Brief History: Snow White and Rose Red was one of my favorite fairy tales when I was about five years old. This story really doesn’t have a lot of other versions and the Brothers Grimm were the first known people to write it down. For those of you unfamiliar, let me give a brief synopsis. First of all, no, it is not a sequel or prequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Apparently, that’s just a popular name in the fairy tale world. These two girls lived in the woods with their mom and two rose trees (one red, one white – get it?). Not sure what mom did for a living that they lived in the woods, but I digress. They take in a talking bear for the winter, because why not? When spring comes around, the bear leaves saying he has business to attend to (no toilet paper commercial jokes please) and Snow White and Rose Red go about their daily lives. Then, they keep running into a nasty little dwarf in danger and each time the girls rescue him, then are verbally abused for their troubles. In the end, the talking bear shows up, kills the dwarf, and turns into a prince, explaining that the little man had enchanted him in order to steal royal treasure.
Analysis: First off all, what were the circumstances that the prince was turned into a bear in the first place? Was he just wandering through the dark forest with a sack of jewels and no entourage? Seriously, where were his guards when this mean dwarf transmogrified him into a grizzly?
Second, the way the girls would to play with the bear involved a lot of rough housing. There’s a rhyme in the story that usually goes something like “Snow White, Rosy Red, Will you beat your lover dead?” You know, on second thought, I’m not going to analyze that. Moving on.
Lastly, the bond between the sisters is a large part of the story. They get along without any sibling rivalries, despite Snow White being sweet and gentle while Rose Red is a little wilder. A lot of fairy tales and folk tales have a theme of drama between sisters over men or how they are treated by the parents. Usually when siblings were close it was because a brother or brothers had been turned into some kind of animal while the sister had to face many tribulations in order to be the savior. In Snow White and Rose Red, the girls just love each other unconditionally because, other than their mom, they were all they had. It’s weirdly sweet for a fairy tale.
Blame it on the Victorians: Not much to complain of here except for the fact that most Victorians illustrations depict the sisters as being young children, somewhere between ten and twelve years old. Yet at the end, they marry the prince and his brother, whose ages are never stated and rarely illustrated in Victorian children’s books. When they are included in the illustrations, both princes always look a little old for the two girls.
Last thoughts: If I came across a little man with his beard caught in a fishing lure, I’d probably have trimmed his beard too.
*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.