Sunday, January 16, 2022

Hispanic Snow Whites do exist

Once again, for the people in the back: folktales have variants. In the oral tradition, they exist in many versions. Snow White is not a single story (even though most people only know the Grimm version). It's the name of a tale type, which exists pretty much all around the world. Therefore no, Snow White is not always white, neither literally, nor figuratively. For example, in some cases, she is orange. In the earliest Grimm manuscript, she is blonde with black eyes. And many versions don't note color at all, just that she is beautiful.

People have been getting their undies in a bunch about Disney casting a Hispanic actress for a live-action Snow White. Discussion on artificial categories aside, here is a select list of Hispanic Snow White folktales. 

You might note that the princess' coloring is the least exciting thing about them.

Blanca Flor (Spain)

Aurelio Espinosa collected some versions of Snow White, one of them called Blanca Flor (White Flower). In this one the (birth) mother tries to get rid of the beautiful girl by reading spells from a spellbook, and sinking her into a rock. She is rescued with the help of the Virgin Mary, and taken in by robbers. The mother poisons her with a silk shirt, but when a sexton takes the shirt off, she comes back to life.
In another version, from Asturias, the stepmother tries to lock the princess in to keep her beauty hidden, but doesn't succeed. She is rescued by a group of men, and in the end decides to marry the servant who revived her.

Blanca De Nieve (Dominican Republic)

Andrade's classic collection of folktales from the Dominican Republic has a whole lot of Snow White variants. My favorite is the one where the queen (named Snow) is not Snow White's mother at all; she just finds out from her mirror about the beautiful girl, and sends out a firefly to find her. Turns out, Snow White lives among the dwarfs in the woods. She is engaged to a prince, and he has ordered the dwarfs to guard her. When she is poisoned, a fairy appears and wakes her up from her death-like state so she can marry her prince.

Blanca Nieves (Puerto Rico)

There are several Snow White variants collected from Puerto Rico (link above). My favorite is the one where the queen's servants feel pity for Snow White, so instead of killing her, they drop her off in the mountains at the dwarfs' house. When she is later poisoned by her stepmother, the dwarfs simply take her to a doctor, who removes the piece of poisoned apple from her throat. She then falls in love with one of the dwarfs and marries him.
In another version in the same collection, the girl is adopted by robbers. The envious (birth) mother hires a beggar woman to stick a pin into the girl's head. The robbers find her dead; their leader pulls the pin out, reviving her, and then they go and hunt the assassin down.

Blanca (Mexico)

Also known as "the princess who studied to be a priest", collected in Los Altos. A vain queen sends out spies, strategically eliminating women who are more beautiful than her. This includes her own daughter, who manages to survive and find refuge in the wilderness, where she becomes the Queen of Thieves. Her mother manages to kill him with some enchanted slippers, and the thieves put her in a coffin and float her out to sea. Monks find the coffin, take her slippers off, and she comes back to life. They dress her as a man, and she studies for priesthood, until one day her parents come to hear her preach. She takes her father's confession, and tells him the whole story. Her father kills the mother, and restores Blanca to being a princess.
In another Mexican version, from Jalisco, the princess is chased into the woods by her stepmother. She befriends three wolves, who are actually princes cursed by the evil queen. The wolves attack the palace, kill the queen, and then the eldest asks the princess to split his head with an ax. He turns back into a prince, and they get happily married.

(Apparently, poison slippers are the preferred method in many Mexican versions.)

Blanca Rosa (Chile)

In this version, the girl exiled by her stepmother ends up in the abode of forty thieves, who worship her as the Virgin Mary. The queen finds her and sticks a poisoned pin into her head. The thieves put the dead girl into a coffin and float her out to sea. A prince finds her, but when he pulls the needle out of her head, Blanca Rosa wakes up so frantic and panicking that he just sticks it back in... He revives her again later, and asks her to be his wife. His spinster sisters try to get rid of Blanca, but of course, she survives in the end.

The envious stepmother (Argentina)

In this version, the (nameless) princess is chased into the wilderness by her (birth) mother, and a gang of robbers adopts her as their mom (!). In the end, when a kind revives her by taking off her enchanted ring, the princess only agrees to marry him if he pardons all of her robber sons.

Now, let's be real: none of this means that the Disney movie is going to be any good. (Most live action Disney films... *cough* aren't.) If you ask me, anyone would be better off if any of these awesome variants were adapted instead.

But honestly neither the whiteness, nor the European-ness of Snow White is a constant thing in folklore. Just sayin'.

4 comments:

  1. Great response to narrow minded people! Ot , at least ignorant ones. Thank you for sharing these variants!

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  2. Great response to narrow minded or ignorant people! Thank you for sharing these variants and their sources!

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  3. I'm sure I won't see the movie, but I like their choice for Snow White.

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  4. Thanks for that wee collection. Most intriguing… I write tales of my own and love seeing variants. It puzzles me that some people dislike discovering that their version isn’t the only one.

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