More than a century before the Disneyfication of Snow White, German folklorists the Brothers Grimm collected the fairy tale in their anthology Nursery and Household Tales. But their version, and earlier tellings including one titled "The Young Slave" from the 17th century, was not quite the Snow White that in 1937 became Disney's first animated feature film. No, the original story, as summarized by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo at the Daily Grail, "has elements of murderous jealousy, ritual cannibalism, sexual temptation, necrophilic imagery and capital punishment." From the Daily Grail:
Mad with envy, feeling that her power is at stake by the young girl’s increasing beauty, the queen orders the huntsman (who in other versions is her lover) to kill Snow White and bring back her lungs and liver. The huntsman takes her to the forest, but when he is about to kill her, she begs for mercy and he feels incapable of harming someone with such beauty. He finally abandons her in the deep forest, convinced that the wild beasts will take her. The queen wanted her internal organs, so the huntsman, in what historian of religions Norman Girardot suggests is a reminiscence of the “sacrificial rites of the virgin maiden”, kills a wild boar instead – in antiquity, these were frequently used as a substitute for human sacrifice to appease the gods.
The subsequent event has been largely forgotten – and rarely shown in film adaptations. When the queen receives her daughter’s viscera, she decides she’ll have them salted and boiled, then feasts upon them with epicurean pleasure, convinced that they’re Snow White’s. The root of her pleasure rests on two facts: she has obliterated her daughter, her rival, but also, crucially, this anthropophagic act preserves the essence of ritual cannibalism – the ancient belief that eating the enemies’ flesh was a source of spiritual and physical strength.
"Who’s the Darkest of Them All? The Arcane Origins of the Tale of Snow White" (Daily Grail)
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