According to a study group in Lohr, Bavaria, Snow White is based on Maria Sophia von Erthal, born on 15 June, 1729 in Lohr am Main, Bavaria. She was the daughter of 18 th century landowner, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal and his wife, Baroness von Bettendorff.
After the death of the Baroness, Prince Philipp went onto marry Claudia Elisabeth Maria von Venningen, Countess of Reichenstein, who was said to dislike her stepchildren. The castle where they lived, now a museum, was home to a ‘talking mirror’, an acoustical toy that could speak (now housed in the Spessart Museum). The mirror, constructed in 1720 by the Mirror Manufacture of the Electorate of Mainz in Lohr, had been in the house during the time that Maria’s stepmother lived there.
The dwarfs in Maria’s story are also linked to a mining town, Bieber, located just west of Lohr and set among seven mountains. The smallest tunnels could only be accessed by very short miners, who often wore bright hoods, as the dwarfs have frequently been depicted over the years.
The Lohr study group maintain that the glass coffin may be linked to the region’s famous glassworks, while the poisoned apple, may be associated with the deadly nightshade poison that grows in abundance in Lohr.
A German historian has also postulated that it may be the true story of Margarete VonWaldeck. (via ancient origins.net/myths)
According to Sander, the character of Snow White was based on the life of Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess born to Philip IV in 1533. At the age of 16, Margarete was forced by her stepmother, Katharina of Hatzfeld to move away to Wildungen in Brussels. There, Margarete fell in love with a prince who would later become Phillip II of Spain.
Margarete’s father and stepmother disapproved of the relationship as it was ‘politically inconvenient’. Margarete mysteriously died at the age of 21, apparently having been poisoned. Historical accounts point to the King of Spain, who opposing the romance, may have dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete.
So what about the seven dwarfs? Margarete’s father owned several copper mines that employed children as quasi-slaves. The poor conditions caused many to die at a young age, but those that survived had severely stunted growth and deformed limbs from malnutrition and the hard physical labour. As a result, they were often referred to as the ‘poor dwarfs’.
Whether true or not, the story has persisted into modern times thanks to Walt Disney and his 1937 classic telling of the tale. I’ve included the artwork done by Franz Juttner, a German artist, in 1905 for the Sneewittchen book pictured above.
Book cover photo via Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations by Franz Jutttner courtesy of Wikipedia
Historical information via Ancient Origins.net