White-as-Ice-Drops and the Five-and-Two Little Men

In honor of the bicentennial year of Kinder und Hausmärchen, by the Brothers Grimm, here’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, retold using only the thousand most common English words, at least according to the Up-Goer Five Text Editor. It’s harder than you would think.

My narrative is based on D.L. Ashliman’s translation of the 1812 version of Snow White, abbreviated because it was getting really long. Note that in this version, the queen is Snow White’s biological mother, and despite what Disney would have us believe, the prince didn’t wake Snow White up with a kiss.


White-as-Ice-Drops and the Five-and-Two Little Men

Once upon a time, in the cold dark time of the year, a beautiful lady who led her land sat at her window, making clothes and watching the white ice drops that fell from the sky. As she watched, she hurt her finger and blood ran from it, falling on the white ice drops below the window. It looked so beautiful that the lady thought, “If only I had a daughter as white as ice drops, as red as blood, and as black as the black wood of this window.” Soon after she had a daughter with skin as white as ice drops, cheeks as red as blood, and hair black as black wood. The lady named her White-as-Ice-Drops.

Now the lady was the most beautiful woman in all the land, and very happy with how beautiful she was. She had a mirror that she stood in front of every morning, and she would say:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Who in this land is most beautiful of all?

And the mirror would answer:

You, my lady, are most beautiful of all.

And then she knew for sure that no one in the world was more beautiful than she.

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By the time White-as-Ice-Drops turned five-and-two years old, she was more beautiful than her mother. Now when the lady asked her mirror, “Who in this land is most beautiful of all?”

The mirror said:

You, my lady, are beautiful, it’s true.
But little White-as-Ice-Drops
Is ten hundred times more beautiful than you.

When the lady heard this, she began to hate her daughter for being so beautiful. Finally she called a man who kills for food and told him: “Take my daughter far into the woods and kill her. Bring back her heart and liver so that I know you did this. I will make them into food and eat them.”

The man took the girl into the woods, but when he was about to kill her, she cried and asked him not to — she promised to run away and never return. The man felt sad for her because she was so young and beautiful, and he didn’t kill her. Instead, he killed a young animal that ran by and cut out its heart and liver to give to the lady. The lady ate them.

Little White-as-Ice-Drops ran scared through the woods, all day. Just as the sun was about to set, she found a little house. The house was owned by five-and-two short little men who worked all day in a mine, finding sun-colored rocks for which people gave a lot of money. The men weren’t yet home. The little girl needed food and water, so she ate some of their food, and drank some of their drink. Then she fell asleep on one of their beds.

When the short little men came back from the mine, they found her. “She is so beautiful!” they said. They didn’t want to wake her up, so they let her sleep while they shared the remaining six beds all night.


When White-as-Ice-Drops woke up the next morning, she told the men her story. They said that she could stay with them, as long as she kept their house clean and made their food and their clothes. She would be alone in the day, when they were gone finding sun-colored rocks. They told her to watch out for her mother.

The lady who led the land thought she was now the most beautiful in the land, but when she stepped in front of her mirror the next morning, it said:

You my lady, are beautiful, it’s true.
But little White-as-Ice-Drops, past the five-and-two high places
Is ten hundred times more beautiful than you.

The lady knew the man who kills for food had lied to her, and she was angry. She found her daughter and two times tried to kill her, but both times the short little men saved the girl’s life.

The third time, the lady went into a room that no one else knew about, and there she made a red food that comes from trees that would kill anyone who ate it. She made herself look like an old woman and went to White-as-Ice-Drops.

“Try this beautiful red food,” she said to the girl. “You can have the red part, and I will eat the white part.” Only the red part killed anyone who ate it. The girl ate the red part, and fell down dead.

The lady went home, and asked her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Who in this land is most beautiful of all?

And the mirror answered:

You, my lady, are most beautiful of all.

The lady was happy.

That night the short little men came home, and tried to wake up White-as-Ice-Drops. They couldn’t. They cried and cried for three days. Then they made a dead-person box out of glass, and laid the girl in it. On the box they wrote her name and family in sun-colored letters, and kept it in their home to watch over it.

One day the son of a man who leads his land came by and asked the short little men if he could stay in their house for the night. When he entered their house he saw the glass box with the beautiful girl inside. He had never seen anyone so beautiful, and he tried to buy the box from the little men, but they wouldn’t let him have it. He asked and asked, saying he would die if he couldn’t see the beautiful girl all the time. The little men felt sad for him, and they gave him the box.

The man brought the box home, and sat with it all day, and couldn’t eat without it near him. The men who had to carry the box around for him got angry, and one of them opened the box and took out White-as-Ice-Drops. He said, “Why do we have to work so hard for a dead girl?” and he hit the body with the back of his hand. The red food that kills people came out of the girl’s throat, and she came back to life.

The son of the man who led his land was very happy. He and the girl planned to get married the next day. White-as-Ice-Drops’s mother was asked to come, and she was too afraid not to. When she arrived, she saw that the woman getting married was her daughter, as she feared.

They brought the lady a pair of shoes made of the stuff that train tracks are made of. They had put the shoes into the fire until they were very hot, and they made the lady put them on and dance in them until she danced herself to death.

The frontispiece and the drawing of sleeping Snow White, surrounded by the dwarves are from Lucy Crane’s 1886 translation of Household Stories, illustrations by Walter Crane.

The drawing of the queen in front of her mirror is from Favorite Fairy Tales by Logan Marshall, 1917.

Both are available at Project Gutenberg.

6 thoughts on “White-as-Ice-Drops and the Five-and-Two Little Men

    1. That does sound familiar… I also remember that there is a version of Rapunzel (maybe even one of the early Grimm versions) where the witch discovers that Rapunzel has been seeing the prince because Rapunzel gets pregnant.

      (By the way, apologies for getting back to you late — this comment ended up in the spam folder for some reason).

    2. I apologize for the very late reply, I only recently started reading this blog. That said, what you’ve mentioned sounds like the original version of Sleeping Beauty: she was impregnated by the King and gave birth to twins while in her enchanted sleep, and it was one of the twins sucking the splinter from the cursed spindle out of her finger (because he’d been trying to nurse) that broke the curse and caused her to wake. The twins were named Day (boy) and Dawn (girl), and later in the story we find out the King’s mother was a jealous ogre who tried to take a leaf out of Snow White’s mother’s book (she wanted her daughter-in-law and grandchildren killed and prepared for her dinner, three separate times).

      1. Ah, interesting! I don’t remember that version of Sleeping Beauty, though I had remembered *someone* was impregnated whilst asleep. Thanks for pointing it out!

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