Friday, July 30, 2010

The Frog Prince

“Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.” We tell this to our daughters and it’s true. Besides which if you’re too proud to kiss a frog, you don’t really deserve a prince, do you?

The original Grimm version of this story is entitled “The Frog King or Iron Henry.” In this version, it is not a kiss from a beautiful princess that ends the spell but being thrown across the room by said princess and hitting the opposite wall. After his transformation, we meet his manservant, Henry, who has been wearing iron bands until his master is restored. It is unclear why the brothers chose to include this character who has no bearing on the rest of the story whatsoever, but it’s no mystery why he has been forgotten to us.

With or without Iron Henry, The Frog Prince endures because of its simple, universal themes of the deception of appearances and the importance of keeping promises. Also cuz it has a frog in it. Frogs are cool. And I humbly dedicate this story to my all-time favorite talking amphibian, Kermit the aforementioned Frog.

nce upon a time there lived a king and queen who were blessed with a daughter, whom they named Anna. She was very beautiful and fair, but her mother, equally beautiful and fair, died bringing her into this world. For this reason the widowed King doted upon her and, it must be said, spoiled her quite a bit. As she grew older, Anna remained beautiful and fair, but she had grown so used to having everything her way that she was not a lovely person. She fired servants for making the slightest mistake. She treated all others as though they were beneath her. She refused the company of all princes seeking marriage. She despised men. For what man, she thought, could ever be good enough for me? Anna’s only real love was a golden ball which had once belonged to her mother.

One day—the day of her eighteenth birthday, in fact—Anna was playing with her ball by the old well in the courtyard. Suddenly she heard an unfamiliar voice say “Good afternoon, milady.” She was so startled that she dropped her beloved golden ball into the well. Furious and frightened, Anna looked around for the stupid man who had caused her to drop the ball, but all that her eye fell upon was a medium-sized bullfrog sitting on the edge of the well.

“Good afternoon, milady,” said the Medium-Sized Bullfrog again, with infinite patience.

“How dare you!” cried the princess. “How dare a slimy, disgusting thing such as yourself talk to a beautiful and perfect princess.”

“How dare a spoiled, nasty thing such as yourself talk to a cool and handsome frog like me!” said the Frog, very proud of how witty he had been. But this was the first time in Anna’s life anyone had dared to talk back to her and it made her even angrier than before.

“I’ll have you know, Frog, that you made me drop my golden ball into the well. Thanks to your stupidity I shall never see it again!”

My stupidity?” said the Frog incredulously. “I suppose I dropped the ball into the well just because someone said ‘good afternoon,’ which, by the way, you still haven’t said back yet!”

“This is no time to talk about that! Can’t you see my life is ruined now that I don’t have my golden ball?” The Frog was about to retort, but now Princess Anna had begun to cry. Mean and spoiled though she was, the Frog hated to see anyone cry.

“Well,” said the Frog, staying firm, but pitying the girl, “perhaps if you were to ask me nicely, I could be persuaded to swim down and fetch it up for you.”

“If you can do that, do it at once. By order of the princess.”

“Your highness,” said the Frog, “does not even the lowliest of your subjects deserve the respect of his ruler?”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I’m a frog! I don’t work for you. I will, however, be more than happy to get your ball, Princess Anna…as a favor. One which you must repay.”

“I? Princess Anna? Grant a favor to a, a…a frog?

“Either that or you never see your beloved golden ball again,” said the Frog. He then sat quietly humming to himself, waiting for the Princess to answer. It infuriated the Princess how smug the Frog was acting. She figured he had no right, being an amphibian and all.

“Fine. What do you want? Gold? Jewels? Anything.”

“What would a frog do with gold or jewels?”

“Well, you could…okay, that’s a good point. Then what do you want you increasingly vexing amphibian?”

“After I bring back the ball, you must invite me to your home. I will sit at the table as a guest. Then I will spend the night on your pillow, next to your head, and before I go to sleep…you must kiss me goodnight.”

Now, the idea of kissing a frog was disgusting to Anna, as was the idea of treating one with kindness, even friendship. Eating and sleeping with a frog? Revolting! Besides, she was known throughout the land for her perfect complexion; could her reputation withstand the risk of warts? But she saw that unless she at least pretended to agree to the terms that she would never see her ball again, so she quietly said yes.

The Frog was delighted and dove eagerly into the water. It was not an easy task for the ball was quite heavy and, as I’m sure you know, swimming through a dark well while carrying a golden ball in one flipper is exceedingly difficult, even for such an expert swimmer as the Frog. Finally, he succeeded and pushed the ball over the edge of the well where it fell into Anna’s waiting hands. As soon as she got it, without another word to the Frog, she ran off home.

The poor Frog was completely exhausted and didn’t even have the energy to shout “Wait!” after the princess before collapsing onto the grass.

Princess Anna had completely forgotten about her encounter with the Frog when she and her father sat down to dinner. About halfway through the meal, however, a footman entered the dining hall and reminded her, thus:

“Sorry to disturb you, your majesties,” said the footman, bowing low, “but there is a frog outside much wishes to speak to you.”

“A frog?” said the King, quizzically. “Do we know any frogs?” He racked his brain to try and remember any amphibians he had spoken to in his life.

“He says he is a friend of the princess.” The footman then told the King just what the Frog had told him, and how Anna had seemingly broken her promise. This made the King very angry, and insisted that the Frog sit at the table right between himself and his daughter because, after all, a promise is a promise.

The Frog was brought in at once and placed in the chair between the King and the Princess. This was, of course, remarkably foolish, and the Frog was quickly moved onto the table itself. The Frog was very grateful to the King and the King himself grew quite fond of him in return. For a Frog he possessed a great deal of knowledge about royal customs and how best to speak to a King. Moreover, he was a great wit and was very much the life of the party. Princess Anna, however, did not enjoy the meal at all and was angry at the Frog for getting her in such trouble with her father.

That night, as promised, Anna took the Frog to her room. But said that she would not share a bed with him.

“But you promised!” said the Frog. “You promised that I could sleep on the pillow next to you. And, as your father said, a promise is a promise.” Anna knew that if she didn’t keep her promise, the Frog would tell her father and she’d be in trouble again. So, having no choice, she laid out her best satin pillow for the Frog to sleep on. “Good night,” said the Frog and fell fast asleep, so tired from the exciting day he’d had that he completely forgot the princess’s promise of a kiss.

Anna couldn’t sleep that night. She was up all night thinking of how that horrid frog had embarrassed her. How he had extorted her with that well business. He probably did it on purpose, she thought. To force me to drop it in so I’d need him to help me. She stayed very mad at the frog for many hours. But nighttime has an interesting effect on people. And as the night wore on, Anna looked at the Frog and had to admit he was sort of cute…in a slimy way. And he had been very kind and brave in retrieving her ball.  Maybe he did deserve her respect. Just then she remembered that she had promised to kiss him and hadn’t. So she leaned in and kissed the Frog gently on the lips.

And then something wonderful happened. The little Frog, still sleeping, was instantly transformed into a handsome young man…Anna was so amazed that it was a moment before she realized that the man was, like the Frog, completely naked. This sort of thing happens all the time when evil curses are involved, but no one ever talks about it. She screamed. The Young Man awoke and saw at once what had happened.

“You kissed me!” he cried.

“I’m sorry,” said Anna. “Please cover yourself!”

“Oh of course,” said her companion and he wrapped the covers around himself. “I’m sorry about that. You know how it can be with these evil curses.”

“Curses? What do you mean? Who are you?”

“My name is Robin of Willead,” said Robin of Willead, “my mother and father are the King and Queen of Willead.”

“King and Queen? But that would make you—”

“A prince, that’s right. You see, my mother and father had a difficult time having a child, so they went to see the witch, Griselda, who made them a potion guaranteed to solve their problem. She didn’t ask for money in return, only a promise that she would be my godmother and come to the christening. But on the day of the christening, my parents forgot to invite her. She was so angry that she cursed me and turned me into a frog. My mother and father continued to take care of me, of course, but kept me a secret. One day I realized I was bringing them too much shame and just ran—or rather hopped away. Then I met you. And your kindness has broken the spell. Thank you for keeping your promises, Anna.”

And all at once Anna saw how foolish she had been to be repulsed by the Frog who had helped her. And as she looked at Prince Robin of Willead she felt something she didn’t expect. Genuine affection. For someone other than herself. She kissed him again and again and again…

And she went on kissing him for a long time after that. Because as soon as she had patiently explained to her outraged father what a nude man was doing in her bed and what had happened to the Frog, Anna and Robin were married and—except for Robin’s unfortunate habit of eating flies—they lived happily ever after.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:
  • The Frog Prince (1971)(TV) The Jim Henson special which introduced the character of Robin the Frog (later identified as Kermit’s nephew)
  • “Faerie Tale Theatre” (TV) starring Teri Garr, Renee Auberjonois and Robin Williams as the Prince…also named Robin, coincidentally. Written and narrated by Eric Idle
  • “The Frog Prince Continued” by Jon Sceiza, in which the Prince tries to turn back into a frog and encounters witches from other stories
  • The Princess and the Frog (2009) Disney’s animated musical takes the premise in another direction with voices Bruno Campos, Anika Noni Rose and Keith David

NEXT WEEK: “The Ugly Duckling”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Jack and the Beanstalk

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to those of you who took the time to let me know how much you enjoyed last week’s story. I greatly appreciate it, and I hope you continue to enjoy my humble offerings.

As for today’s story, I’ve always had one big problem with it. In its original telling, Jack climbs the beanstalk and robs the giant with no just provocation. We are asked to assume that just because he is a giant, he is evil, and that stealing from him is justified. Breaking and entering, theft, even bigotry. Jack is, in essence, the villain of the original story. So the biggest difference you’ll find in my version is that I’ve turned the giant into a clearer bad guy.

I have also made a few ommissions. The giant’s cry of “fee-fi-fo-fum,” the hen that laid golden eggs, Jack’s repeated trips up the beanstalk, and the singing harp. In fact, I did try to incorporate the singing harp into my version, but I found she did not fit. As it is, I am working on an original story called “The Singing Harp,” which I am hoping to share with you all in the near future.

ack’s life was very dull. He never went on an adventure. He never went anywhere, did anything or met anyone. Every day was the same routine. He woke up, milked the cow, put away the empty milk pail, did his chores, tried milking the cow again, failed again, got shouted at by his mother for continuing to waste time milking the cow when she was clearly as dry as a bone, went to bed. Just dull. Dull dull dull dull dull!

Which makes for a very boring story, so it’s a good thing something happens in a minute.

His father had disappeared many years ago and he and his mother (and Cowsie, the cow) were alone. They were also very poor. The farm had long ago dried up, work was scarce, Jack’s mother was getting older and weaker, and if their luck didn’t change soon they would likely starve to death.

Other than that, though, very dull.

In the end Jack’s mother made a decision, which, as you may have noticed, mothers tend to do quite frequently. Jack was to go to market and sell their only possession: Cowsie. This was bad news for Jack, who loved the cow like a sister. On the other hand, it was worse news for the cow who, being unable to give milk like she used to, would probably be sold to a butcher or a tanner, a prospect which does not appeal to a cow of spirit at all.

But Jack had no choice. It was either sell Cowsie or they would be as dry as she was. So the next day he led the cow to market to be sold, but when they got there the merchants and vendors all laughed at him. Especially when he told them what price he was asking. “Ten pounds!” they cried, incredulous. “That cow doesn’t even weigh ten pounds!”

“Well, five pounds then,” said Jack.

“Moo?” said Cowsie, who resented being marked down so drastically.

“I’ll give you five beans for that old thing,” said one merchant. Jack was almost as insulted as Cowsie about this deal, but they needed food and beans were better than nothing, so he agreed to the trade. As Cowsie looked on in horror, Jack handed him the rope around her neck and the Merchant reached into his pocket and dropped five beans into Jack’s hand.

“Goodbye forever, Cowsie,” said Jack.

“Moo,” said Cowsie, very sadly.

When Jack got home, however, having sold the family’s only possession for five beans, his mother was furious. Jack, of course, had no explanation for his actions and was still sulking about losing Cowsie anyway. In a rage, Jack’s mother snatched the beans from Jack and threw them out the window. Poor Jack was sent to bed without his supper. Not that there was any supper in the house, but it was a symbolic gesture just the same.

The next morning, Jack woke up feeling terrible. He had done something awful and now he and his mother would starve to death. On top of which someone in the village was probably going to have Cowsie for dinner! He decided to go back to market and try to find a job. If nothing else, maybe he could buy Cowsie back. He got up, washed and dressed quickly and ran out the front door before his mother woke up. He felt certain that she would be angry with him, and thought it best to avoid her.

But when he got outside he saw something new. You see, when Jack took the beans, he didn’t realize what he was getting. He had thought it rather odd that the Merchant had the five beans right there in his pocket, but was so broken up about Cowsie that he had forgotten it. The truth is that earlier that same day, the Merchant had received them from a Strange Old Man as payment for a small morsel of bread.

“Five beans for a loaf of bread?” the Merchant had asked. “Why should I?”

“My friend,” said the Strange Old Man. “These beans are magic. Plant them in the light of a full moon and they will grow into something spectacular.” The Merchant didn’t believe it, but took pity on the Old Man and his unfortunate smell and made the trade.

When Jack’s mother had thrown the beans out the window, they had magically planted themselves in the ground. And, growing in the light of the full moon, had sprouted into an enormous beanstalk reaching up to the heavens. Jack was intrigued and amazed. He knew he had to go to market to get a job, but after such a dull life as he had led, simply couldn’t resist the prospect of a real adventure. He started to climb the beanstalk.

It was a difficult climb and it took Jack the better part of the morning. Finally he reached the top and, incredible though it may seem, he found a giant golden castle on the clouds. Driven by curiosity, the promise of adventure, and the knowledge that if he didn’t his story would come to a crashing end, Jack made immediately toward the castle. Frightened but excited, Jack knocked on the massive front door. And who should answer it but a giant! A woman as tall as a mountain! Jack, unfortunately, was one of those men who was always intimidated by tall women, so he was more than usually nervous at the prospect of meeting a giant.

“Who is there?” she said, because Jack was so small compared to her that she simply couldn’t see him.

“It is I, Jack,” said Jack as loudly as he could. “A poor farm boy who has traveled very far…and very high.”

“Well, young man,” said the giant. “You must come in, then.” Much to Jack’s surprise, the giant (whose name was Nelphina) was very kindly and took pity on Jack, who hadn’t had a good meal in days. She fed him and let him rest on a few of her husband’s handkerchiefs, folded up. She took very good care of young Jack. The truth was that Nelphina was grateful for Jack’s kind company for, you see, she was not very happy in life for reasons that are about to become pretty obvious.

Because that night Nelphina’s husband came home. Nelphina’s husband was a brute of a giant called Dobson. He went out drinking every night and came home angry and cruel. Nelphina knew that Dobson would not like to know that his wife was offering hospitality to Jack, so when she heard her husband come home, she shut Jack up in a bureau drawer. Luckily it was one of those drawers that locks, so Jack was able to watch the proceedings through the keyhole.

“Welcome home, husband,” she said as Dobson entered. Dobson seemed impossibly huge and his very presence inside the room seemed to defy conventional laws of physics…or is that getting too technical for a fairy tale?

“Welcome home?” cried Dobson, drunk and angry. “I’ve come home to barns that have been cleaner than this place. And you call yourself a wife!?!?” Angrily, Dobson reached out a massive hand and struck Nelphina hard across the face. Without another word he lumbered off to bed. Jack, watching from his hiding place inside the drawer was shocked. He had only known Nelphina for a short time, but couldn’t believe that she would put up with that. So when Nelphina let him out again, he was furious.

“How can you let him treat you that way?” he said.

“It’s not as bad as it seems,” she replied. “He only does it when he’s drunk. Not that I can remember the last time he came home sober. I guess I was inattentive in my housework today. I was just so busy helping you, Jack.”

“Perhaps we can help each other,” said Jack, a plan forming in his brain. “My mother and I are very hungry, and I was going to seek work to earn money to feed us. You’ve been so kind to me, would you let me work here? In your home? I will work very hard.”

“I don’t doubt that you would, Jack,” said Nelphina. “And I would like someone to help me keep this place clean. I will give you a job.” Jack was delighted. “But we must keep it secret. If my husband found out you were here, there would be dire consequences…for both of us.”

So for the next few weeks, Jack lived in the bureau drawer and worked in the giants’ castle. He used a polished bottlecap as a mirror, a thimble as a washbasin, he even made a bed for himself out of a sponge and some toothpicks which he tied together with dental floss in a way that would be of absolutely no use to him back home.

He helped Nelphina by cleaning in the hard-to-reach places and by persuading spiders and other pests to leave. In addition to room and board, Jack earned a large salary which he put aside to give to his mother when he returned home. The giants had a lot of gold, but instead of giving him coins (which were about five times bigger than Jack) Nelphina used a nail to chip off tiny pieces for him to put in his sack. He would have to wait until he visited the jeweler’s to know for sure, but Jack didn’t need to know the exchange rate to know that he and his mother would be set for life.

Between chores, he and Nelphina would talk. Jack told her that Dobson was wrong to hit her the way he did and that she should stand up for herself. In doing so, since this story took place once upon a time and long ago, Jack was making enormous leaps forward in the field of women’s rights. And it worked. Little by little, every day, Jack was convincing Nelphina.

Then, one night, Dobson came home early, and drunker than usual. When he saw Jack, he mistook him for a cockroach and tried several times to smash him. Jack tried to convince him that he had the wrong number of legs for a cockroach, but his very small protests fell on deaf (or at least very large) ears. Jack was able to get away and seek refuge in his drawer, but the noise brought Nelphina who was shocked to see her husband trying to step on her friend.

“Stop!” she cried. “That little man is my friend!”

“How dare you bring strangers into my castle, woman!” And he reached out a hand to strike her, but Nelphina struck him first. “I will not be treated so cruelly anymore,” said Nelphina. Well, Dobson was mad before, but now he was furious. He turned his rage to Jack and in the most horrible Ogrific voice imaginable he bellowed, “Get out!!

Jack, for his part, didn’t need telling twice. He grabbed the sack of gold he had earned as payment and ran. But Dobson, who didn’t know Nelphina was paying him for his services, thought that Jack was stealing his gold. So he gave chase. Jack was small enough to elude Dobson for most of the race to the beanstalk. He climbed down quickly and ran to find his axe, for he knew that Dobson was right behind him. As he was searching, he found his mother, who had thought that Jack had run away after she had been so cruel about his beans a month ago.

“Oh, Jack! You’re home!” she cried, very happy to see him.

“Where is my axe, mother? I have to chop down this beanstalk!”    

Jack found his axe and chopped the beanstalk down. All the work he had done in the giants’ castle had made him very strong and it was easy to chop down the stalk. Soon it began to give and topple over. And as it fell, Jack could hear Dobson the Giant screaming as he fell faster and faster, further and further. At last there was a deafening thud…then silence. The Wicked Old Giant was dead.

Jack was glad to be rid of the giant, and to be home again with his tresaure…but at the same time he felt sad that he would never see his friend Nelphina again. Just the same, he went straight to the market the next day and bought back Cowsie (“Moo!” she said excitedly when she saw Jack) whom the butcher had decided to try and fatten up before he slaughtered her. Had Jack come home even one day later, he would’ve missed her entirely. He was also able to buy lots of food, new clothes, medicine for his poor old mother, and hire a few workers to help get the farm back on its feet.

Several weeks after his return from the beanstalk, Jack was sitting in his favorite chair on the front porch, hanging out with Cowsie. “You know, Cowsie,” he said as the sun sank slowly in the west, “I think things are going to turn out happily ever after for all of us.”

“Moo,” said Cowsie.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:

  • Jack and the Beanstalk (1952) Starring Abbott and Costello
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947) Walt Disney movie featuring 'Mickey and the Beanstalk'
  • "Faerie Tale Theatre" (TV) Starring Elliot Gould and Jean Stapleton
  • "Into the Woods" Broadway musical incorporating several Grimm fairy tales; Jack sings 'Giants in the Sky' in which he tells of his adventures with the giants
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (1967) Starring Gene Kelly
  • "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith; Jack is the master of ceremonies in this bizarre take on fairy tales, spending most of the book trying to evade the giant
  • Giantland (1933) Early black and white Mickey Mouse short; forerunner of 'Mickey and the Beanstalk'

NEXT WEEK: "The Frog Prince"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Nowadays, it's very trendy to take digs at Disney, but the fact remains that he is one of the world's last great storytellers. He gets blamed for "ruining" fairy tales, when all he did was bring them back into the public eye and breathe new life into them. So I thought it not inappropriate to start with the story he started with (Incidentally, if you don’t like Walt Disney, this might not be the blog for you). His film remained very reliable to the original, so my story remained very reliable to his. I wanted the dwarfs to have names, but I couldn’t give them the names from the Disney version for fear of legal action, so I made up names.

As I said, we remain fairly reliable to the Grimm in this version, save for two somewhat grisly elements of the original. The Queen actually eats what she believes to be Snow White’s heart and, when the story ends, the Queen is forced to wear metal shoes, turned red hot in a stove and dance at Snow White’s wedding. Yuch! Thanks for your discretion, Walt!

nce upon a time and long ago there was a good and noble king who was married to a good and noble queen and they ruled a good and noble kingdom by the good and noble forest. And they were very, very happy except for one thing: They longed to have a child. For years they had hoped and prayed for a child, but to no avail. Then one December day, when the trees were all wondering why they had to lose their leaves before the freezing wind came, the queen was sitting by the window, doing her needlepoint (which is a thing queens do in these stories), when she looked out the ebony-framed window and said, very simply, “Please, Lord, send me a child.”

As soon as she had said that, she slipped with her needle and pricked her own finger. Three drops of blood fell on the black window pane. And in that moment, the queen knew that she would have a child with lips as red as blood, hair as black as ebony, and skin as white as snow. She also knew that she would never live to see her child grow.

Indeed, the fair queen died giving birth to the princess. Granting his wife’s last wish, the king named the child Snow White. As predicted, the young princess had skin to match her name, red, red lips and hair that would make a raven want to get out of the business entirely.

Soon after Snow White was born, the king remarried. His new bride was beautiful of face and figure, but was NOT good and noble. She was very vain. The only possession she brought to the castle when she arrived was a large mirror, which she hung in her chambers. And every morning, Snow White’s stepmother would stand in front of the mirror and say: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Who is the fairest of them all?” And every morning, the mirror said,
“Of all the maidens I have seen,
The fairest of all is you, my queen."
It could’ve just said “you are,” but most mirrors talk in verse, which is why you should never ask a mirror anything about oranges.

The years passed as they have been known to do. Snow White’s father died and her stepmother, the Queen was now the sole ruler of the kingdom. She ruled not kindly, not cruelly, but inattentively. She paid little heed to the needs and wishes of her subjects, preferring to spend her time searching the countryside for lovely maids and subjecting them to hard work and toil to rob them of their beauty. For you see, to the Wicked Queen, being beautiful was the only thing that mattered. And she did not tolerate anyone being more beautiful than she.
But Snow White was growing into a beautiful young woman in her own right. And with each passing year she looked more and more like her beautiful mother. Her skin had grown more pure and pale, her lips deeper and redder and her hair blacker than black.
How much more black could her hair be? The answer is none. None more black.

Anyhoo, seeing her stepdaughter changing day by day into a more and more beautiful girl angered the Queen and she immediately put the princess to work as a scullery. Snow White was forced to work as a maid in her own home. Did Snow White despair? Did she lose hope? Did she cry and bemoan her fate? Well, if you’ll stop asking so many questions I’ll tell you! Sheesh!

She did not. For you see, beautiful though she was, the most beautiful thing about her was her spirit. Her heart. Her endless love and joy.

So she would sing as she worked. One day, she was gathering water from the well (which her father had always told her was a magic wishing well and Show White had no reason to doubt him) singing her wishing song. It was a beautiful song sung in a beautiful voice and it went something like this:

If I wish it long enough
Hard enough
Strong enough
If my wish is pure enough
My dreams will come true

If I hope with all my heart
Then I’ll start
To feel the part
And my wish will guide my heart
Home at last with you.

I won’t tell you what she wished, because then it wouldn’t come true. But while she was singing, she heard a tiny sound. She looked around and there, in the middle of the castle courtyard, was a tiny bluebird. All alone. With a look on his face that Snow White knew very well. Loneliness.

“Are you all right, little friend?” Snow White asked. The bird chirped sadly in answer, but Snow White knew exactly what was wrong. “Are you lost?” she asked and the bird seemed (to Snow White at least) to say “yes.” Snow White held the little bird gently in her hand and spent fully half an hour searching the trees for the bird’s family, and sure enough she found them. The bird flitted away happily and Snow White continued to sing.

So it was that though her face was covered in soot and her clothes torn to rags, the day finally came when the Queen asked her mirror who was the fairest of them all and the mirror replied:

Lips red as blood,
Hair black as night,
Skin white as snow—
It is Snow White!

Again, the mirror could’ve just said “Snow White,” but it was mostly just glad that her hair wasn’t orange.

So the Queen called her faithful huntsman to her chambers and gave him his instructions. He was to take Snow White into the forest, far away from the castle so that her screams would not be heard, and kill her. Then the Queen gave the Huntsman a box into which he was to put Snow White’s heart and bring it back to her as proof that he had done as she asked.
The Huntsman was shocked by this assignment. He was no murderer. He hunted to provide food for the castle, but he had principles. He only killed old animals who had led a full happy life and were having trouble walking. But to kill such a beautiful little princess as Snow White was inhuman. Of course, he had no choice. It was kill Snow White and bring back her heart, or he himself would die.
The next day, the Huntsman invited the young princess on a trip into the woods. There the girl frolicked, played with some animals and picked wildflowers. It was her intention to make a gift of them to her stepmother, little knowing the Queen’s treachery. When he felt the moment was right, the Huntsman stalked up to Snow White and raised his knife above her. And it’s likely he would’ve done it…but at the last moment, the princess turned around and looked up at him. She did not scream, she was too afraid. She just stared into the Huntsman’s eyes.
The knife fell from his hand. He couldn’t go through with it. Snow White was very frightened and very confused. The Huntsman told her all about the Queen’s orders and her terribly jealousy. He begged Snow White to run away and never come back. It was the only way she could be safe. The Huntsman himself would have to kill a deer or a boar and use its heart to fool the Queen.
So Snow White ran into the woods. She ran and ran and ran, blinded by her tears, until she could run no further and then she collapsed onto the forest floor and cried herself almost to sleep. She could not believe it. She had never done anything cruel to anyone, and now her own stepmother, the only family she had left in the world, wanted her dead. It was more than Snow White could bear. More than anyone could bear, I’ll wager.
Just when she was ready to give up all hope she heard a familiar sound. She looked up and there, on a branch above her, sat the little baby bird she had helped in the courtyard. He was speaking to Snow White in a way that she could understand but that you or I could not.
(Animals often talk in stories like this and princesses and pretty girls are known for being able to talk to animals…Yeah, I know, but just go with it, okay?)
“Why are you crying, Snow White?” he seemed to say.
“I’m lost and alone,” said Snow White. “And I’ve nowhere to go.”
“I can help you. I know of a cottage near here where you can stay.” And with that, the little bird flapped away toward the cottage. Snow White followed as quickly as she could, for fear of losing him. Sure enough, they came at length to a clearing. A little creek trickled through and across a small wooden footbridge, Snow White saw a quaint little cottage. She had lost sight of the bird so she called out “thank you” to the sky and ran toward it.
Snow White was so happy to have found shelter, she completely forgot her manners and walked right in. She turned the knob, pushed the door in and stepped inside. She was thinking clearly again and had done it in the right order.

It had never occurred to her, however, that the cottage the little bird had found for her would be occupied already.

Now she saw that whoever lived here was very untidy. And very small. The tables and chairs were almost half the size of normal furniture. Miniature shoes and shortened tools littered the floor. Half-sized cups and dishes. The only thing full-sized were the cobwebs, and those were oversized. As were the cobs living in them.

“Oh my,” thought Snow White. “I don’t know who lives here, but they need a mother very badly.” But Snow White was too tired to worry about that right now. “I’m sure they won’t mind if I just lie down for a little while,” she thought. “I’ll be happy to help them clean this place in the morning.” With that Snow White ascended the stairs and found the bedroom. It contained seven tiny beds. Snow White would’ve thought this strange had she not been so tired. So, with a yawn three times bigger than anything in the room, she lay down across three of the beds and fell right to sleep.
Never suspecting that the owners of the house would be on their way home at that very moment.

Snow White had seen the tiny things and assumed that the cottage was occupied by children. Orphans, she guessed, who had run away from home, like she had. But she was quite wrong. For the owners of the cottage were dwarfs. Little people. And since dwarfs are well known to be miners, it should come as no surprise that they had been working all day in their diamond mine. The day’s work was done, however, and they were coming home again. But when they got there and found the door wide open and a light inside, they panicked.

“Who could be inside?”

“Is it a robber?”
“Maybe a monster!”
The dwarf who screamed was called Lefty and was known for overreacting like this. Once his friends, Bildor and Russell, had calmed him down and convinced him to come down from the tree, they began seriously to worry. They didn’t have any friends who could’ve stopped by for an unexpected visit, so it was safe to assume that the party within was of an unwelcome sort. But imagine their surprise when they went upstairs and saw a pretty girl sleeping in their beds instead. They all stood over her, looking at her, amazed at how beautiful she was when Snow White suddenly woke up.
“I’m sorry to burst into your home like this,” said Snow White. “It’s just that I have nowhere else to go. My stepmother, the Queen, wishes to kill me—”
“AAAAAAAAAH!” said Lefty.
“…and I have no home,” continued Snow White once she was assured that Lefty would be okay. “But if you let me stay here, I’ll be happy to look after you. I’ll clean and cook and—”
“No,” said Gustav the Dwarf, “you’re a princess.”
“That’s right,” said Louis the Dwarf. “You are unaccustomed to such hard work.”
But Snow White explained about her stepmother’s cruelty and how she had been cleaning her own home for some time now. In fact, she told them, after cleaning an entire castle every day, a tiny cottage would be a welcome relief. The dwarfs still didn’t like the idea of this pretty young girl picking up after them, but they agreed to let her stay and do as she liked because, frankly, the only idea they liked less than making her clean up the house was them having to do it themselves.

So that night, Snow White slept in the bedroom and the dwarfs made themselves comfortable downstairs. And all eight of them slept soundly, because they had no idea what was about to happen to them.

The next morning, far from where Snow White was spending her morning cleaning house, the Queen stood in front of her mirror and said, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Who is the fairest of them all?” To her great surprise, the Mirror once again told her that it was Snow White. Well, actually it said,

The Huntsman lies,
Snow White survives.
She is fairer than you…
By a factor of five?

 Well, they can’t all be great.

When the Queen learned of her Huntsman’s treachery, she vowed to kill Snow White herself. She knew, however, that she would need to disguise herself before she approached the princess. So she came up with a plan. First she asked the Mirror where Snow White was.

“Deep in the forest
The Seven Dwarfs dwell.
Snow White is here
And she’s doing quite well.”

See? That one was much better.

The next day, the Queen arrived at the Dwarfs’ cottage disguised as an old woman in tattered clothes and carrying a basket of apples. Knowing that the Dwarfs would be in their mine all day, she assumed that Snow White would be all alone, and so she was. As she drew nearer the cottage, she heard Snow White singing her wishing song:

If I wish it long enough
Hard enough
Strong enough
If my wish is pure enough
My dreams will come true

If I hope with all my heart
Then I’ll start
To feel the part
And my wish will guide my heart
Home at last with you.

Optimism makes bad guys nauseous, so after assuring herself that she would not be sick at the unbridled happiness of the song, the Queen approached the princess and engaged her in conversation.

“All alone, my dear?” she asked.
“Why yes I am,” said Snow White, because no one had ever told her not to talk to strangers. And, ironically, her only enemy in the world was not a stranger, but was in fact her own stepmother. So, it probably wouldn’t have done her any good if she had known not to talk to strangers. Anyway, back to the story already in progress.
They spoke of this and that for some time when finally, the Queen let out a cry of despair and staggered against the wall of the cottage.
“Just my poor old heart, dearie,” she said as the girl led her inside and brought her a chair. “Thank you for your kindness. Here. I was selling apples today, but you may have this one if you like.” Now, as has been said, Snow White had no idea that she shouldn’t be talking to this old woman, but she didn’t understand that this was the Queen who was trying to kill her. Nor did Snow White know what kind of apple it was. So she thanked the old woman, took the bright red apple and took a bite.
But then the Queen began to laugh. For the apple Snow White had just taken a bite out of had been coated in a secret potion. As soon as she had swallowed the bite of apple, Snow White fell instantly asleep and could only be awakened by Love’s First Kiss. But she slept so soundly, she appeared dead, so the Queen knew that she had no chance of being kissed.

But there was one thing the Queen hadn’t counted on: The baby bluebird! Ever since she started living with the seven dwarfs, the bluebird had been looking after Snow White. And he saw everything that had happened. He flew as fast as he could to the mines to tell the dwarfs what had happened. Sadly, however, they were too late.

When the dwarfs arrived home that night they were shocked at what they saw. The front door open, and lying outside the house was Snow White. They rushed to her, but they were too late. Snow White had eaten the apple. She was dead.

The dwarfs were very sad. They had come to love Snow White in just a few days. She had been kind to them and they loved her very much. And now she was gone. They knew that they had to give her a proper funeral, but couldn’t find it in their hearts to bury her. You see, Snow White was so beautiful, even in death, that the dwarfs couldn’t bear to think that they’d never see her again. So they constructed a coffin made out of glass and Gimble and Heinrich placed Snow White inside and kept constant vigil by her side.

Some time later, a handsome prince rode up to the cottage of the seven dwarfs. He had heard stories about this princess who lay in a glass coffin in the woods and wanted to see for himself. When he looked upon Snow White, he could almost not believe she was dead. She was so beautiful. Respectfully, he asked the dwarfs if he might be allowed to give Snow White a kiss. They could see that he cared for her as much as they did, so they agreed. And they lifted the lid off the coffin and the prince gave Snow White a single gentle kiss.

And you know something? It worked! Snow White woke up at once and looked for the first time into the eyes of her true love.

Now, this prince lived in a land far away from that in which he found Snow White. And when she awoke, the prince took Snow White to that far away land. So that every time thereafter that the queen asked her mirror who was the fairest in the land, it would say that she was, and she never suspected that Snow White still lived. As for the seven kind dwarfs, they became butlers and servants and lived and worked in the castle, taking care of Snow White and playing with the many children she bore. And they all lived happily ever after.


If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Walt Disney's animated masterpiece
  • "Faerie Tale Theatre" (TV) starring Vanessa Redgrave and Vincent Price
  • "The 10th Kingdom" (TV) features a brief appearance by Snow White (Camryn Manheim)

 NEXT WEEK: Jack and the Beanstalk

"Once Upon a Time..."

Welcome one and all to my new and improved blog! Before, I was blogging on random topics ranging from art to politics to why I'd make an excellent fraggle, but I lost interest in this as a creative outlet and, besides, nobody was reading it anyway. So the blog fell by the wayside until now.

For some time now, I have been working on a book of fairy tales. I have written several new adaptations of classic stories and even one or two original fairy tales of my own devising. Though someday I hope to see them published in book form, I thought this would be a good way to share my stories with the world. So, every Friday, look for a new story.

I would also just like to say at the outset, that my stories are culled from several different versions. For instance, my "Cinderella" includes elements from the Grimm Brothers story, a few film versions, television adaptations and a few ideas that I threw in. This is pretty much how fairy tales were written by Jacob and Wilhelm (as well as many others who don't get nearly enough credit) for centuries. I'm just continuing the tradition in my own way.

With that, I embark on this new endeavor, in the hopes that my stories will bring a smile to your face, a tear to your eye, or just take you back to a time when true love, magic powers, talking animals, high adventure and happy endings all seemed possible. I hope you enjoy it. I think you will.

Y'r ob'd't,
Templeton Moss