It is a winter evening and Snow White is coming home from a walk in the forest of her father, the king. Her stepmother is calling her: ’Dinner is ready, Snow White’.
Have you ever imagined Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella in a conversation? How would they be addressed? In fact, it is probably a part of their charm that they do not have ordinary names. Who knows, little girls might stop identifying with them if they actually had a name just like anyone else.
Reading (or watching?) these stories is more or less a universal phenomenon but every nation has its own translations of the names. In the Hungarian versions, we seem to feel the need to give those poor girls a proper name. Just take Sleeping Beauty as an example. She is Csipkerózsika (Briar Rose, which is also the name used in some German and English versions). You can clearly see that she is really called ’Rosie.’ No wonder one of my professors, from Peru, was fascinated by the fact that in Hungarian ’Sleeping Beauty’ actually has a name (as opposed to the Spanish Bella Durmiente). Also, Little Red Riding Hood is just Piroska (’little red’), a perfectly normal Hungarian name.
When it comes to Cinderella, though, the English win. Or doesn’t Cinderella sound like a girl called Ella to you? The origin of the word is French, of course, meaning ’little ashes’. Although we tend to know all these stories as ’Grimm tales’, some of them first figured in Charles Perrault’s collections (also based on folk tales). For the origin of these tales you can check out the Wikipedia article. We are talking about all these stories of beautiful princesses-Little Red Riding Hood would be an exception-let’s not forget about the minor characters. Does the Hunter (we have more than one of those), the Evil Stepmother (you can also take your pick, Snow White and Cinderella have one) or even the Prince (whichever) have a name? It seems they cannot and should not have one. The reason might be that they represent some eternal and never-changing types of character. The Prince is a dream come true, and the stepmother… Imagine what it would be like if she actually had a name. It would ruin that name forever.
To prove the popularity of these stories, two Snow White films have come out this year. For a review of the Charlize Theron version, take a look at the film experience blog.
What are all these characters called in your language? Were they a significant part of your childhood?