A fairy-tale for our time . . .


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Posted by HSG on May 03, 2005 at 19:07:07:

In Reply to: Snow White on the Torrid cover posted by Melanie W. on May 03, 2005 at 02:22:24:


It's interesting that you should refer to the fairy-tale of Schneewittchen (Snow White). Most of us know this timeless story from the Disney version, of course. But however enjoyable that film may be, Disney actually bowdlerized the original Brothers Grimm tale, which was much darker and more mythic.

The Disney film also leaves out many significant details from the story, including one that corresponds to the topic of this forum in a fascinating way.

Did you know, for example, that in the original version, the Wicked Queen tries to kill Snow White several times, with the poisoned apple only being the last in her series of attempts?

Let's pick up the story just after the moment when the Wicken Queen's huntsman returns, claiming (falsely) that he has killed Snow White--as the Queen had instructed him to do:

[T]he Queen . . . could not but think that she was again the first and most beautiful of all; and she went to her looking-glass and said--

"Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

and the glass answered--

"Oh, Queen, thou art fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-white is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she."

Then she was astounded, for she knew that the looking-glass never spoke falsely, and she knew that the huntsman had betrayed her, and that little Snow-white was still alive.

And so she thought and thought again how she might kill her, for so long as she was not the fairest in the whole land, envy let her have no rest. And when she had at last thought of something to do, she painted her face, and dressed herself like an old peddler-woman, and no one could have known her. In this disguise she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, and knocked at the door and cried, "Pretty things to sell, very cheap, very cheap." Little Snow-white looked out of the window and called out, "Good-day, my good woman, what have you to sell?" "Good things, pretty things," she answered; "stay-laces of all colors," and she pulled out one which was woven of bright-colored silk. "I may let the worthy old woman in," thought Snow-white, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty laces. "Child," said the old woman, "what a fright you look; come, I will lace you properly for once." Snow-white had no suspicion, but stood before her, and let herself be laced with the new laces. But the old woman laced so quickly and so tightly that Snow-white lost her breath and fell down as if dead. "Now I am the most beautiful," said the Queen to herself, and ran away.

Not long afterwards, in the evening, the seven dwarfs came home, but how shocked they were when they saw their dear little Snow-white lying on the ground, and that she neither stirred nor moved, and seemed to be dead. They lifted her up, and, as they saw that she was laced too tightly, they cut the laces; then she began to breathe a little, and after a while came to life again.

The image of the thin, shrivelled crone trying to minimize the attractions of the younger maiden (whose beauty she envies so much) by compressing her figure--to the point of killing her--is deeply symbolic, as fairy tales invariably are, and reflects a profound truth in life.

What does this scenario tell us about the dark, subconscious motivations that lie behind the actions of women who try to diminish the figures (and, correspondingly, the beauty) of curvaceous girls today?

Whether they do so through physical means (in the clothes that they instruct full-figured girls to wear), or through emotional manipulation (a technique favoured by family members), or through news reports and magazine articles (as do today’s Charlotte Brontes, who have entered the field of journalism), the results are still the same: as long as their end is achieved, and the source of their envy--the voluptuous, feminine figure--is minimized, the means by which they achieve this end, and the suffering (and occasionally even death) that they inflict, is of no concern to them.

Conversely, it reflects very well on Torrid that in its promotions, the company has never advocated the use of abhorrent, form-constricting "gear," or crushing corsets, or "shapers" of any kind. Torrid has always realized that the shapes of their models are gorgeous, just the way they are, and that dresses look best when they conform snugly, but comfortably, to the natural, unencumbered curves of their customers.

You can read the rest of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Snow White at the link posted below.

Snow White asleep in her glass coffin (in a sleeveless, decolletage-adorning dress), as illustrated by Lancelot Speed for an edition of the Grimm fairy tales published in 1890. Note how curvaceous his pre-modern Snow White appears:

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