Pixar’s Brave was a roaring success, but a little unknown fact is that its uniquely complex narrative was derived from a lesser-known folklore tale.
Pixar‘s Brave was the first of its kind. Female-led, upgraded animation software and a uniquely heartwarming plot. However, the tale it was based on is not so well known. As with most fairy tales, it traditionally originates from folklore and retells classic stories of bravery, love and redemption. Here’s a bit of history on Pixar’s Brave — and exactly where its concept came from.
What Is Snow-White and Rose-Red About?
Snow-White and Rose-Red originated as a German fairytale, but its most well-known version exists as part of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales collection. This timeless tale of German folklore is not to be confused with the classic fairytale, Snow White, which inspired the Walt Disney animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Both stories have little in common besides the titular heroine sporting the same name and fair-skinned complexion.
Another similarity is that Snow-White and Rose-Red sees its female characters encounter one dwarf on several occasions. Snow-White and Rose-Red are two young girls living with their poor widowed mother. One night, a bear knocks on their door. At first, the girls are terrified, but the bear assures them that he means no harm and simply wishes to escape the cold. As this routine repeats itself nightly through the winter, they quickly develop a friendly bond with the bear.
In the summer, when the bear disappears to guard his treasure, the girls go walking through the forest. They come across a dwarf with his beard stuck in a tree and rescue him by cutting his beard free. However, instead of showing gratitude, the dwarf curses them for ruining his beautiful beard.
One day, when Snow-White and Rose-Red find the dwarf again, the same bear that shared their cozy fire is about to kill him. He begs to be spared, insisting that the bear eat the girls instead. Paying no head to his pathetic pleas, the bear kills the dwarf. When he does, he transforms into a prince. It is revealed that the dwarf had placed a curse on him that could only be broken with his death.
Where Brave and Snow-White Overlap
In 2012, Pixar Animated Studios gave an insight into Medieval Scottish culture with a fairytale twist in Brave. Its narrative follows its central protagonist, Merida, who must reverse a beastly curse that turns her mother, Elinor, into a bear.
Brenda Chapman, co-director of Brave and Pixar’s first female director of a feature-length film, discussed the inspiration behind Brave, saying, “I love the idea that there’s a bear. There’s a bit where the two sisters get to snuggle with this bear… I liked that idea and also Merida having a skill that was unusual for a princess.” Merida and Elinor thereby rediscovering their unbreakable bond to break the curse nicely pays homage to Snow-White and Rose-Red befriending the bear during his daily visits.
Brave featuring a loved one that was cursed to become a bear follows the same principle as Snow-White and Rose-Red (even if the sisters were unaware at the time) in delivering the message that blood bonds are stronger than any obstacle. Furthermore, in Snow-White and Rose-Red, the significance of killing the dwarf and breaking the curse mimics the death of Mor’du, whose soul was also cursed and trapped in the body of a bear — only to be released upon death.
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