Friday, January 8, 2016

The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights

Charles Robinson's Snowdrop

This Russian poem, by Alexander Pushkin, is an interesting version of "Snow White." Written in 1833, Pushkin had a French translation of the brothers Grimm, so it appears that The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights was his revision of the tale. The full text can be read here, but below is an excerpt.

This version is much more romantic. Rather than the Prince (disturbingly) lusting after a corpse, this Prince was already engaged to the Princess, and spent the time of her disappearance searching for her. The Princess lives with seven knights, who despite being in love with her treat her with utmost respect, and she remains loyal to her betrothed.

Charles Robinson's Snowdrop
Also, the Princess in this poem comes across as less stupid, because there is no warning against talking to anyone that she breaks; and instead of accepting gifts from the same woman who already tried to poison her, her only interaction with her stepmother was to trade bread for an apple. (Actually, some of these features would later become part of the Disney version, such as a previous romance between the Prince and Princess, and one temptation episode instead of three).

Illustrations by Charles Robinson

The Tsaritsa, time to pass,
Chatted with her looking-glass:
"Who in all the world is fairest
And has beauty of the rarest?"
Then what did the glass reply?
"You are fair, I can't deny.
But the Princess is the fairest
And her beauty is the rarest."
Up the proud Tsaritsa jumped.
On the table how she thumped,
Angrily the mirror slapping,
Slipper heel in fury tapping!
"O you loathsome looking-glass,
Telling lies as bold as brass!
By what right is she my rival?
Such young folly I shall bridle.
So she's grown up—me to spite! 

Little wonder she's so white:
With her bulging mother gazing
At that snow—what's so amazing!
Now look here, explain to me
How can she the fairer be? 

Charles Robinson's Snowdrop


  1. There are quite a lot of versions of Snow White, I gather from Surlalune, even one or two from Africa! (I even wrote one myself, published in an anthology of folk tale themed stories, in which the seven dwarfs are the Seven Dwarves, Tolkienesque warriors who have been living in exile. The girl isn't dumb.)

  2. Just wanted to point out that Snow White doesn't fall for the "same" old woman, three times, in both the first and the last edition of the Grimm tale it is pointed out that the Queen takes on different disguises (a peddler woman, "a completely different guise" (1812)/"a different old woman" (1857) and a female peasant)

    Currently I'm listening to an audio drama adaption of the play "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) from 1912 which was adapted to a silent movie in 1916, which in turn inspired Walt Disney (who had seen the movie as a young teen) for his own adaptation of Snow White. I'm not finished yet, but some elements, like the prince beingintroduced early on are present. (I'll update my post once I'm finished with the audio book.) It would be interesting to find out wether/how much this play was influenced by the russian poem.

    (The audio drama can be found on LibriVox:

    1. Wow...I NEVER caught on to that when reading the Grimms' Snow White. Makes a big difference!