Interviewer: Do you know any German fairy tales or lullabies that you were told when you were younger or when you’ve visited Germany over the years?
Informant: I know a similar version to the Grimms of Snow White. I think it’s really popular for people who are German or those who live in Germany to know stories that come from Grimms. A lot of other stories are based of that collection.
Interviewer: Do you have one that sticks out for you?
Informant: Yeah there’s one called Sneewittchen which is German for Snow White or what we know as Snow White.
Interviewer: How does it go?
Informant: So there’s Snow White and the Evil Queen in the beginning and then Snow White escapes to live with the seven dwarves. But after the Evil Queen asks the mirror, who’s the fairest of them all and it says Snow White, she sends the Huntsman out to go and kill Snow White. But instead of killing her, he kills a boar and brings back the heart as a way to trick the Evil Queen into thinking that Snow White is dead. So time goes by, and then the Evil Queen asks the mirror again who the is the fairest of them all and it says Snow White again. That’s how the queen finds out that Snow White is still alive and decides to go out and look for her. So when she finds her, she tricks her into eating the apple and she actually dies for a short time and they place her in a glass casket. The Prince is out hunting in the woods, when he discovers Snow White in the glass and kisses her. She comes back to life and as they are planning to get married, the Prince realizes that the Evil Queen is the one who was trying to kill her. So he captures the Queen and forces her to wear these pair of burning hot shoes while she dances in front of the whole court. And the Prince makes her dance until she is eventually consumed by the heat and essentially burned alive. The Queen dies and Snow White and the Prince get married and that’s the end.
Interviewer: That is a very interesting version and a really awful way to die if you were the Queen.
Informant: Yeah, a lot of the stories that everyone knows, especially the Disney version don’t include those kinds of details but the earlier version aren’t as censured.
Background: The informant is a college student studying Linguistics with an emphasis in German. She has a large extended family that still lives in Germany and she visits every two to three years. She has also spent time in rural Germany teaching English at a children’s day school as well as learning to better her German. This piece represents a lot of similar stories she heard as a child and was unaware until she was older that other children were learning the same stories in different ways.
Context: This interview took place when the informant was visiting with the interviewer. For the informant, this piece is something that she not only heard when she was little but also studied again in school when taking an upper level German course.
Analysis: With this piece, the informant and I talked a lot about the history of the story and the role the Grimms played in distributing the stories that circulated a lot in German culture. For the informant, the Grimms were almost a form of national pride and I found that really interesting. Despite, that to an outsider like me, these stories seem gruesome and dark, to her it is an identifying mark of the history of her culture. It also brought to mind some ideas that we discussed around tourism and the way that the visited culture can be both proud and somewhat embarrassed by the things that make them stand out to other people and for me the Grimms tales seemed like a prime example for this informant.
Annotation: Other versions of this story and other like it can be found in
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Kinder- Und Hausmarchen. G. Weise, 1860.