What are the roles of the seven dwarfs in Snow White ?
Once upon a time, there were seven dwarfs, a beautiful princess and an evil queen in the collective unconscious
Snow White and the seven dwarfs have been part of our imagination for a long time now, and even our collective unconscious. So much so that we don't even really remember where it all began. The Grimm Brothers (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm) first wrote this masterpiece, presumably taken from oral tradition. For sure, The Snow White fairytale goes back well before the famous animated feature film and classic of Walt Disney.
Do garden statues or even Disney characters populate your lawn? Have you embarked on a beautiful decoration project for your backyard? You have some garden gnomes in the effigy of those found in the adventures of Snow White, but you would like to know more about their origins in order to perfect your outdoor design?
What does your garden decoration have to do with a Walt Disney cartoon inspired by the Snow White fairy-tale? In fact, the garden gnome dates back to a tradition that goes back to antiquity, in its long history it has fallen into disuse and it is the masterpiece of the Disney studios that has given the statuette its letters of nobility.
At Gnome For You©, the garden gnome is one of our favorite themes and decorative objects and we have not neglected the famous tale of the Grimm Brothers to make your garden a fairy tale.
Indeed, the garden gnome may be a mockery, but its origin goes back to antiquity and was first a token of celebration to certain deities. On the other hand, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, under its enchanting and naive appearance, conceals much deeper themes that are also worth celebrating. That's what we're trying to do.
By the end of your reading, nothing will escape you from the enchanted world of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and you'll have all the ease you need to find the best possible place and contextualize it to install one of your dwarfs from the cartoon universe into your own.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho! It's time to move on to the reading.
Origins and the original fairy tale, the Grimm Brothers
According to The Classic Fairy Tales (a reference collection of fairy tales as they first appeared in Shakespeare's language), the story of Snow White can be found in many variations over the globe, from Asia to Ireland to North and West Africa. So we are dealing with a fairy tale that touches something very deep (and some stereotypes too) for many people around the world and which, like any good myth, continues to fascinate.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, beyond a simple fairy tale, by its universal dimension touches the myth. It was in 1812 it was written down for the first time. Snow White was then part of a collection of tales from popular and traditional European stories. As with most of the Grimm brothers' tales, it is believed that this tale of a young girl rescued by dwarfs dates back to the Middle Ages, and has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
In 1937, Walt Disney's cartoon (for the time, revolutionary in its realization, as it was the first full-length film in color in the history of cinema), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, brilliantly propagated this story around the world and since then, it is often taken, if not trivialized, as a common fictional narrative.
The story in a nutshell
In the middle of winter, a young queen sat sewing by a window with a black ebony embroidery frame. At some point she pricked her finger and, as she saw the bright red blood, vowed that the child inside her would have skin as white as snow, cheeks as red and hair and eyes as black as ebony.
Subsequently, a daughter was born, endowed with the gifts desired by the queen mother, but the mother died while giving birth to her daughter, who would be named Snow White. A year later, the king married again. His wife, the new queen, was very beautiful, but as vain as she was proud. She spent her time in front of her magic mirror and relied on its advice to reassure her of her supremacy in beauty.
It was this same magic mirror that told the evil queen that her daughter-in-law had surpassed her in beauty. The queen was furious and sent Snow White into the forest with a hunter to kill her. The hunter, finding the heroin so beautiful and graceful, could not bring himself to carry out his order and let her flee through the trees.
In her flight, she found the little home of the seven dwarfs, where she was welcomed. Touched by her story, they decided to protect her in exchange for the care and maintenance of their house. Concerned about her safety, they explained that she was not to let anyone in while they were away working (in this case, searching for precious metals or gems in a nearby mountain mine).
Everything was going well until the Evil Queen discovered in her magic mirror that Snow White was still alive and still surpassed her in beauty. She made three attempts to kill her (after sending her in the forest with the huntsman) and seemed to have succeeded the fourth time when she gave her a poisoned apple that Snow White ended up biting through the window of the dwarfs' house (disguised as a benevolent old woman).
The dwarfs returned home to find the sleeping and mostly lifeless little princess and placed her in a glass coffin as a tribute to her beauty which remained, despite the appearance of death, intact. Some time later, a prince on horseback who saw the funeral procession led by the dwarfs around the coffin, fell in love with Snow White and managed to persuade the dwarfs to entrust the body in a deep sleep and the coffin to him. When he mounted her on his horse, the piece of poisoned apple fell from her throat and she was brought back to life.
Prince Charming took Snow White back to his castle to marry her. The evil stepmother-queen was forced to dance in white-hot iron shoes until her death.
The true origins of Snow White?
In 1994, a German historian by the name of Eckhard Sander published Snow White: Fairy Tale or Truth? claiming that he had stumbled upon the original story according to which the Grimm brothers transcribed the tale in the 19th century.
According to the German historian, Snow White originated from a German countess born to Philip IV in the 16th century in 1533 and a certain Margarete von Waldeck. Her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld, forced Margarete to move to Wildungen in Brussels at the age of 16. There, she fell in love with a prince, who would later become Philip II of Spain.
This was a "politically awkward" relationship that Margarete's father and mother-in-law did not approve of. Margarete died mysteriously at the age of 21, apparently poisoned. Historical accounts indicate that Spanish agents were sent by the King of Spain, who did not approve the romance, to murder the young Margarete.
Who were the seven dwarfs then?
What about the seven dwarfs? Margarete's father, Philip IV, owned a number of copper mines that employed children who were treated as virtual slaves. The deplorable living conditions caused many of them to die, but those who survived were severely stunted and deformed in bone structure due to malnutrition and backbreaking physical labor.
In another version of the tale, based on what the Grimm brothers left behind, The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines (a series of fantasy novels), the dwarfs are actually personifications of the elements, summoned by Snow White to help her based on magical powers from one of her biological mother's books. The seven dwarfs represent Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Shadow, Light and Magic, although the "magical" dwarf is more a spirit that inhabits only the snow and enhances the dwarfs' power rather than appearing on its own, while the others appear in one form or another to represent their element.
Although they are powerful fighters who will loyally serve Snow White the consequences of their summoning are that the young princess must pay back the spirits with seven years of her own life, which explains why she appears to be in her thirties when she is really only in her twenties.
In short, the dwarfs surrounding Snow White are, in turn...
- Tireless workers.
- Loyal protectors.
- Fearsome warriors.
Whatever the case, their respective and collective identities are fundamentally linked to nature, its living forces and the respect that must be shown to it in order to maintain balance, regain justice and maintain a good moral.
The seven dwarfs
In Disney's 1937 movie, Doc is the leader of the band. Although he may seem perplexed by his sometimes halting speech, Doc is an intelligent and reliable figurehead to whom the other dwarfs turn for advice.
Doc often stammers, which makes him lose his train of thought while he talks or mix up letters and sounds. Nevertheless, he seems to have complete authority over his friends, with the exception of Grumpy, who often opposes his decisions. This leads to an ongoing rivalry between the two opposing forces, although Grumpy usually follows Doc's lead, nevertheless, in most situations.
Doc encourages rational and organized behavior among the dwarfs and is especially kind to Snow White. He is the most accommodating and comforting, as he allows her to sleep in their bed and warns her against letting strangers in the house. This also has to do with his more paternal nature, which also comes out when it comes to Dopey, a comical child who, despite his incompetence, is his right-hand man; he often plays the role of janitor, when he is with Doc.
However, although he is the leader and the individual to whom the other dwarfs turn for advice, Prof becomes quite vulnerable under pressure. He sometimes has mild panic attacks or becomes too agitated himself to think of a good plan of action when a situation of great importance befalls the dwarfs. For example: during the return to the cottage, moments before meeting the princess, and especially during the confrontation between the queen and Snow White.
Fortunately, in moments of distress, the other dwarfs help until Doc regains his composure and takes the lead... once again.
Dopey is the youngest of the seven dwarfs in Disney's 1937 cartoon. He gets his name from his incompetence and his penchant for antics. He is the only dwarf who does not speak because, according to Happy, he has never tried. He is also the only dwarf with blue eyes and no beard.
He is often mocked by the dwarfs' jokes and his immaturity can annoy Prof and Grumpy. Dopey is not a complete idiot, he just acts like a small child or a dog, which is why there is little or no punishment or confrontation for his shenanigans, except for a pat on the head. The dwarfs are apparently used to his pranks and foolish acts and just generally ignore them.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Dopey is his lack of speech. Sometimes he does make sounds such as moans, hiccups and a single cry. Interestingly, his lack of speech doesn't seem to bother the other dwarfs, as they understand his other forms of communication very well. Prof, in particular, was able to easily translate Dopey's words into a coherent sentence before their first meeting with Snow White.
Grumpy lives his days carrying a strong sourness. He has negative, even antagonistic traits, such as being rude, bossy, arrogant, condescending and misogynistic. Other than that, he is perhaps the most competent and capable of the dwarfs. Perhaps this is why he seems to resent Prof, whose leadership position often makes him doubt his own abilities.
He is also particularly annoyed by Dopey's antics, Bashful's reserve and Sneezy's nasal explosions. Although he is stubborn and rarely admits it, deep down he has a tender and compassionate heart. He has also proven to be very intelligent and rather fearless. Although he is opinionated and generally opposed to change, Grumpy has shown that his mindset and opinions can improve, even if it takes a long time to do so.
At the beginning of the film, Grumpy is extremely suspicious of women, believing that they wield black magic and evil intent. It is probably because he heard the stories about that evil queen, Snow White's stepmother. Because of this, Grumpy at first do not approve of Snow White staying with them.
Grumpy is also afraid that the queen has infiltrated the dwarf house because Snow White is staying there. Moreover, Grumpy will again show his paranoia by claiming that Snow White's homemade soup is a witch's brew.
Like the other dwarfs, Grumpy obviously has a crush on Snow White. However, unlike the others, for much of her stay with them, he firmly denies it. While she cohabits with them, the friendship between the two develops, Snow White herself being more than aware of it. She even teases the stubborn dwarf about his "dislike" for her.
At the climax of the adventures that Snow White and the dwarfs will share, Grumpy lead with heroism the dwarfs on a mission to rescue the princess while the queen confronts him, showing that he cares for her with all his might. In the end, he reveals his good nature and embraces his feelings of joy and care for Snow White and the other dwarfs, especially Doc.
Like all dwarfs, Happy lives up to his name. Very extroverted and forward, he is, along with Dopey, the friendliest and most cheerful of the bunch. His cheerful demeanor prompts him to laugh quite often, and the merry dwarf is also a singer, yodeler and musician.
Ironically, although he is the opposite of Grumpy in almost every way, the two have never been known to bicker and clash, that role being left to Doc. However, Happy often teases Grumpy. In addition to his playful nature, Happy seems to be the largest of the dwarfs and has a passion for cooking and just eating.
As evidenced by the dwarfs' first encounter with Snow White, Happy is the most sociable of his little friends. He introduces himself to Snow White, politely and merrily, while the princess herself guesses the name of the other dwarfs.
Happy normally never seems to be troubled; however, he can be quite fierce when potential danger comes around. For example, when the dwarfs learn that a mysterious intruder has come into their house, Happy is the first to conjure a plan, and advises them to sneak up on the supposed monster and kill it while it sleeps.
At the climax of the adventures that Snow White and the dwarfs share, as the queen has launched her attack on her stepdaughter, Merry expresses pure anger as he takes it upon himself to fight back. And he also experiences other emotions, like annoyance when Dopey acts foolishly in a serious situation. Despite this, he generally maintains his reputation as the most pleasant and cheerful of the seven dwarfs.
His name is straightforward, Bashful is very reserved... and shy! He has a crush on Snow White, and it shows throughout the time she shares with the other dwarfs, especially when the two interact directly. His shyness often causes him to blush profusely, covering her entire face with blushes under his long beard in between confused giggles and chuckles. His personality, like that of most dwarfs, apparently makes Grumpy angry.
In addition to his great reserve, Bashful also seems to be a great romantic. He is particularly fond love stories, and when Snow White, during her stay among the dwarfs, begins to tell the dwarfs a story, Bashful candidly asks for a romantic tale.
As his name suggests, Sleepy is always tired, eyes downcast, and constantly on the verge of falling asleep. In the Disney film, most of the scenes featuring him during the adventures he and the other dwarfs share with Snow White show him sleepily struggling to stay awake in the midst of a colorful event.
Although he is regularly under the influence of laziness, and although he is admittedly a bit clumsy, he still has a great deal of work in him. Due to his lack of stamina he often suffers accidental injuries and other unintended situations, such as hitting the skin of a deer while trying to kill a fly or hitting himself with a cymbal while trying to capture the insect again.
However, although he spends most of his time in a drowsy state, whether he is aware of it or not, Sleepy, of the seven dwarfs, is probably the most perceptive and the one with the best powers of observation. He was the only one of the seven to have guessed that Snow White's stepmother might attack the cottage when the forest animals came to abruptly stop the dwarfs' work at the mine.
Like most dwarfs, Sneezy's name reflects his nature. Because of his perpetual hay fever, he sneezes frequently and his symptoms often prevent him from even speaking. His repeated sneezes are incredibly powerful and can carry away anything and anyone in their path. As a result, other dwarfs will run to hold his nose when they feel a sneeze is coming. He can usually foresee one and give a warning, but sometimes you can't tell when it's time.
Sneezy is one of the friendliest dwarfs in the group, even with his frustrating affliction. He seems to have a greater sense of humor than the others and participates in a number of their antics. This may be because he knows what it feels like to be encumbered with such a disability on a daily basis.
They lived happily and had... many garden gnomes!
What a journey my friends! From the origins to today, through the movie of course, the seven dwarfs are an integral part of our imagination and collective unconscious and it is not bad to... remember them! In a way, this great story is part of us, at least of the European historical heritage.
Moreover, through this journey you will have learned...
- The origins of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.
- Why the dwarfs are seven.
- The role of the seven dwarfs in this ancient tale.
- More about the personalities and temperaments of the seven dwarfs themselves.
Now, no doubt, you will spread happiness and perpetuate the collective heritage by ornamenting your lawn with these garden statues. You'll see smiles on the faces of your visitors and neighbors.