I love fairy tales! If that is not evident by now, then it will be soon. I loved fairy tales when I was a little girl, I loved them when I was a teenager and I still love them now when I am (supposedly) an adult. The reasons why are so many, that it will take a whole other article or a series of articles to cover them all. This article is about something else – it is about the origins of the Grimm’s fairy tales. One of the best things about living in Germany is the so-called “German Fairy Tale Route”. That and castles and beer, don’t forget the beer! Anyway, the German Fairy Tale Route goes across the whole country from Hamburg to Hanau, tracing the origins of the most famous and beloved children’s stories.
One beautiful Sunday I decided to start my own fairy tale travels and made a one-day road trip to Bergfreiheit. That is the name of a small German village, which gave us the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The village is now a district of Bad Wildungen – a larger city, famous for its spa hotels and beautiful parks. Bergfreiheit is also called Schneewittchendorf or Snow White’s village.
I have to say that Germans are smart folks. They took a small village with a small connection to the most famous fairy tale in the world and made it a tourist attraction. The first thing you see one minute after you’ve entered the village is eight statues – seven dwarfs and Snow White.
If you are ever in Bergfreiheit, you have to check out “Schneewittchen Haus” – Snow White’s House. Of course Snow White never actually lived in that house, but Germans made an effort to reconstruct what the house would’ve looked like if she did.
One thing you should know about this place is that back in the days there were many copper mines and the locals worked there from a very young age. There were some accusations for child labor, but not many people cared back then. Since they were very young (probably around 10-12 years old) when they started to work in the mines, the men were no higher than a toddler. The reason was that working in the mines bent down all day stopped their normal physical development. That could definitely explain why the Grimm brothers choose to represent them as dwarfs.
As you can see all the small beds are in one room, which is historically correct since child laborers used to live in groups of 20 in the same house. It’s not like everyone could have their own room, right? They had one bedroom, one kitchen, one bathroom. I guess you can see why Grumpy wasn’t happy to share with yet another person.
When you visit Snow White’s House you also get a tour guide, who explains to you the history of the village and the origin story of Schneewittchen. Of course, all of that is in German, which is why here I’m going to tell you the story, just in case you don’t speak German.
It is believed that behind Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, is the story of Margaretha von Waldeck. She was the daughter of the Count of Waldeck-Wildungen and Bergfreiheit was part of his lands. Even the records found later in Bad Wildungen say she was famous for her beauty. When she was 16 years old, she was sent to study in Brussels, which was the tradition for European royals. There she met Phillip II, the future king of Spain. He was infatuated with her and pursued her for the few months he spent in Brussels. His parents didn’t like this relationship since Margaretha wasn’t royal enough for the prince. The reason why she is believed to be the inspiration for Snow White is that she died at the age of 21 after being slowly poisoned to death. She did have a stepmother, but since her father remarried the same year Margarethe died, her stepmother was not a suspect. The Spanish royal family was believed to be responsible for her untimely death.
As you can see the fairy tale turned out quite different but one can see how all those historical facts and small details intertwined and gave us “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
The more boring but very useful information:
Bergfreiheit is 14km south of Bad Wildungen, you can find it on Google maps and there’re signs along the way.
When you see the famous statues of the dwarfs you can look around and you will find many parking places. There are no maps that could show you how to find Snow White’s House but there are small sings. All you have to do is go up the street, which is right from the statues. It is perhaps 5-8 minutes’ walk up the hill. If you see a restaurant on your left, that is great, you are on the right way, so keep moving. Soon you’ll see a historical museum on your right and then the street splits in two. Take the left and you will see the house. Keep in mind that the signs are small and you have to get close to see them. The House is open from 01 January until 31 December, on the weekends from 3 pm till 5pm. The admission fee is 3 Euro for adults and 1 Euro for children under 11. Warning: It’s ok to take pictures and videos inside, as long as you don’t capture any of the other people, besides you and your buddies.
To see more of my incredible adventure, check out the video: