Kissing a sleeping girl isn’t fundamental to Snow White. It’s a 20th-century addition.
Actual Disney princess Kristen Bell has some issues with her fellow Disney princess Snow White. In an interview with Parents magazine, Bell revealed that when she reads Snow White to her kids, she makes sure to talk them through some of the story’s creepier elements — especially the kiss of true love that awakens Snow White from her poisoned sleep.
“Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission?” Bell says she has asked her daughters. “Because you can not kiss someone if they’re sleeping!”
But to some observers, Bell’s critique seemed nonsensical. “Oh well if Kristen Bell is uncomfortable we should probably discard centuries-old fairy tales,” tweeted conservative writer Ben Shapiro.
Leaving aside the fact that Bell did not actually suggest that anyone should discard Snow White from the canon, Shapiro’s take is worth digging into. Shapiro is correct in pointing out that Snow White has existed for hundreds of years — but he’s wrong to suggest that it has existed in its current form for hundreds of years. Snow White has changed and developed over time. In fact, the true love’s kiss that bothers Bell so much is a very late addition to the story.
That’s because fairy tales don’t have a stable form. Every era rewrites its fairy tales to fit a specific agenda, because that is what fairy tales are for. When Bell critiques our current Snow White, she’s got centuries’ worth of tradition backing her up.
The idea of waking up Snow White with true love’s kiss is a historical aberration
There is no one true original Snow White, but the Snow White that most American audiences think of as canonical was collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, and then steadily revised into its most widely distributed form over the course of 17 editions, until 1864.
But the Brothers Grimm weren’t revising Snow White to try to get it as close as possible to the version of the story that was being passed back and forth between households throughout Europe. They were revising Snow White to make it a more moral children’s story, so that it would better adhere to the childrearing norms of their time.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm originally intended for their collection of stories to be scholarly, a patriotic attempt to study and reclaim German folk culture. They recorded the folk tales they heard with minimal edits. But after the first edition was greeted with a lukewarm reception, they decided to revise. And revise again.
Between 1812 and 1864 they published 17 editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, working diligently to make the stories ever more appropriate for children. That meant the book had to reflect the Grimms’ particular 19th-century German bourgeois family values. And so wicked parents became wicked mothers acting on their own, and then wicked stepmothers; fathers were rewritten to be either virtuous but ineffectual or absent; trickster children were erased entirely. And virtuous women, ever so slowly and gradually, lost their voices.
In 1812, the evil queen who menaced Snow White was her own biological mother. But in subsequent editions, the Grimms decided that a wicked mother was too immoral for children to deal with. They replaced her with a stepmother instead.
And between 1812 and 1864, Snow White’s awakening changed — but at no point is she ever awoken by true love’s kiss when the Grimms are telling the story.
In 1812, Snow White wakes up when a surly servant beats her corpse. Here, the prince happens upon Snow White’s glass coffin and, falling in love with her apparently dead body, asks the seven dwarves to give her to him, so that he can “honor her as his most cherished thing on earth.” Here’s what happens next, as translated by D.L. Ashliman:
The prince had it [the glass coffin] carried to his castle, and had it placed in a room where he sat by it the whole day, never taking his eyes from it. Whenever he had to go out and was unable to see Snow-White, he became sad. And he could not eat a bite, unless the coffin was standing next to him. Now the servants who always had to carry the coffin to and fro became angry about this. One time one of them opened the coffin, lifted Snow-White upright, and said, “We are plagued the whole day long, just because of such a dead girl,” and he hit her in the back with his hand. Then the terrible piece of apple that she had bitten off came out of her throat, and Snow-White came back to life.
Starting in 1819, the Grimms substantially pared down the prince’s fetishistic obsession with Snow White’s dead body. In later editions, he still falls in love with her when he sees her lying in the glass coffin, and he still asks the dwarves to give her to him — but now, Snow White wakes up before they reach the castle. Here’s how Ashliman translates the 1819 version:
The prince had his servants carry it [the glass coffin] away on their shoulders. But then it happened that one of them stumbled on some brush, and this dislodged from Snow-White’s throat the piece of poisoned apple that she had bitten off. Not long afterward she opened her eyes, lifted the lid from her coffin, sat up, and was alive again.
The Grimms’s prince isn’t exactly practicing great consent here (what is he planning on doing with this poor girl’s dead body?), but there’s no element of a kiss. That comes later, with Disney — as does the idea that the prince and Snow White should perhaps have met early in the story, when Snow White is awake, in order to really sell the idea that they are in love at the end.
In 2018, we tend to accept the Disney additions to the story as the status quo, unthinkingly, as just the way the story goes. But the idea of the prince kissing a sleeping Snow White without her consent isn’t fundamental to the fairy tale. It’s a historical aberration.
The awakening of Snow White has changed multiple times already, because Snow White, like all fairy tales, is a reflection of the time that tells it. If people in our own time decide to start telling a version of Snow White that reflects the sexual politics and morality of our own era, they’ll be following in a centuries-old tradition.
Pen, watercolor, and gouache! Charcoal, pencil, and pastels! We’re over halfway through the month-long artistic challenge known as Inktober, where participants challenge themselves to create art by interpreting a new theme each day for 31 days. The ultimate goals? To start or maintain an artistic habit and have fun in the process.
Let’s take a look at some fantastic work by five artists who call WordPress.com home.
PENS AND PIGMENT
“Creativity takes courage.” — Henri Matisse
Each day, Inktober offers a new prompt — but that doesn’t mean you need to use it. At PENS AND PIGMENT, Emma’s created a series of wonderfully imaginative drawings featuring aristocratic animals, complete with a short backstory for each character. We loved the regal appearance of Badger, her day 10 piece.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the Art category here at Discover.
Artist Luana Vecchio’s done a beautiful, stark take on “The Waking,” a piece by Sir John Everett Millais. The deep contrast between the ink and the white space lends an incredible, foreboding quality to the drawing.
“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing” — Pablo Picasso
Donald started his blog in September, just in time to gear up for Inktober. He’s quickly become a prolific poster, sharing his portraits and fan art nearly every day. For Inktober, he’s posting portraits under the theme, “icons of the world.” His portrait of Maya Angelou deep in thought is quite lovely; the Angelou quote he’s shared is fitting inspiration for the final two weeks of Inktober: “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”
For more, check out the Inktober tag in the WordPress.com Reader.
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Charlie the puppy just helped teach us a vital lesson about crossing the ideological aisle in 2018.
It’s the start of another week of sociopolitical chaos and dysfunction, so we’d like to redirect your thoughts away from the ongoing threat of global catastrophe and toward the triumphant return of one of the greatest memes in internet history.
Grab your tissue boxes and prepare to renew your faith in the progress of the human spirit, because “Brent” now has a good dog of his own.
You might know Twitter user @dog_rates, actual name Matt Nelson, from his beloved dog-ranking system, in which dogs of all stripes get effusively virtually canoodled and praised, as they deserve. For example, here is a Very Good Dog reminding us that all human beings have worth and dignity and deserve to be treated equally under the law:
And you might especially remember his iconic rejoinder to a dog-rating hater known only as “Brant”: “they’re good dogs Brent.”
Pure-hearted and direct from the soul of the internet, this very good quip seems as though it has always been with us. In fact, it was dropped just two years ago, in the before-time of 2016, when we all could still believe in America as a place of idealism and democracy instead of a corrupt capitalist wasteland riddled with extreme, racist ideologies and adults who steal baseballs from children.
Nelson and his good-hearted dog tweets have continually done the daily work of injecting much-needed whimsy into our ongoing struggle against the darkness. But now he’s joined forces with an unlikely ally to remind us that there is still love and joy and the possibility for reconciliation in the world. Alongside him? His archnemesis Brent (real name Brant Walker).
Brant/Bront/Brent seems to have become quite chummy with Nelson in the intervening years. Perhaps they were inspired to forge a friendship despite their polarized ideological platforms, out of a shared wish to ensure that kindheartedness, empathy, and hope, rather than wastefulness, greed, and cruelty, continue to be the driving forces behind modern American society.
In private Twitter messages, Brint approached Nelson with a stunning update on his life, and a proposition: Would Nelson like to virtually meet, and rate, Brynt’s new dog?
Clearly, Nelson would.
Thus, the world met Charlie, and nearly two years after the indelible exchange occurred, it ended as we can only hope all such conflicts will: in peace, happiness, and plenty of In-N-Out fries for everyone.
Folks... we have come full circle. This is Charlie, dog of Brant. He naps in a pineapple and really likes french fries. 14/10 you’ve got a good dog, Brent pic.twitter.com/iYnjpphWau
Of course, the cynical among us might say that by the very dog-rating standards he advocated for in 2016, Brœnt’s dog isn’t more than a 6.5 or a 7.0 or so on the @dog_rates scale of dog rating. But that argument misses the point about what made this such a popular meme.
“They’re good dogs Brent” transcends cynicism. That’s what makes it so powerful.
The assertion “they’re good dogs Brent” was never about aesthetics, or even about dogs. It was really about expressing a tranquil, calm joy in the face of pessimism and buzz-harshing. It was a moment in which a Hater was met, and vanquished, by the sheer power of commitment to an idealistic principle. In this case, the principle is that all dogs are good dogs. The @dog_rates Twitter account had clearly placed that principle at the heart of its simple mission, and Brient’s cynicism simply couldn’t counteract the strength of its commitment to celebrating good dogs.
So when we celebrate Nelson’s simple own of Brünt, we’re also saying that we, too, believe that all dogs are good dogs; that there are fundamental truths about the inherent goodness and rightness of all dogs, and maybe even all of earth’s creatures — including humans — that transcend snarky internet criticism.
Ultimately, this compassionate and open-hearted read on the world extended to Brent himself: Brant got his own dog rated, and Charlie was deemed to be a Good Dog, worthy of a 14/10 on the dog_rates scale.
While the return of this meme might not seem like a hard-hitting retaliation against the perpetual attacks on our basic humanity which currently punctuate daily life in America, it’s actually a crucial restorative.
For one thing, its continued popularity gives us all common ground, as so much of the pet-loving internet does. For another, it’s a blunt reminder of our historical template for progress: Get to know the thing you hate — in this case, cute dogs — and you may learn to love it.
Even more crucially, if we extend kindness to the haters in our midst, while standing strong in our convictions about the worth and dignity of all earth’s creatures, soon, they, too, might learn to view the beings around them with love and generosity instead of distrust and skepticism. This teachable moment continues to illustrate that deep down, all of us just want to be loved for who we are, patted on the head, and told we’re good.