it would have been repetitive. Also, the prince kisses Snow to break the spell, rather than the apple coming out of her mouth. And while removing the apple from her made more since from the story's logic (remove the comb to break the spell, remove the apple to break the spell), this was an exceptable change, as the film was for kids.

Oh yeah, and we also get Snow singing to animals while they help her clean. While not necessarily a bad change, this also got carried over to other female characters in Disney films, and became rather cliche. Oh well.

And, thanks to the Disney film, many people now know the story as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." While accurate for the Disney film, the Grimm story does better as just "Snow White," since the dwarfs are hardly in it.

Anyway, not a bad story. Still a pretty well known one, but it's one of my favorites.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Snow White (Part 1)

Okay. yeah. So for those of you who couldn't figure out what story was illustrated on the cover of "Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest" Book 5, that story was, in fact, "Snow White."

Now, like I said before, if I didn't remember that the story didn't look interesting to me before I saw the Disney movie, and someone told me about this fact, I wouldn't believe them for a second. This is because "Snow White" is one of my all time favorite fairy tales. (Strangely, before I saw the cover of Book 5 of GFTTC on Google Images, I somehow remembered the cover illustration having Snow White reading a book to the dwarfs while sitting in a chair, though the rest of the picture would have been the same. I don't know why I remember it that way, because that's definitely not the case. Maybe I'm getting it mixed up with some other book cover for a different story, who knows).

Anyway, I was at my grandmother's house for a few weeks for a reason I can't remember (possibly Bible School at her church, but there's a whole flood of possibilities, so I don't know for sure). She happened to have the Disney movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," on VHS, and she put it in for me to watch.

It didn't take long for me to start seeing similarities between the movie and the illustrations from GFTTC Book 5. Now, of course, the illustrations were not inspired by the Disney movie (I think GFTTC was actually originally published in Italy, and was translated to English for the Canadian edition), but things didn't have to look one hundred percent the same for me to figure out that they were basically the same thing. Because here's what I noticed:

A Queen looking in a mirror and frowning, just like in GFTTC.

A girl with dark hair, just like in GFTTC.

Dwarfs, just like in GFTTC.

The girl with dark hair lying on the ground next to an old woman, just like in GFTTC.

And finally, the girl laying in coffin, just like in GFTTC.

It wasn't long before I realized this must have been "the other story." I didn't know for sure though.

(Here's a funny story. I have like the most random dreams ever, and one of them still makes me laugh when I think of it. Before I actually came across the orange book at Walmart where I re-saw the Three Pigs illustrations, I had a dream where we obtained a new copy of GFTTC Book 5. I opened it up, hoping to see that I was right about the second story being Snow White, but I was wrong, because it was some Christmas story instead. But the funniest part was that, when I opened the book again, the pages were in the wrong order, and then I woke up. But no, after looking up the book online later, I discovered I had been right the whole time.)

Anyway, the book I found at Walmart didn't have Snow White in it (or at least I didn't see it in that book), so I have never seen those pictures again aside from the cover illustration, which makes me sad. I'm going to have to buy a book with those illustrations too (maybe I can save money by just buying a new GFTTC Book 5).

Okay, enough of my history with these stories. I apologize to any of my friends from school who happened to come across this blog on their own Google search, because you've heard this same story from me a zillion times.

Let's get on with actually talking about the story, "Snow White," as recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

Now, unlike the classic Disney version, the Brothers Grimm version goes more into the backstory of how Snow White was born. Basically, a queen is sewing and pricks her finger. The blood falls out the window on the snow outside. The queen looks at the red blood, the black ebony wood of the window frame, and the white snow, and basically says, "I want a kid like that."

Okay, I'm paraphrasing. But that's basically what this passage is saying. Snow White is literally born from a wish (or at least that's what I think the story implies). And this is where we come into one of those differences between the first and last editions of the Grimm's Collection.

In the first edition, there is only one queen in the entire story. In the second edition onwards, there are two separate queens. The first queen dies giving birth to Snow, and the king takes a new wife. Now, the reason this was changed is because the Grimms saw that their collection was somewhat popular with families, and, not wanting to frighten little children, they split the one queen into two separate queen characters. This is because the queen is evil, and the Grimms didn't think it was a good idea to portray a character's own mother as evil.

(Ironically, this has just enforced a well-known stereotype in fairy tales; evil stepmothers. I've actually heard kids that have had fairy tales read to them that they are afraid of stepmothers. I guess folk tales will never be perfect.)

Now, of course, we come to the well known point of the story, where the queen goes to her mirror, and asks it who the most beautiful person in the country is. Of course, the mirror always says the queen is the most beautiful. But then, one day, it says that Snow White is now the most beautiful.

Yeah, of course this queen is angry. So angry, that she wants to kill Snow. It makes me wonder if the queen ever had any other people put to death before this happened, because she wanted to be the most beautiful.

Now, I just have to point out here that Snow is only seven years old at the time of this story. So what we basically have here is a grown woman wanting to have an innocent little girl put to death just because she's more beautiful than she is. Now THAT'S evil!

But, nevertheless, she does attempt to have her killed. She gets the hunter of the kingdom to take Snow into the forest and cut her lungs and liver out of her, bringing them back with him. She also wants to eat Snow's organs. So I guess she needs to eat Snow in order to believe that she's dead (anyone who can explain that to me, please do).

Of course, if Snow died this early on, the story would have to end there. So of course it has to turn out that the hunter is a coward. He sees how beautiful she is and backs out of it, abandoning her in the forest to get eaten by wolves instead. He brings the queen hog organs to eat instead, claiming that he got them from Snow.

Of course, Snow manages to find shelter before any wolves can get to her. She finds a small cottage, and (in a point of the story that's so similar to "Three Bears" that it makes me wonder if the two stories have some kind of connection) enters it, eating from the plates, sitting in the chairs, and sleeping in one of the beds.

The owners of the house, seven dwarfs, come home to find that someone has broken in, and find Snow laying in one of the beds. Instead of waking her up and scaring her away (like the bears did), the dwarfs leave her there to wake up the next morning, and resort to the most ridiculous method ever so that they all still have beds to sleep in. The seventh dwarf has to share a bed with one of the dwarfs for each hour, changing which bed he sleeps in once the hour is up (did all the dwarfs want him to share their own bed or something, and couldn't agree on which dwarf should be the one?)

Okay, this is getting pretty long. I'll continue talking about this story in the next post.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Missing Piece of My Childhood

Okay, so I know it's been more than a month since my last post. This post was very hard to write, and you will see why.

So, a couple posts ago, I talked about "The Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest." I mentioned that, when I was a little kid, my family had books four and five of series one, but they were the individually sold versions of them. The cover of book five looked like this:

Now, although we had both of these books simultaneously, I only knew about the book four for quite a long time. I was one of those kids who would take the books off the shelves occasionally, and sometimes find some cool book I had never seen before.

Actually, come to think of it, my memory just triggered a little bit. I think I actually DO remember knowing about both books at the same time, I think I didn't look at book five because I wasn't interested in it at the time. I don't know anymore. The point is, I didn't look at this book for a long time and would only look at book four.

So, anyway, it do happened that it occurred to me one day that I had never looked at "the book that was like the Red Riding Hood book, only it was pink and had different stories in it."

So, I decided to take it off the shelf and look at it. I opened it up, and was greeted by a picture of three pigs. One was standing around eating carrots, and had yellow stripes on his shirt. One was sitting in a wheelbarrow, and had blue stripes on his shirt. And the third was pushing the wheelbarrow, and had red stripes on his shirt.

There were other pictures on that page. The pig with blue stripes was binding together some straw to put on his half-finished house. The pig with yellow stripes was nailing some boards on the roof of his house. The pig with red stripes was putting the finishing touches on a brick house.

"It's The Three Little Pigs," I thought to myself.

The pictures were pretty good. I enjoyed looking at them very much. In this version of the story, the Wolf didn't fall in a pot of water, but instead upon the flames of the fireplace, and there was a picture of it.

I had my dad read the book to me a couple times. There was a second story in it, and it was illustrated on the cover. But I never asked my parents to read it to me (I was still too young to read at the time), because it didn't look interesting (if I didn't remember being disinterested in it though, and had someone tell me that I was, I wouldn't believe them for a second, because it's one of my all time favorites now). I DID look at the illustrations though. There were dwarfs, and a girl with dark hair, and a queen looking into a mirror and frowning, and an illustration I distinctly remember, with the girl with dark hair lying on the ground next to a doorway with and old woman standing next to her, and an illustration of her in a coffin outside.

Everybody knows what story I'm talking about already. But, I did not know the title at the time. It was only after this book got thrown in the trash and was gone forever that I finally realized what story it was, since I saw the Disney movie a few months later (and even then, it was only my guess what the story was, because I was using logic. I hadn't figured out yet how to look up these kinds of things online. I must have been a very logical thinker though, because I was completely right, and I was so young!)

Now, you might think that the fact it was thrown in the trash indicates that I looked at it so much that it fell apart. But, alas, that was not the case. It's time for the story of one of my worst phobias.

When I was younger, I didn't pay much attention to detail in pictures. I liked pictures, of course, but, I didn't pay much attention to detail.

That changed only a few weeks after my "discovery" of this particular book. I was sitting on the floor (it's a big book), and for some reason, it was then that I decided to look at the details. Then, it happened...

I got to the page where the Wolf fell into the fire, and I noticed something; standing next to the fireplace was one of the pigs. He had a spade in his arms that was raised over his head. Now, since I didn't know why he would be doing something like that, I found it very weird. So weird, in fact, that I was scared of it. I instantly told my parents that the picture frightened me. They understood (though they didn't know the exact reason), and they put the book on the shelf, and told me a wouldn't have to see it.

Unfortunately, when you have brothers, things don't always go as planned. One of my brothers liked to look at books, and he would often take the book down and look at it. I was so terrified that I didn't dare to enter the family when he was looking at it. And this got even worse, because he had the habit of leaving books sitting open on the couch when he was done looking at them, and it sometimes ended up that the book would end up open to the page with the frightening illustration when he left it there, I was scared out of my mind.

Eventually, Dad got down every single book version we had of "Three Little Pigs" and opened them to the pictures of the Wolf falling into the pot of water in those versions. "Do these ones scare you?" he asked me. I answered no, ad they asked me why I was scared of a particular illustration. What was different about it that it scared me so much?

I realized that they didn't know exactly why it scared me. They were thinking about the illustration in terms of how the majority of small children would be frightened by it (i.e.: the Wolf burning up). I wanted to explain to them the real reason, but I didn't have a wide enough vocabulary back then, so I couldn't.

So, my parents threw the book in the garbage. For the next for days, until the trash from that can was taken to the outside trash can, I never threw anything away when my parents asked me to, when normally I would have been glad to. I was so afraid of the book that was inside.

I've realized since then that have a really bad phobia. A phobia of bizarre images. And, unfortunately, It's not something I can avoid. A particular one that I've seen again and again accidentally is the original Denslow illustration of the Wicked Witch melting from the "Wizard of Oz." It pops up again and again online, and I have never gotten less afraid of it.

Ironically, the illustration that started it all doesn't actually scare me anymore. I was at Walmart about five years later, and they had some hardcover books there. One of them was this particular book:

Okay, no. It wasn't actually that book. I just got tired of looking for an image of it on Google Images (I can't remember the title of the book. I remember it was orange, and it had the picture of the pigs with the wheel barrow on the cover). That IS an illustration from the book though. The last illustration from the story to be exact. I have a good memory.

Anyway, my mom took the book and started looking at it. I recognized the pictures immediately. "Oh no," I thought. Mom didn't recognize the pictures. I had to think fast. I dived at the book, and tried to snatch it before the page could be turned to the picture that started at all.

But I was too late. I saw the picture. But it didn't scare me anymore, much to my surprise. And to my even greater surprise, I felt so happy seeing the pictures in that story again. I had thought before that I would never see them again, and I was glad about it. But seeing them there, at Walmart? It was like meeting an old friend after so many years.

The picture did not scare me anymore because I didn't find it weird anymore. I knew exactly why the Pig had that spade raised over his head. (If only I could find a way to think that a Wicked Witch with three pigtails and a goofy frown wasn't weird. If only.)

Unfortunately, Mom said she was only going to buy me one book that day. One of the books there was a Thomas the Tank Engine book, and being a big Thomas fan, I somewhat wanted that one too. So, I thought for a few minutes, and finally, I chose...

Thomas the Tank Engine.

I've come to regret that decision ever since. I have never found another book with those illustrations ever since that day (and haven't even seen the picture that started the whole thing since that day).

I will order a book with those illustrations some day, because they hold a nostalgic value for me. But right now, I'm only about to enter college. I don't have the money to order books online right now. But I will eventually obtain a copy of "The Three Little Pigs" with those illustrations, and I will not lose it again.

Okay. yeah, this post had hardly anything to do with fairy tales. Sorry about that. But I promise that my next post will talk about another fairy tale. One that I actually mentioned in this post...