Often times, when something is so far fetched or unbelievably perfect, we accuse it of being a fairy tale. But what if fairy tales are rooted in truth? When I began historical research for my time travel retelling of Snow White, I stumbled across a startling tidbit of information—the Grimm Brothers might not have made up the story of Snow White. Here is some of the surprising research I gathered before writing my novel.
Margaretha von Waldeck was a German countess born in 1533. Local records state that she was an exceptional beauty. (1.) She was named after her mother, Margareta who died when she was only four years old. (2.) Her father, Philip IV remarried Katherina von Hatzfeld. Apparently their new mother was not very fond of her new children and sent many of them off to live with relatives. When Margaretha was 16, she went to live with her uncle Johann Cirksena in Brussels at the Valkenburg Castle. (3.) As she was presented in court, she caught the eye of three high standing nobles, including Prince Philip II of Spain who fell hopelessly in love with Margaretha. Philip's father (the king of Spain) did NOT approve of the match and expected his son to marry for the gain of the kingdom. An alleged assassin was hired, and Margaretha slowly fell into a serious illness at the age of 21. Many of her friends commented that they believed Margaretha had been poisoned by degrees. Her last will and testament was written in a shaky hand, convincing historians that her death was indeed from unnatural causes. (4.)
The surrounding area was littered with functioning copper mines, most of which were operated with child labor and owned by Margaretha's brother. Work conditions were horrible, and the hard labor often stunted the growth of the children so they never grew to full height, dwarfing them. (5.) It is supposed that the mine gasses also grayed their hair prematurely. The workers lived in small cottages that often housed up to thirty occupants at a time.
The Magic Mirror
In a neighboring kingdom of Lohr, was another princess, Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal. There is often some debate between the castles of Lohr and Waldeck about who was the true inspiration for the Snow White tale. I believe it is very likely that the Grimm brothers drew from multiple fantastical stories from the area to compile into their fairy tale. After Maria's mother died and her father remarried, a large looking glass was given to her step-mother as a gift. The mirror still stands in the Lohr Schloss where tourists are told of the connection to the Snow White fairy tale. (6.) The high-quality glassworks of the area were known to be so clear that they "only spoke the truth" and contained little aphorisms in the upper left corner meant to inspire self-love.
There are records of a man in the village of Wildungen who became fed up with local thieves and began handing out poisoned apples to the children he suspected were stealing from him. (7.) The man was later arrested and his crime became well known in the area.
These were just some of the real-life historical elements that I found while researching for my novel, Shattered Snow. The main thing that inspired me was how the Grimm brothers weren't satisfied with Margaretha's sad tale, and immortalized her happily ever after with a new ending. It inspired me to write an alternative history of my own.
Shattered Snow is a time-travel retelling of Snow White, based on the real-life history of Margaretha von Waldeck. It is a Swoony Award Winner for best fairy tale retelling romance, a Whitney Award finalist, and a Deep Magic E-zine highlighted novel. Its sequel, Spinning Briar, is a retelling of Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty and is set in Medieval France. The final installment of the trilogy, Saving Winter, is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, and is set for release in 2021. View the series on Amazon today!
1. Schneewittchen: blonde Tochter einer Adligen aus Ostfriesland: Eine historische Spurensuche BoD 2013, Dekker, p. 33.
3. Grudrun Anne Dekker, Schneewittchen: blonde Tochter einer Adligen aus Ostfriesland: Eine historische Spurensuche, BoD 2013. Dekker, pp. 31-32
4. Schneewittchen: blonde Tochter einer Adligen aus Ostfriesland: Eine historische Spurensuche BoD 2013, Dekker, p. 40
5. Schneewittchen: Marchen oder Wahrheit?, Sanders
6. Werner Loibl, Die kurmainzische Spiegelmanufaktur Lohr am Main in der Zeit Kurfürst Lothar Franz von Schönborn (1698-1729), p.277f, in the catalogue: Glück und Glas, Zur Kulturgeschichte des Spessarts, Munich, 1984; Loibl is the foremost expert in the history of 17th and 18th-century glasshouses in Germany, according to Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk, formerly Curator of European Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY), since 2008 Director of the Hentrich Museum of Glass (Düsseldorf, Germany). Cf. now the history of the 17th- and 18th-century glasshouses in Lohr and in the Spessart written by Werner Loibl: Die kurmainzische Spiegelmanufaktur Lohr am Main (1698 - 1806) und die Nachfolgebetriebe im Spessart, 3 volumes, Aschaffenburg 2012, ISBN978-3-87965-118-4.
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