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Literature / Snow-White and Rose-Red

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Illustration by Rie Cramer

"Snow-White and Rose-Red" (or "Snow-White and Rosy-Red") is a fairy tale told by both Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm in their fairy tale collections. The oldest known version had the title "The Ungrateful Dwarf".

A poor peasant woman lives in a cabin in the woods. She grows two rose-trees in front of her house, one with white roses and one with red. When the flowers blooms she has two children, both girls. She names them both after the trees, Snow White and Rose Red respectively. They have an adventure involving an evil dwarf, a bear that turns out to be an enchanted prince, the enchanted prince's enchanted brother, and, of course, eventually, live happily ever after.

It can be read here, here, here, here, and here.

Adapted into comic form by Gina Biggs of Erstwhile, and featured in an episode of the anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics.

That Snow White has nothing to do with this story. The German versions of their names are spelled slightly differently (Rose Red's sister is Schneeweißchen; the seven dwarfs's boarder is Schneewittchen). Neither does "Snow-White-Fire-Red".

It is classified as tale type Aarne–Thompson-Uther (ATU) 426, "The Two Girls, the Bear, and the Dwarf".

"Snow-White and Rose-Red" contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: The girls don't have a father around, but it's not clear why. He might be dead, or absent, but the fact that their mother gave birth to two unusually beautiful and pure-hearted daughters right after two gorgeous flowers bloomed in her garden could potentially hint that their conception was due to magic, and Mom is a Truly Single Parent.
  • Animorphism: The bear turns out to be a prince under a curse.
  • Beary Friendly: The bear. Makes sense, since he's actually a prince under a curse.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Naturally, the two siblings are described as gorgeous and pure-hearted, while the cruel and spiteful dwarf is ugly and twisted.
  • Big Bad: The dwarf, who's rude to the girls even when they help him and was the one who cursed the prince in the first place.
  • Curse: The bear is actually a prince put under a curse by the dwarf; the curse is only lifted when the dwarf dies.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: The dwarf is so angry that the girls have cut off half his beard to save him from being drowned by a fish, that he yells "I hope you will have to run until you have no soles left on your shoes!".
  • Depraved Dwarf: The dwarf is a Jerkass who cursed the prince and stole his treasure.
  • Disappeared Dad: The girls' mother is introduced as a widow, but it is not mentioned how their father died.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Snow-White winds up with the prince who was turned into a bear while Rose-Red marries his brother. Since the girls grew up sharing everything, this is the closest they can come to sharing a husband, too.
  • Fiery Redhead: Rose Red is the spunky tomboy of the sisters and is often depicted with red or reddish brown hair.
  • Forced Transformation:
    • The Prince was turned into a bear by the Dwarf. In Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics it's shown how it happened: the Prince caught the Dwarf stealing his family's treasures, confronted him on his theft, and got transformed for his trouble.
    • The Second Prince is usually subject to this in adaptations that give him a larger role as well. One German film version has him be transformed into a hawk. The Let's Pretend version of the story has him be turned into a stag. Some picture books have him be turned into a fish; Regina Doman's adaptation of the story in her Fairytale Novels even names his counterpart Fish in reference to this.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The siblings are friendly with every animal in the woods, and continue to help the dwarf even when he acts ungrateful towards them.
  • Ghibli Hills: The forest, unlike the usual woods of fairy tales, is safe for small children to wander in, even overnight.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: The story explicitly averts the trope, as the sisters are very different but very devoted to one another.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: A common portrayal of Snow White, in order to distinguish her from another Snow White and her distinctive look. Averted in Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics where Snow White has dark brown hair.
  • Happily Ever After: The dwarf dies, the prince is saved, the girls get married to princes, and their mom lives in the lap of luxury.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Both girls are very pure of heart.
  • Love at First Sight: It's implied with Snow White and the Prince, but usually made more explicit with adaptations.
  • No Name Given: The Princes. Or at least the younger Prince.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They protect little girls from falling off cliffs.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Rose Red prefers playing in the fields to staying at home.
  • Pair the Spares: Snow White marries the prince, and Rose Red ends up marrying his never-previously-mentioned brother.
  • Prince Charming: The cursed prince is pretty typical... though since he spends most of the story as a talking (friendly) bear, he's a bit of a subversion.
  • Rags to Royalty: Snow White and Rose Red's reward from the bear. By the end of the story, both originally peasant girls are now royalty.
  • Random Events Plot: Many, many elements of the story are irrelevant to each other.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Rose Red (who loves to run around the fields) and Snow White (who prefers to stay home and read), respectively.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: In some versions, Rose Red's prince is the one leading the search for his missing brother.
  • Rule of Three: The girls helped the dwarf three times.
  • Satellite Love Interest: The girls do know the oldest Prince for a while, but it's not known how long the courting process for Rose Red was with the Prince's brother; he's mostly a plot device there to ensure the sisters don't end up on unequal standing. The Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics averts it by making the younger prince appear on-screen.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Some adaptations give the two princes this treatment, which usually amounts to making them Spear Counterparts to the sisters.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: In addition to the contrast of colors, the siblings also have wildly different personalities.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: "Snow White was more quiet and gentle than Rose Red. Rose Red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow White sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her housework."
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The dwarf demands help from the girls whenever he's in trouble, always has a trivial complaint about the help he's given, and never bothers to thank them afterwards.