Recently, I entered a fan fiction writing contest. Being new to the genre, I told a familiar story from a different viewpoint, instead of telling a completely different story using a familiar literary character. I did not win the contest, but my writers critique group loved the story and advised, “You should submit it somewhere.” There was only one problem. I had written the story of Snow White using Grumpy’s voice. The story of Snow White is public domain, the names Disney created for the seven dwarves are not. I have two choices—risk bringing down the long legal arm of the Disney Company, or rename the dwarves. As a parody, it seemed weaker with unfamiliar names. Hoping to retain the original names, I looked for a possible legal loophole. In doing so, I learned that a pantomime version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which hit the stage at UK’s Albert Hall in 2008, used different names to avoid copyright infringement. There was one exception— Sneezy was allowed to keep his name because Disney failed to copyright it. However, the producers weren’t taking any chances. The other dwarves were renamed Goody, Loopy, Lazy, Growler, Noisy and Shabby.
In 2012, the TV series, Once Upon a Time, used Disney’s names for the dwarves, seemingly without legal repercussions. I wondered, “Was a precedent set?” Unfortunately, for me, the answer is “no.” Once Upon A Time debuted on ABC, a Disney company.
Still hopeful, I researched “Legal Issues with Fan Fiction” on the internet. I found that fan fiction is not an infringement if it constitutes fair use of the underlying copyrighted work, but fair use is a grey area. Works of fiction are more likely to constitute fair use if they are “transformative” with respect to the original work, if they are non-commercial, if they appropriate relatively little of the original work, and/or they do not tend to detract from the potential market for or value of the original work.
In publishing my story on a blog with very limited readership (at this time), my usage is non-commercial. It certainly will not detract from the potential market for or value of the original work. So, am I safe?
Unsure, I located Disney’s legal department on-line, the one that deals with copyright issues. I filled out all the information required (which included the story and its intended usage) and submitted it. I expected a definitive answer—yes or no. Instead, I received a polite letter advising me to see a copyright lawyer. I asked a lawyer friend of mine why Disney’s legal department put me through all the bureaucratic paperwork without giving me a definitive answer. He replied that they didn’t want to risk setting a precedent. Paying hundreds of dollars to determine if I can post the story on my not-for-profit, personal blog isn’t a good use of my money. So, with no intention to defraud and a burning desire to share my story, I am posting it here with new names.
Originally titled “Being Grumpy,” the new title is “Being Grouchy.” Monikers for the other dwarves are now Brainy, Dippy, Burpee, Cheerful and Shy. Sneezy retains his moniker. If you mentally substitute mentally Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy and Bashful, who could blame you? 😜
I admit I was not in favor of asking her to stay. My brothers outvoted me. She was always singing, and those damn birds were always flying around the cottage, tweeting along, leaving their droppings everywhere. If she hadn’t been such a good housekeeper, I never would have put up with it. Women!
I never did set much store by women. My mother died when I was six, and we all did fine without her—my brothers, my father and I. Oh, Dippy tears up whenever one of us mentions her. Don’t understand why. He was only a baby when she died. He doesn’t remember her at all, although he’s the one who killed her—him and Brainy. Twins. Complicated birth. She died. They lived.
Some folks wonder why none of us ever married—seven grown men living together in a cottage in the woods. If it seems a little odd, think about it. Our names should give you a clue.
Shy turns an alarming shade of red if he even thinks about a girl.
Sneezy’s allergies get in the way. Imagine him closing in for a first kiss and, “Achooo,” he blows the poor girl across the porch. “
Snoozey can’t stay awake long enough to close the deal. Oh, he’s OK in the mine as long as we keep him upright, swinging a pick or hammer. The rest of the time we can’t take him anywhere. He snores.
The twins aren’t exactly chick magnets either. When they were born, I figure there wasn’t enough of everything to split two ways. Brainy got all the smarts. When he’s not working, he’s got his nose buried in a book. Dippy is all heart but, truth be told, his head seems a bit small for the rest of him. He gets lost a lot. We have to watch him.
That leaves Cheerful and me. I already told you, I got no use for women. As for Cheerful, he’ll go along with anything, including living in a little house with six other guys. Sometimes I just want to wipe that smile off his face. No one should be that happy all the time. But, overall, we’ve always gotten along just fine. Then, she shows up and turns everything tipsy-topsy.
One of us always builds a fire when we get home. There’s never smoke in the daytime. So, when I saw smoke pouring out of the chimney, I thought our place was on fire. Then, “Dang!” when I opened the door, someone had cleaned the whole house. I haven’t seen my best pipe since. Later, when I asked “you-know-who” about it, she acted all innocent, but she was always harping on how smoking is bad for you. I know she hid it. Danged if she didn’t! When I tried to find out where it was, she just smiled and shrugged and started singing about her prince. I seez to myself, “You can sing all you want, but your prince is never going to find you way out here.”
Anyway, after the smoke, and the cleaning, there was that smell—someone left food simmering on the hearth. Who was cooking in my kitchen? I always cook the dinner. Of course, I didn’t know, then, that it was her that lit the fire, and hid my pipe, and did the cooking—not yet. But someone was mucking around in my house and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Naturally, Cheerful was delighted with all the changes; didn’t even care who did it. Everybody blathered about how nice everything looked, and how great dinner smelled.
I let them have it. “We’ve got an intruder and all you can think about is dinner. Suppose this is bad magic. Suppose the evil queen is behind this. Maybe she wants the gold from our mine.”
That shut everybody up. Poor Dippy’s knees were knocking.
“Let’s go upstairs,” seez I, “and see what mischief is going on up there.”
Tip-toeing up the stairs, we huddled together at the top. Our beds stood in a line, their covers neatly tucked, except for mine. Someone was in it—Snow White! Dang, she was pretty.
It must have been a shock for her, waking up to see seven men, faces blackened from working in the mine, hovering around her bed. I have to give her credit; she didn’t bat an eyelash.
“Oh, hello! Why it’s seven little men. I thought, from the size of everything, that children lived here.”
I found her comment to be incredibly insensitive, but there were my brothers, beaming at her. Shy was the color of a fire hydrant.
Of course, we heard the whole heartrending story: evil queen, murderous huntsman, frenzied flight through the dark forest, trees ripping at her clothes—a very dramatic rendition. They should make a movie.
My brothers lapped it up like a bunch of starving kittens. She had them wrapped around her little finger, but not me. “Women is trouble,” I warned. Nobody listened.
“My goodness, I’ve slept so long, it must be dinner time. The table is set, and food is ready, but you really must wash up before you eat. Why look at you; you’re all dirty!”
First, I’m “little,” then I’m “dirty.” She really knew how to hurt a guy. I had a mind to skip dinner and show her. Sitting in a corner, arms crossed, I glared at everyone. I was making a point, although nobody seemed to notice. It was my stomach that finally did me in; it began to growl. Only one way to shut it up. I washed.
Later that night, Snow White slept in my bed again while I ended up sleeping with Cheerful. I knew he was the only one who wouldn’t mind.
I finally made Snow White her own bed. No big deal. I just wanted my own bed back. That’s all. But she had to make a big thing out of it.
“Oh, Grouchy, thank you. It’s beautiful!”
She actually tried to kiss my forehead. Women!
Things settled into a routine. Sneezy kept sneezing. The fact that Snow White kept bringing in all those dang flowers didn’t help. Shy blushed every time Snow White looked in his direction. Brainy read on and on. Snoozy took his usual nap before bedtime. Dippy followed Snow White around the house like a puppy. Cheerful was his usual annoying self, and I grumbled a bit less than usual. Snow White kept the house spotless, while the smell of cakes and pies filled the air.
We all thought Snow White would be safe with us. We didn’t know about the queen’s magic mirror. Still, it was rumored that the queen practiced witchcraft. Brainy advised Snow White to be cautious.
“My dear, the world is a dark place. Lock the door when we are gone and don’t open it to anyone until we return.”
She promised, but I never placed no store in a woman’s promise. You all know what happened—thanks to that infernal mirror, the Queen found her.
“Even the mightiest finally fall,
Snow White’s still fairest of them all.
She dwells within a forest glen,
the guest of seven little men.”
There was a terrible storm on that fateful day. It intensified as we neared home. I was looking toward our warm cottage, anxious to dry myself before the fire. It was then that I saw it—a shape, dark and tattered like some devilish bird of prey—racing away from our house.
“The queen,” I screamed over the wind. “It must be the queen in disguise. After her—before she gets away!”
We gave chase, picks and shovels in the air as the wind and rain intensified. She lost her way in the storm and found herself cornered on a precipice high above the raging river. Looking more hag-like than queenly, she turned toward us to reveal a face turned green by envy. Then, raising her wand in a final act of vengeance, she called down the wrath of heaven itself. Heaven answered. A lightning bolt hit the wand and it, and she, exploded—gone in an instant.
I was the one who found Snow White. She lay crumpled on the floor, her skin as pale as her name. Just beyond her fingertips was the apple, perfect except for one small bite. It had been enough.
I was the one who laid Snow White upon her bed, the bed I made for her, while my brothers knelt and prayed to no avail. She was gone.
Days passed. Still, she looked as fresh as a rose just plucked from the garden. We could not bear to put her in the ground. She was too beautiful. And, so, we fashioned a coffin out of glass and placed her in the clearing just beyond our home—a home that, despite seven little men, suddenly seemed empty.
News spread throughout the kingdom of the beautiful maiden, changeless in the sleep of death. Many came to pay tribute. After all, she had been a princess. It was not surprising that, eventually, a prince actually came. Despite my dire prediction, one had found her after all. He was young and handsome, and he gazed at her with terrible longing.
“She is so lovely. I cannot bear to leave her side. Let me carry Snow White to my kingdom. My life is forfeit to her beauty. I shall treasure her as long as I live.”
“Sire, here she lived, and here she died, and here she shall remain with those who loved her in life.” (Brainy always had a way with words.)
“Then grant me one kiss before I leave, one kiss to remember always.”
We all nodded our consent, even me. Emboldened, the Prince opened the coffin and bestowed a kiss on lips, slightly parted, as if they had been waiting for just such a moment. He kissed her tenderly, stood slowly, backed away reluctantly.
I saw it all—the kiss, the faint rise of her chest, the flush of color in her cheeks. I had never been a believer in all that “love’s first kiss” baloney. I was wrong. Snow White lives!
We knew Snow White was never meant to spend her life in a cottage in the woods with seven dwarves. A princess deserves a prince. Still, we were sad to see her go—yes, even me. Before she left, she thanked us all, kissing each upon the head with a promise to visit in the spring. I was last in line. When she came to me, she knelt down and whispered, “In the end, you who found it hard to love, loved the hardest.” She held me a moment before she kissed me.
Dang, I turned pinker than a peony. Women!