Snow White is a fairy tale as German as it can get. Meaning: It is not just the German version of a story, the fairy tale most likely originated in Germany itself. But there is no denying that the Disney Version influenced German adaptations, too. Even the 1955 take, which is one of the oldest (and still my favourite) or the numerous German movies based on the story, there are noticable traces, especially in the portrayal of the dwarves. If you are curious, well, you can (legally!) check it out yourself here. For a better viewing experience, someone uploaded it at YouTube, too. It’s even a dubbed version, though I have to point out that the dubbing is okay at best, some voice acting performances are shaky and for some reason there is a narrator in places where previously wasn’t any narration and missing in other places. This version has also been rescored with additional songs and they even changed the song of the dwarves for some reason. The one in the German version is quite charming, the replacement song falls firmly in the “what were they thinking” category. But one can still enjoy the funky costumes, the shots of the landscape and the, well, simplicity of the story, which follows the original fairy tale quite closely. It is pretty much a one to one telling except that Snow White is older – in the original, she is seven years old and yes, that’s messed up – and the final fate of the Evil Queen is different.
Before we get into the character of Snow White, here is a short list of the story elements from the fairy tale left out of the Disney take, but which are still present here: For one, there are three attacks on Snow White while she is living with the dwarves instead of just one. First she is suffocated with a corset which is bond too tightly, then she falls victim to a poisoned comb and finally she eats the apple. Also, there is no kiss. Snow White survives because the apple piece is stuck in her throat. When the dwarves want to bring her glass coffin to the castle of her prince, they stumble, which jostles her so much that the piece is falling out again (yeah I know, medicinally this is nonsense).
One change which is not from the fairy tale itself is a larger role for the hunter. In this movie he is imprisoned as punishment for helping Snow White and, after other servants free him, goes to the Prince for help. Which is actually a good way to explain how the Prince learned of Snow White’s fate in the first place. In the fairy tale, this isn’t an issue because the Prince and Snow White haven’t meet beforehand. He basically just happens to come across the story of the sleeping beauty in the glas casket and then falls in love with a corpse. But in pretty much every adaptation, they encounter each other beforehand. Using the hunter is a good way to tie up loose ends, and has lead to his role having increased over the years, sometimes even to the level of co-lead. This adaptation also adds other servants who help the hunter out.
Meanwhile the dwarves are clearly influenced by the Disney version. They sing on their way to work, they dance around, they wear hats in different colours, they have funny names, they are as close to the Disney take as possible without the risk of getting sued for copyright infringement. And the finale fate of the Queen in this movie was clearly inspired by Disney, too. In the original tale, she gets invited to Snow White’s Wedding and then forced to dance in glowing hot shoes to her death (yeah, those original fairy tales were truly grim….)
But what about Snow White? How is she portrayed? Well, somehow the same and yet different. This Snow White isn’t really forced to work in the kitchen, she is simply trapped in the castle. Her story is more of someone from a loveless but otherwise overly sheltered environment being suddenly pushed into the world and having to fend for herself. And gaining experiences during it, as reflected in the three visits of the Queen. During the first visit, she doesn’t mistrust her at all, the second time around, she is more careful, refusing to let her into the house, and the third time, she is initially trying to turn the Evil Queen multiple times. The only reason why she is eventually convinced to eat the apple is because the Evil Queen poisoned only the red part of it and demonstrates to Snow White that it is save by eating the green half. This is very different from Disney’s Snow White, who stays completely innocent and trusting during the whole movie.
As a character it would be a lie to claim that this Snow White is particular interesting. She is more the run-of-the-mill girl, a little bit of a blank slate, but it is easy to relate to her. She is also hitting exactly the right point of being nice while not being overly submissive. For example, when the Queen demands a necklace from her, this Snow White protests and tries to hold onto it. But to be completely honest, I usually wouldn’t have picked her for an article, because like most versions of Snow White she is lacking agency. I mostly decided to write about this particular adaptation because if one looks for something close to the source material, this is most likely the best version you can get. And while Snow White could use more agency, the movie does a really good job to make the audience sympathise with her. It is still her story, and not the story of anyone else.
Quote: “I hope we are lucky enough to see a deer. You believe we will hunter? Or a nightingale. Or an owl, staring at us with eyes as big as saucers!”
Under the YouTube version of the movie, there are a lot of comments from people who saw the movie as child and enjoyed it, and that is pretty much my experience with it, too. For an adult audience I doubt that it has the same draw, but I guess one can still enjoy the somewhat unique mixture of costumes and setting. Small warning though: There is a black servant figure in the movie which, while not overtly racist, seems to be only there to look “exotic” (and is naturally not played by a black actor, remember, it is a German production from the post-war era). Overall though, there is just something laid-back and wholesome about the movie. It fleshes the characters out just enough that you care about them and has just enough suspense to keep the audience engaged. So maybe give it a watch if you are in the mood for something simple.