Thursday 28 July 2011

Blood & Thunder Fairytales: Snow White

Here's another one of those ideas I had a while back: what if someone did a more action-packed version of Snow White, where the dwarfs were more Tolkien than Kiebler?

The story would go much as it normally does in Grimm's original fairytale, with one or two subtle alterations.  See if you can find them, in this shameful copy/paste find/replace hack-job on Grimm's classic fairytale...

Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a mighty Hessian warrior-queen was dealing death upon the battlefield, smiting the invading Thuringians with a great battle-axe with an ebony wood handle.  The Thuringians were slain to a man, and driven back - for now. As the queen absently looked up at the snow, she cut her finger with the sharp edge of her blade. Three drops of blood fell into the snow, which was only this morning a pure untouched sheet of white, now a maelstrom of white and red. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, "If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this haft."

Soon afterward she had a little daughter who was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow-White. And as soon as the child was born, the queen died, her wounds from the battle finally claiming her life.

A year later the king took himself another wife, a Bavarian princess. She was a beautiful woman, but she was proud and arrogant, and she could not stand it if anyone might surpass her in beauty. No-one suspected that she was in truth a Holda, a seductive creature of the forest, who sought dominion over the kingdoms of men. She had a magic mirror, believed to have been forged by the dwarfs, a mysterious mountain-dwelling race of craftsmen. Every morning she stood before it, looked at herself, and said:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
To this the mirror answered:
You, my queen, are fairest of all.
Then she was satisfied, for she knew that the mirror spoke the truth.

Snow-White grew up and became ever more beautiful. When she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the light of day, even more beautiful than the queen herself. Ever concerned that Snow-White would usurp her, however, she forbade that Snow-White be taught in the arts of war or statecraft, and sought to undermine her position with the native Hessians, who resented the Bavarian as their queen.

One day when the queen asked her mirror:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
It answered:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Snow-White is a thousand times fairer than you.
The queen took fright and turned yellow and green with envy. From that hour on whenever she looked at Snow-White her heart turned over inside her body, so great was her hatred for the girl. The envy and pride grew ever greater, like a weed in her heart, until she had no peace day and night. Soon she realised that Snow-White would come of age, and be a threat to her dominion over Hessia.

Then she summoned a huntsman, a ruthless Pomeranian assassin, and said to him, "Take Snow-White out into the woods. I never want to see her again. Kill her, and as proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me."

The huntsman obeyed and took Snow-White into the woods. He took out his hunting knife and was about to stab it into her innocent heart when she dodged, her reflexes honed from a lifetime of avoiding the beatings of her jealous stepmother, and avoided the huntsman's blows. Snow-White fled for her life deep into the woods: frustrated and enraged, the huntsman followed. After hours of searching, he gave up, and he said, "Run away, you poor child." He thought, "The wild animals will soon devour you anyway," but still it was as if a stone had fallen from his heart, for he would not have to kill her.

Just then a young boar came running by. He killed it, cut out its lungs and liver, and took them back to the queen as proof of Snow-White's death. The cook had to boil them with salt, and the wicked woman ate them, supposing that she had eaten Snow-White's lungs and liver.

The poor child was now all alone in the great forest, and she was so afraid that she just looked at all the leaves on the trees and did not know what to do. Then she began to run. She ran over sharp stones and through thorns, and wild animals jumped at her, but they did her no harm, for she was nimble and quick, and avoided the slavering jaws of the wolves and bears. She ran as far as her feet could carry her, and just as evening was about to fall she saw a little house and went inside in order to rest.

Inside the house everything was small, but built like the great hall of one of the Sea-Kings of the northern lands. There was a little table with seven little plates, and each plate had a spoon, and there were seven knives and forks and seven drinking horns as well. Against the wall there were seven little beds, all standing in a row and covered with snow-white sheets.

Because she was so hungry and thirsty Snow-White ate a few vegetables and a little bread from each little plate, and from each horn she drank a drop of mead. Afterward, because she was so tired, she lay down on a bed, but none of them felt right -- one was too long, the other too short -- until finally the seventh one was just right. She remained lying in it, entrusted herself to the gods, and fell asleep.

After dark the masters of the house returned home. They were the seven dwarfs who picked and dug for ore in the mountains. On this occassion, they were besieged by kobolds, so they returned home with dark blood on their axes, picks and hammers. They lit their seven candles, and as soon as it was light in their house they saw that someone had been there, for not everything was in the same order as they had left it.

The first one, Arzti, said, "Who has been sitting in my chair?"
The second one, Gelucki, "Who has been eating from my plate?"
The third one, Niosani, "Who has been eating my bread?"
The fourth one, Tumbi, "Who has been eating my vegetables?"
The fifth one, Bosi, "Who has been sticking with my fork?"
The sixth one, Verlegi, "Who has been cutting with my knife?"
The seventh one, Schlafi, "Who has been drinking from my horn?"

Then the first one saw a that there was a little imprint in his bed, and said, "Who stepped on my bed?"

The others came running up and shouted, "Someone has been lying in mine as well."

But the seventh one, looking at his bed, found Snow-White lying there asleep. The seven dwarfs all came running up, and they cried out with amazement. They fetched their seven candles and shone the light on Snow-White. "By Thor's Hammer! By Odin's Spear!" they cried. "What is this child doing in the great hall of the Dwarf?"

They were so shocked, that they did not wake her up, but let her continue to sleep there in the bed. The seventh dwarf had to sleep with his companions, one hour with each one, and then the night was done.

The next morning Snow-White woke up, and when she saw the seven dwarfs she was frightened. But they were friendly and asked, "What is your name?"

"My name is Snow-White," she answered.

"How did you find your way to our house?" the dwarfs asked further.

Then she told them that her stepmother had tried to kill her, that the huntsman had lost her in the woods, and that she had run the entire day, finally coming to their house.

The dwarfs said, "If you will keep house for us, and cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay with us, and you shall have everything that you want."

"Yes," said Snow-White, "with all my heart."

So she kept house for them. Every morning they went into the mountains looking for ore and gold, and in the evening when they came back home their meal had to be ready. In return, the Dwarves trained her in the ways of battle, war and strategy, as well as commerce, culture, art and tradition. During the day the girl was alone.

The good dwarfs warned her, saying, "Be careful about your stepmother. She will soon know that you are here. Do not let anyone in."

Now the queen, believing that she had eaten Snow-White's lungs and liver, could only think that she was again the first and the most beautiful woman of all. She stepped before her mirror and said:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
It answered:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Snow-White, beyond the mountains
With the seven dwarfs,
Is still a thousand times fairer than you.
This startled the queen, for she knew that the mirror did not lie, and she realized that the huntsman had deceived her, and that Snow-White was still alive. Then she thought, and thought again, how she could kill Snow-White, for as long as she was not the most beautiful woman in the entire land her envy would give her no rest, and that as long as she lived, her reign was in peril.

At last she thought of something. Using blackest sorcery, she disguised herself as an old peddler woman, so that no one would recognize her. In this disguise she went to the house of the seven dwarfs. Knocking on the door she called out, "Beautiful wares for sale, for sale!"

Snow-White peered out the window and said, "Good day, dear woman, what do you have for sale?"

"Good wares, beautiful wares," she answered. "Bodice laces in all colors." And she took out one that was braided from colorful silk. "Would you like this one?"

"I can let that honest woman in, but nonetheless, I shall be cautious" thought Snow-White, then unbolted the door, careful to keep her battle-ax to hand, and bought the pretty bodice lace.

"Child," said the old woman, "how you look! Come, let me lace you up properly."

The suspicious Snow-White stood before her and let her do up the new lace, but the old woman pulled so quickly and so hard that Snow-White could not breathe. Snow-White immediately pulled away, and took up her axe: unluckily for her, even her skills were as nothing against the powers of the Outer Dark, and she found that the cursed corset was draining away her life with every breath. Despite her burning rage and ferocious determination, Snow-White slumped to the ground. Confident that she was finally slain, the Queen haughtily taunted her rival.

"You used to be the most beautiful one," said the old woman, and hurried away.

Not long afterward, in the evening time, the seven dwarfs came home. How shocked they were when they saw their dear Snow-White lying on the ground, not moving at all, as though she were dead. They lifted her up, and, seeing that she was too tightly laced, they cut the lace in two with their largest axe. Then she began to breathe a little, and little by little she came back to life.

When the dwarfs heard what had happened they said, "The old peddler woman was no one else but the godless queen. We must attack now while she is vulnerable. The people have cried out under her oppressive rule, but they have no one to lead them. We will follow you to the end."

When the wicked woman returned home she went to her mirror and asked:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
The mirror answered once again:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Snow-White, beyond the mountains
With the seven dwarfs,
Is still a thousand times fairer than you.
When she heard that, all her blood ran to her heart because she knew that Snow-White had come back to life.

"This time," she said, "I shall think of something that will destroy you."

Then with the art of witchcraft, which she understood, she made a poisoned comb. Then she disguised herself, taking the form of a different old woman. Thus she went across the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, but was met by Snow-White and the dwarves themselves in a valley. They were armed, armoured, and ready to fight. The dwarves and Snow-White battled the Queen, but again, her sorcery was too great to overcome, and she beat the stout dwarves into unconsciousness. Again, Snow-White fell, defeated but not beaten, all the while glaring at her nemesis. The Queen knelt down to the fallen princess, and said  "Now let me comb your hair properly."

She had barely stuck the comb into Snow-White's hair when the poison took effect, and the girl fell unconscious.

"You specimen of beauty," said the wicked woman, "now you are finished." And she walked away.

When the dwarves awakened they saw Snow-White lying on the ground as if she were dead, they immediately suspected sorcery. They examined her and found the poisoned comb. They had scarcely pulled it out when Snow-White came to herself again and told them what had happened. They decided they could not afford to meet the Queen in a pitched battle, and so, they sneaked into the city, gathering the rebels and malcontents, preparing for revolution.

Back at home the queen stepped before her mirror and said:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
The mirror answered:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Snow-White, beyond the mountains
With the seven dwarfs,
Is still a thousand times fairer than you.
When the queen heard the mirror saying this, she shook and trembled with anger, "Snow-White shall die," she shouted, "if it costs me my life!"

Then she went into her most secret room -- no one else was allowed inside -- and she made a poisoned, poisoned apple. From the outside it was beautiful, white with red cheeks, and anyone who saw it would want it. But anyone who might eat a little piece of it would die. She was about to use her disguise, when she heard the tumult of chaos outside the castle. She ran to the window, and saw the city was in flames. The cries and shouts of hundreds of angry men and women echoed through the streets. The queen knew who was to blame, and summoned the guards.

Snow-White, the seven dwarves and the Hessian rebels cut a bloody swathe through the queen's Bavarian mercenary guards, forcing their way to the castle. But the Queen was ready for them, and she cast her mightiest magick yet: she conjured the horrors and beasts of the night, the terrors of the Outer Dark, the nightmares of Outer Space, and sent them against the rebels. It was a slaughter, and many were slain - but the Queen made sure that the seven dwarves, rebel leaders and Snow-White were spared.

The Queen offered Snow-White a deal: if she would eat the apple presented to her, the Queen would allow the dwarves and rebel leaders to go free without punishment. Snow-White did not believe her, but faced with the death of those she loved, she accepted - but on one condition: she would eat the red half, while the Queen would eat the white half.

The Queen, not suspecting anything, agreed. Stepmother and stepdaughter bit into their halves. She barely had a bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

The queen looked at her with a gruesome stare, laughed loudly, and said, "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony wood! This time the dwarfs cannot awaken you."

Back at home she asked her mirror:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
It finally answered:
You, my queen, are fairest of all.
Then her envious heart was at rest, as well as an envious heart can be at rest.

The dwarves gathered around Snow-White lying on the ground. She was not breathing at all. She was dead. They lifted her up and looked for something poisonous. They undid her laces. They combed her hair. They washed her with water and wine. But nothing helped. The child was dead, and she remained dead. They laid her on a bier, and all seven sat next to her and mourned for her and cried for three days. They were going to bury her, but she still looked as fresh as a living person, and still had her beautiful red cheeks.

They said, "We cannot bury her in the black earth," and they had a transparent glass coffin made, so she could be seen from all sides. They laid her inside, and with golden letters wrote on it her name, and that she was a princess. Then they put the coffin outside on a mountain, and one of them always stayed with it and watched over her. The remaining rebel leaders came to the sanctuary, and in time, hundreds of pilgrims came to pay homage to their fallen heroine. The animals too came and mourned for Snow-white, first an owl, then a raven, and finally a dove. In death, she had become a symbol of defiance and struggle against oppression, and her legend spread throughout the kingdoms. It was said that Snow-White would return when her people most needed her, but most dismissed these as comforting lies. Snow-White lay there in the coffin a long, long time, and she did not decay, but looked like she was asleep, for she was still as white as snow and as red as blood, and as black-haired as ebony wood.

Now it came to pass that a prince of Saxony entered these woods and happened onto the dwarfs' house, where he sought shelter for the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain with beautiful Snow-White in it, and he read what was written on it with golden letters. The prince was told the story of Snow-White and her failed rebellion against the despotic Queen, who was now starting to rove her envious eye across the surrounding kingdoms.

Then he said to the dwarfs, "Let me have the coffin. I will give you anything you want for it."

But the dwarfs answered, "We will not sell it for all the gold in the world."

Then he said, "Then give it to me, for I cannot live without being able to see Snow-White. I will honor her and respect her as my most cherished one."

As he thus spoke, the good dwarfs felt pity for him and gave him the coffin. The prince had his servants carry it away on their shoulders. But then it happened that one of them stumbled on some brush, and this dislodged from Snow-White's throat the piece of poisoned apple that she had bitten off. Not long afterward she opened her eyes, lifted the lid from her coffin, sat up, and was alive again.

"Valhalla, where am I?" she cried out.

The prince said joyfully, "You are with me." He told her what had happened, and then said, "I love you more than anything else in the world. Come with me to my father's castle. You shall become my wife." Snow-White saw an opportunity to finally destroy her stepmother, and she went with him. Their wedding was planned with great splendor and majesty.

Snow-White's godless stepmother was also invited to the feast. After putting on her beautiful clothes she stepped before her mirror and said:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?
The mirror answered:
You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But the young queen is a thousand times fairer than you.
The wicked woman uttered a curse, and she became so frightened, so frightened, that she did not know what to do. At first she did not want to go to the wedding, but she found no peace. She had to go and see the young queen. When she arrived she recognized Snow-White, and terrorized, she could only stand there without moving. But then, she was filled with a terrible rage, and disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.

Thus began the war between Saxony and Hessia, with the kingdoms of Bavaria, Burgundy, Thuringia, Swabia, Lotharingia and even the mighty Frankish empires drawn into the conflict. It was not just the kingdoms of men who were involved: the dwarves convinced their mountain brethren to join the war on Saxony's side, while the Queen corralled the forces of darkness to her cause - King Goldemar's armies of Gulon-riding Kobolds clashing their bronze swords; monstrous Draugr shaking their awful manes; Balderich's great Jotun shattering mountains with swipes of their fists; ash and briony trees bent and transformed into hideous Alrauns; ghoulish Nachzehrers rising from their lairs. The lands of Saxony and Hessia were torn asunder in those titanic battles, but eventually Snow-White's forces pushed the Queen's armies back to the castle.
Drenched in the blood of men, monsters and beasts, Snow-White pursued the panicking Queen back to the throne room, like a bloody spectre of vengeance and fury. The Queen drew her power from the mirror: seeing this, Snow-White smashed the mirror into shards of silver. Snow-White had triumphed, exhausting the Queen's sorcery, and defeating her utterly.

Snow-White became Queen of Hessia, the Prince becoming her regent. The dwarfs returned to their mountain home: the great war of men & magic had drained the world, and magic was starting to retreat into the dark places of other earth.

And of the wicked queen? Snow-White had her put to death in a manner befitting a temptress: she would be forced to dance. She put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. The Queen was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead.

So yeah, pretty much Snow-White as a warrior princess accompanied by dwarfs more reminiscent of Tolkien than Kiebler.  I thought it was a nice change from the usual "darker and edgier" stuff really meaning "Burtonier and (Edward) Goreyer"

And then I saw this.

In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen. 
Snow-White warrior princess, warrior dwarves, quest to defeat the Evil Queen...

Dammit Hollywood, stop stealing my ideas!

Also, does anyone find it hilarious that the Mirror considers Kristen "Only Expression Is Falling Asleep" Stewart to be "a thousand times fairer" than Charlize "Descended from the Heavens on a Celestial Clamshell" Theron?

Now THAT'S proof this is a fairytale, folks.


  1. She was alright in the Runaways. Course I was too busy trying not to look at Dakota Fanning lest the FBI come and drag me off. So I could just be imagining Stewert's acting ability.

    The bit that bugs me the most about this is, it comes out 6 months before the Hobbit. It's almost assuredly going to lead to countless 'Tolkien Ripped off..." accusations..

  2. {Also, does anyone find it hilarious that the Mirror considers Kristen "Only Expression Is Falling Asleep" Stewart to be "a thousand times fairer" than Charlize "Descended from the Heavens on a Celestial Clamshell" Theron?}

    That is unbelievable-NOBODY would consider Kristen to be better looking.

  3. You have GOT to be kidding me. Kristen Stewart better looking than Charlize Theron? Either LSD is making a comeback in Hollywood or this film is going to win an Oscar for groundbreaking special effects.

  4. Two questions:

    Why does Snow White have the White Tree of Gondor on her shield?

    Why are there eight dwarves?

    Just wonderin'....

  5. The Grimm Brothers Shieldwall will have your beard for this, Al! They accept no substitutes!


  6. Comparing the relative merits of Therons and Stewarts is irrelevant -- the major issue with the film is almost certainly to be a grave lack of hideous Alrauns and ghoulish Nachzehrers taking part in titantic, nightmarish battles.