German museum displays 'real' Snow White's gravestone
A museum in Germany says it has got its hands on the long-lost gravestone of the “real Snow White”, after it went missing in 1804.
The Diocesan Museum in Bamberg is displaying the gravestone of Maria Sophia von Erthal, who is thought to be the inspiration behind the Grimm fairy tale from 1812.
It went missing after the church that von Erthal was buried at was demolished, but it has since resurfaced at a house in Bamberg in central Germany, and was donated to the museum by the family.
Von Erthal was born in Lohr am Main, or “Snow White City” as it is known, and was the sister of the then Archbishop of Mainz.
Her mother died when she was young, and her father re-married another woman, who tried to ostracise her in favour of her own children – a parallel to the classic Snow White story in which she lives with her evil step-mother.
Her father owned a mirror factory in the town’s thriving glass-making industry, and possibly the inspiration for the classic “magic mirror on the wall” lines in the tale, as well as Snow White’s glass coffin.
However, unlike in the Disney version of Snow White, von Erthal never got her happily ever after.
She never married, and moved 60 miles (96.6km) from her childhood home to Bamberg, where she eventually went blind and died at the age of 71.
Bamberg was known for its seven hills, as well as for children and people with dwarfism going to work down the mines – a reference point for the seven dwarfs who worked down a mine in the Disney film adaptation.
People in her childhood town of Lohr am Main argue that the Brothers Grimm used the woman’s story, and simply dressed it up with some elements of German folklore.
Her story was popularised in 1937 by Walt Disney in his very first animated feature length film, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, but many other versions of the story exist.
Museum director Holger Kempkens said that the fairy tale reference was “more of a gimmick for us” with cathedral canon Norbert Jung adding that the fact a women got her own gravestone at the time was “something special”.
The museum understands that once the church von Erthal was buried at was demolished in 1804, her gravestone was moved to the local hospital, which was founded by her brother.
A new clinic was built on the site in the 1970s, and the stone was kept by a local family, before being donated to the museum.