‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was the first movie in what would eventually become a popular planetary Disney princess franchise. The movie was released in 1937, and the viewers were absolutely enchanted with the story and with the never-before-seen visuals. We decided to revisit the original in order to answer one burning question – the one related to the story’s setting. Let’s see where & where ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ take place.
The setting of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was never explained in detail
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” may initially seem challenging to place on a timeline, but subtle hints, especially in the characters’ clothing, provide clues that help determine the era, but the story likely takes place in the 1500s, and here’s how we know that.
The first clue is as always, the clothing. While medieval clothing can appear generic, specific details such as over-the-top collars help narrow down the time period. The presence of high collars, reminiscent of those seen in portraits of influential figures like Queen Elizabeth and Spanish royalty, points to the 1500s.
Although Snow White and the Evil Queen both feature high collars, the materials and design choices differentiate them. The Evil Queen’s collar is sharp and pointy, while Snow White’s is rounder and cuts off lower.
Capes and wide sleeves were popular fashion elements during the 1500s, and these can be observed in the Evil Queen’s attire. Snow White’s dress, while typical for the time period, deviates with short sleeves and bright colors. This was most likely a creative choice to appeal to the movie’s young audience.
Makeup also contributes to the time frame. Snow White’s minimal makeup, with a pale complexion and bright red lipstick, aligns with the beauty standards of the 1500s. The Evil Queen, as the antagonist, wears heavier makeup, including eye shadow.
‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ takes place in Germany
When considering the geographical location of the story, it’s evident that Snow White is set in Germany. One clear indicator is the fact that the story was published in a collection of folktales by the Brothers Grimm, who were German.
A closer look at the dwarfs’ home provides another clue. In one scene, a shelf filled with books and various furniture strongly suggests a German setting.
The dwarfs’ constant yodeling serves as an additional hint. This form of singing is native to Germany, and given that the story is set in the 1500s, it aligns with the historical context rather than being a later influence.
It’s important to note that while the story is undoubtedly German, the exact location within Germany is not specified. Looking at a modern political map, the narrative could unfold anywhere in Germany or even extend to regions that now comprise Belgium, the Netherlands, or Luxembourg.
‘Snow White’ was inspired by a folk tale
The best-known version of Snow White originates from Germany, featured in the fairy tale collections of the Grimm brothers, German scholars, historians, and writers. Their compilation, ‘Nursery and Household Tales,’ published in 1812, included not only Snow White but also stories adapted into older Disney classics like Cinderella and Rapunzel.
The brothers, akin to their other adaptations, didn’t create the Snow White story but collected it from German folk traditions. Passed down through generations, the original tale evolved over time, with the version in ‘Nursery and Household Tales’ differing significantly from its original form.
Disney continued this tradition with its animated adaptation in 1937. However, the Disney version, to cater to American audiences, made substantial changes, toning down the darker elements of the original tale.
In the original story, the Evil Queen not only orders the hunter to kill Snow White but also indulges in disturbing acts like boiling and consuming what she believes to be Snow White’s boar organs. The adaptation omits these gruesome details.
Disney ages up the main character, presenting a 14-year-old Snow White in contrast to the original tale, where she is only 7 years old. The adaptation also streamlines the Evil Queen’s attempts on Snow White’s life, excluding instances like attempting suffocation with a tight corset and poisoning with a comb, retaining only the iconic apple attempt.
A positive divergence from the original is that in the book, Snow White revives when a stumbling dwarf dislodges the apple from her throat.
One significant change, made for a good reason, is in the way the Evil Queen meets her demise. In Disney’s version, she falls off a cliff chased by the dwarfs, attributing her death to gravity. In the original tale, Snow White seeks revenge, compelling the Evil Queen to dance in scorching iron shoes until her death.