may_lily: (White Rose)
may_lily ([personal profile] may_lily) wrote2012-12-31 09:02 pm

Women writers part 3: The Ungrateful Dwarf/Snow White and Rose Red

From my tumblr.

Part 1 (Beauty and the Beast) and Part 2 (Persinette/Rapunzel) of Forgotten women writers of popular fairy tales.

‘Snow White and Rose Red’ is not as popular a fairy tale as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or Persinette/Rapunzel, but it still gets a fair amount of attention. The Grimms based their story on ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’ by Caroline Stahl. Here is an online translation of Stahl’s story.

The Grimms embellished the story enormously. The most significant changes are that the sisters are now old enough to marry, and the bear is an enchanted prince. The prince marries one of the girls and his brother marries the other.

To the best of my knowledge, ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’ is the only one of Stahl’s fairy tales to be translated into English. However, I did find a collection of them online in German. I was only able to read them with Google Translate, but even that proved enlightening.

As far as I was able to tell, Stahl did not write romance. For example, ‘Die Haselnüsse’ (The Hazelnuts) is a Kind and Unkind Girls story. Instead of marrying a prince, as is common in that type of story, the heroine is adopted by the queen. Stahl’s decision not to write romance becomes especially clear in her retellings of Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tales. Madame d’Aulnoy was preoccupied with romance; hardly any of her stories lack it. But in Stahl’s version of ‘Gracieuse and Percinet’, she removes Percinet entirely. In ‘The Orange Tree and the Bee’ the lovers become brother and sister. It’s clear to me that Stahl made the conscious decision to write romance as little as possible in her collection of fairy tales.

So what do the Grimms do when they get hold of her story? They add a romance! Stahl wrote a tale about little girls, but the Grimms decided they needed to be marriageable young women. That said, Stahl’s writing is rather sparse, and the Grimms’ more detailed description of their woodland life is a lovely image.

It’s notable that, looking at SurLaLune’s illustration collection, quite a lot of Snow White and Rose Red illustrations depict them as children rather than young women despite the Grimms’ changes. Something of Stahl’s intentions must be making it through.

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