Snow White

Once upon a time in a far-away land, in the cold of winter, with broad flakes of snow falling all around, the queen of that country sat looking out the window, and day-dreaming about the daughter that she hoped to one day have.

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The frame of the window was made of fine black ebony. As the queen gazed out upon the wintery scene, she pricked her finger, and a drop of blood fell upon the snow. Then she gazed thoughtfully upon the red drop that spread out on the white snow, and said, ‘Would that my little daughter may be as white as that snow, as red as that blood, and as black as this ebony window frame!’

And so it came pass that the queen was blessed with a baby girl, and her skin was as white as snow, her cheeks as rosy as the blood, and her hair as black as ebony; and she was called Snow White.

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When Snow White was growing into a young woman, her mother the beloved queen tragically fell ill and soon passed away. After a long year of grieving, the king remarried. The new queen was very beautiful, but so vain that she could not bear to think that anyone could be more beautiful than she was. She had a magic looking-glass, to which she used to go, and then she would gaze upon herself in it, and say:

‘Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?’

And the glass had always answered:

‘Thou, queen, art the fairest in all the land.’

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But Snow White grew more and more beautiful; and when she was sixteen years old she was as bright as the day, and fairer than the queen herself. Then the glass one day answered the queen, when she went to look in it as usual:

‘Thou, queen, art fair, and beauteous to see,
But Snow White has grown lovelier than thee!’

When she heard this she turned pale with rage and envy, and called to one of her servants, and said, ‘Tie Snow White hand and foot, then take her away into the wide wood and slay her, that I may never again be cursed with her wretched presence.’

The servant bound Snow White as ordered, and carried her deep into the wood. There in a clearing he stopped and drew his sword. But he was a kind man, and could not bring himself to harm her. Instead he cut the ropes that bound her, and urged her to seek safety and to never under any circumstances return to the palace or the queen would surely have her slain. He then left her alone in the wood; in the hope that she would somehow be rescued.

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Then poor Snow White wandered alone through the wood in great fear. Several times she spied wild beasts among the trees. The beasts regarded her with curiosity and some howled, but none did her any harm. Finally as darkness began to fall she came to a cottage among the hills, and went in to rest, for her little feet would carry her no further. Everything was spruce and neat in the cottage: on the table was spread a white cloth, and there were seven little plates, seven little loaves, and seven little glasses with wine in them; and seven knives and forks laid in order; and by the wall stood seven little beds. As she was very hungry, she picked a little piece of each loaf and drank a very little wine out of each glass; and after that she thought she would lie down and rest. So she tried all the little beds; but one was too long, and another was too short, till at last the seventh suited her: and there she laid herself down and went to sleep.

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By and by in came the masters of the cottage. They were seven dwarfs, returning home from their work of mining for gold and silver in the nearby mountains. They lighted up their seven lamps, and saw at once that all was not right. The first said, ‘Who has been sitting on my stool?’ The second, ‘Who has been eating off my plate?’ The third, ‘Who has been picking my bread?’ The fourth, ‘Who has been meddling with my spoon?’ The fifth, ‘Who has been handling my fork?’ The sixth, ‘Who has been cutting with my knife?’ The seventh, ‘Who has been drinking my wine?’ Then the first looked round and said, ‘Who has been lying on my bed?’ And the rest came running to him, and everyone cried out that somebody had been upon his bed. But the seventh saw Snow White, and called all his brethren to come and see her; and they cried out with wonder and astonishment and brought their lamps to look at her, and said, ‘Good heavens! what a lovely child she is!’ And they were very glad to see her, and took care not to wake her; and the seventh dwarf slept that night under the kitchen table so as not to disturb her rest.

In the morning Snow White told them all her story; and they pitied her, and implored her to stay with them, and they would take good care of her and protect her as best they could. Snow White readily agreed, provided she be allowed to earn her room and board by keeping the cottage in order, and cook and wash and knit and spin for them.

Each day the dwarfs went out to work, seeking gold and silver, while Snow White did the chores at the cottage. Each day the dwarfs became even more fond of the maiden, and each began to think of her as if she were his own daughter. Before they left for work each day they warned her, ‘The queen may yet find out where you are, so keep the door locked and let no one in.’

The queen, thinking Snow White was dead, had not used her magic looking glass in some months. But one day she she went to her glass and repeated the familiar refrain:

‘Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?’

And the glass answered:

‘Thou, queen, art the fairest in all this land:
But over the hills, in the greenwood shade,
Where the seven dwarfs their dwelling have made,
There Snow White is hiding her head; and she
Is lovelier still, O queen! than thee.’

Then the queen was very angry; for she knew that the glass always spoke the truth. With vengeance in her heart she called for the servant who had betrayed her, but he had fled into hiding realizing he was in danger. Shaking with rage, the evil queen said ‘Snow White shall die, I will make sure of it myself.’ So she went into her chamber, and made an elaborate plan. She prepared a poisoned apple: the outside looked very rosy and tempting, but whoever tasted it was sure to die. Then she dressed herself up as a peasant’s wife, and traveled over the hills to the dwarfs’ cottage, and knocked at the door,

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But Snow White put her head out of the window and said, ‘I am sorry, but dare not let anyone in, for the dwarfs have told me not.’ ‘Do as you please,’ said the old woman, ‘but at any rate take this pretty apple; I will give it you.’ ‘No,’ said Snow White, ‘I dare not take it.’ ‘Oh please!’ answered the other, ‘I want you to enjoy it, for it is rosy red like your cheeks. Do you think it is poisoned? Watch! I will eat from it myself.’ The queen had cleverly poisoned only one side of the apple, and she bit from the other side. Then Snow White was much tempted to taste, for the apple looked so very delicious; and when she saw the old woman eat, she could wait no longer. But she had scarcely put the piece into her mouth, when she fell down dead upon the ground. ‘This time nothing will save thee,’ said the queen; and she went home to her glass, and at last it said:

‘Thou, queen, art the fairest of all the fair.’

And then her wicked heart was glad, and as happy as such a heart could be.

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When evening came, and the dwarfs had gone home, they found Snow White lying on the ground: no breath came from her lips, and they were afraid that she was quite dead. They lifted her up, and combed her hair, and washed her face with wine and water; but all was in vain, for the dear girl seemed quite dead. So they laid her down upon a bier, and all seven watched and bewailed her three whole days; and then they thought they would bury her: but her cheeks were still rosy; and her face looked just as it did while she was alive; so they said, ‘We will never bury her in the cold ground.’ And they made a coffin of glass, so that they might still look at her, and wrote upon it in golden letters what her name was, and that she was a king’s daughter. And the coffin was set among the hills, and one of the dwarfs always sat by it and watched. And the birds of the air came too, and bemoaned Snow White; and first of all came a raven, then a dove, and at last an owl, and sat by her side.

And thus Snow White lay for a long, long time, and still only looked as though she was asleep; for she was even now as white as snow, and as red as blood, and as black as ebony. At last a prince came, and with him a powerful wizard, and called at the dwarfs’ cottage. The prince said a wise owl had visited him and told him the story of a kind and beautiful maiden who seemed dead but perhaps was only bewitched. He had enlisted the help of his friend, the wizard, and journeyed far to the dwarf’s cottage, in hope of reviving the maiden.

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The dwarfs led the pair to the place where Snow White lay, and the wizard examined her. Sadly, he said: ‘It is true that the maiden is not completely dead, but my spells cannot rouse her. She is afflicted by a terrible enchanted poison. There is a small chance she could be saved, but it would require the true love of many people. The poison is very powerful, and true love is the only antidote.’ At this the dwarfs exclaimed that each of them had loved Snow White as he would his own daughter, and each began earnestly thinking of her kindness and good nature. The wizard cast spells to focus these loving thoughts to counteract the poison, but the poison was too powerful, and Snow White remained still. All this time the prince had been gazing at Snow White, and suddenly found himself falling deeply in love with her. The prince’s love combined with that of the dwarfs, and very slowly Snow White began to stir. Her stirrings were so small at first the prince and dwarfs feared they were imagining them, but then her chest began to rise and fall with signs of breathing, and then her eyelids fluttered. Finally, Snow White opened her eyes and raised herself to a sitting position, and said, ‘Where am I?’ And the dwarfs gave out a great triumphant cheer!

The prince said, ‘You are safe and with friends.’ Then he told her all that had happened, and said, ‘I love you far better than all the world; so come with me to my father’s palace, and if you please I wish you to be my wife.’ And Snow White consented, and went home with the prince; and everything was got ready with great pomp and splendor for their wedding.

Royalty from all the surrounding kingdoms were invited to the wedding feast, among the rest, Snow White’s stepmother the queen; and as she was dressing herself in fine rich clothes, she looked in the glass and said:

‘Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?’

And the glass answered:

‘Thou, lady, art loveliest here, I ween;
But lovelier still is the new-made queen.’

When she heard this she was dismayed; but her envy and curiosity were so great, that she could not help setting out to see the bride. And when she got there, and saw that it was no other than Snow White, who, as she thought, had been dead a long while, her face contorted with such rage that it stuck that way, and she was never beautiful again.

Snow White and the prince lived and reigned happily over that land many, many years; and often they went up into the mountains, and paid a visit to the dwarfs, who had been so kind to Snow White in her time of need.

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