Snow White & Pinocchio

The Dark Origins Behind Disney Fairy Tales Part III: Snow White & Pinocchio

By: Domonique Cox-Salberg

As we discovered in Part I and Part II, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Rapunzel stories do not follow the classic fairy tale we have come to love and know today. In which, the same applies for the very first Disney Princess, Snow White, and the studios equally noteworthy Pinocchio; two animated films generally considered to this day to be the best of Disney’s animation. At the time of their release, Snow White (1937), and Pinocchio (1940), similar to most Disney property, had a positive message and always a happy ending. Still, their origins stem from a much darker, lurid reality.

Quick jump to the following sections:

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

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The iconic poisonous apple scene apart of both versions of Snow White.

Beginning in the middle of winter, a queen sits at a window made of black ebony. While sowing, she pricks her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. She then thought to herself how pretty the red looked upon the white snow, and thought to herself, would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame. Soon after, Snow White was born, and she was white as snow and had hair as black as ebony. The queen died soon after. The king took himself another wife that was beautiful, proud, and haughty, and could not bear anyone else surpassing her beauty. She had a wonderful looking-glass too, and when she stoops in front of it and looked at herself in it, and said,

“Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?”
The looking-glass answered,
“Thou, o queen, art the fairest of all.”

Then she was satisfied, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth. However, over the years, Snow White grew to be more and more beautiful. By seven, she was more beautiful than the queen herself. For now, when the queen asked the looking glass who was the fairest of them all, Snow White was named. The queen was shocked, turning green and yellow with envy. Her hatred grew, along with jealousy and pride in her heart like a weed, so that she had no peace day or night.

Calling for a huntsman, she says, “Take the child away into the forest. I will no longer have her in my sight. Kill her, and bring me back her lung and liver as a token.” Taking Snow White away, the huntsmen could not bring himself to do it and let her run far into the forests. Coming across a young bear, he kills it and gets the Queen its lung and liver as proof that the child was dead. Believing the man, the queen cooks and salts the lung and liver for dinner, believing she had eaten the lung and liver of Snow White.

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Disney’s Snow White (1937)

Now, the poor child all alone in the forest wonders to a little cottage, where everything inside it was small. There were seven little plates, mugs, and beds. Very hungry and thirsty, Snow White eats a bit from every plate and drinks a drop out of each mug, for she did not wish to take all from one only, then she sleeps. Later, the dwarfs find her sleeping and decide she is too lovely to wake.

Following the next morning, Snow White and the dwarfs meet. She tells them of how her mother wished to have her killed, but the huntsman spared her life. Listening, they say she can stay as long as she cooks and cleans. If done, she shall want for nothing. Snow White agrees, and they live on in peace. However, back at the kingdom, the queen asks the mirror who is the fairest of them all for which 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.”

Astounded, the queen knew the looking-glass never spoke falsely. Snow White was still alive. The queen thought and thought how she might kill her, for as long as she was not the fairest in the land, envy let her have no rest. When she, at last, found something to do, she painted her face and dressed as an old peddler-woman, and no one could have known her. Heading over to the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, she knocked and cried, “Pretty things to sell, very cheap, very cheap.”

Snow White answers and buys the silk from the older woman, who insists she lace her with the new laces. But the older woman laced so quickly and so tightly, that Snow White lost her breath and fell as if dead. “You were the most beautiful,” said the queen to herself and ran away. The dwarfs come home to Snow lying dead-like and release her from the lace, which brings her back to life. The queen returns to the palace and her mirror, to be given the same answer that Snow White remains the fairest in the land.“Snow White shall die,” she cried, “even if it costs me my life.”

Devising another plan to give her a very poisonous apple, she returns to the dwarf’s home disguised as another older woman. Outside, the apple looked pretty, white with a red cheek, so that everyone who saw it longed for it. Although, Snow White, more aware now, does not open the door when the wicked woman arrives. The woman then tells Snow she will eat the white part and give the princess the red part to prove it is not poisonous. The apple was so cunningly made that only the red cheek was poisoned. Not being able to resist, Snow White takes a small bit of the apple and falls dead. The queen rejoices and returns home to ask the mirror who is the fairest,

And it answered at last,
“Oh, queen, in this land thou art fairest of all.”

Then her envious heart had rest, so far as an envious heart can have rest. But when the dwarfs find her now, they cannot bring her back like once before. After waiting three days with no sign of waking, they decide to make a transparent coffin of glass made and engraved; she was a king’s daughter. After some time, a prince came across the beautiful Snow White in the coffin and convinced the dwarfs to let him take her.

While his men help carry her away, they stumble over a tree-stump, and with shock, the poisonous apple which Snow had bitten off came out her throat. She awakens, meets the prince; they fall in love and marry. The queen in rage learns of this from the mirror and visits the young princess only to be met with iron slippers that have been put upon the fire. Presented with tongs and set before her, she is then forced to put on the red-hot shoes and dance until she dropped down dead.

The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Disney Adaptation with the Darkest Origins

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Unlike all the fairy tales discussed before, the story of the wooden boy has a known original author and is not first recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Called The Adventures of Pinocchio by the Italian author Carlo Collodi, from 1883, it is dark and very unlikable. Thus, this contentious tale begins with a woodcarver abusing Pinocchio.

The woodcarver is disturbed by the voice and asks himself where the voice came from; He says, “Might it be that this piece of wood has learned to weep and cry like a child?” and, “Yet, might someone be hidden in it? If so, the worse for him. I’ll fix him!” He proceeds to throw the wood to the floor, against the walls of the room, and even up to the ceiling, yet, no words were spoken. After this, fearful that it may be haunted, he gives the piece of wood to Geppetto. The boys in this book are described as greedy, disobedient, and dislikable. The worst being Pinocchio, the author describes him as “an imp,” “a confirmed rogue,” and “a disgrace.”

Wicked Fox and Cat, Donkeys, and Becoming A Real Boy

Pinocchio - Chapter XXXII - Pinocchio Turns in to a DonkeyPinocchio turning into a donkey in the 1883 version.Moreover, upon first meeting Geppetto, Pinocchio laughs at him, makes fun of the old man’s face, and cruelly steals his wig. Once his feet and legs are carved entirely, he kicks Geppetto and runs out of the door and away into the town. He is caught by a police figure, who assumes Pinocchio has been mistreated and imprisons Geppetto. Returning to his home now alone, he is greeted by the talking cricket (who would become Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney version) who scolds Pinocchio for his bad behavior towards Geppetto and warns him of the perils of disobedience and hedonism.

Pinocchio responds by bashing the cricket’s head in with a hammer. Geppetto is released from prison to find that Pinocchio accidentally burned off his feet; Geppetto fashions him a new pair of feet. In gratitude, Pinocchio promises to attend school, and Geppetto sells his only coat to buy him a schoolbook. The first days of school come, and the young boy encounters the Great Marionette Theater, inciting him to sell his book to buy a ticket to the show. Now at the show, the marionettes on the stage recognize him in the audience and call out to him, angering the puppet master for which he decides to use Pinocchio as firewood but changes his mind soon after and gives him five cold coins to give to Geppetto.

Pinocchio heads back home and along the way encounters a fox and a cat. The Cat pretends to be blind, and the Fox pretends to be lame. A white blackbird tries to warn the boy of their lies but is eaten by the Cat. The Fox and the Cat proceed to con the boy for his money, ditch him, and then disguise themselves as bandits, resulting in them hanging Pinocchio in a tree.

Disney whitewashed the story of Pinocchio, originally that of an ... Pinocchio (1883) being hung by the Fox and Cat.“….A northerly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet from side to side, making him swing violently, like the clatter of a bell ringing for a wedding. And the swinging gave him
atrocious spasms….
His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible.”

A fairy that he encountered earlier summons a falcon to get him down, and a doctor saves him. She then asks him what he did with the coins, and he lies, and his nose grows until it is so long that he cannot turn around in the room. What follows are several small adventures that lead Pinocchio astray, then back on track again, with the most notable mishap leading him to a place called Toyland were everyone plays all day and never works.

For five months, he plays there and wakes up one morning to find out he has turned into a donkey. A dormouse ends up telling him that he has donkey fever: boys who do nothing but play and never study always turn into donkeys. Thus, Throughout the book we find that he is mean, self-centered, juvenile, and delinquent, this same behavior is what gets him kidnapped, robbed, strangled, stabbed, chained up like a dog, beaten and almost fried in a pan on a stove top.

Nevertheless, the fairy is watching over him and gets him back on track for which he reunites with Geppetto, does good deeds, and finally earns becoming a real boy, where he finds his former puppet boy lying lifeless on a chair.

The end.

What did you think of these origin stories? Do you prefer the Disney version, or would you like to see these tales brought to the big screen?

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The Little Mermaid (1837)

Pied Piper of Hamelin (1842)

Aschenputtel (“Cinderella”) (1812)

Rapunzel (1812)

Snow White (1812)

Pinocchio (1883)


The Little Mermaid (1989)

Peter Pan (1953)

Cinderella (1950)

Tangled (2010)

Snow White (1937)

Pinocchio (1940)

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