The Brothers Grimm did not write all those fairy tales from scratch, but adapted older folk tales and published them. Their versions were changed and edited over several decades, in which they softened the stories up a bit by, for one thing, changing evil parents into evil stepparents. For example, in the original 1810 manuscript for the Snow White story, the princess is a mere seven years old when her evil biological mother decides the child is too pretty to remain alive. She directs a huntsman to kill Snow White and and bring back her lungs and liver as evidence. He does not, but uses the organs of a wild boar instead.
The subsequent event has been largely forgotten – and rarely shown in film adaptations. When the queen receives her daughter’s viscera, she decides she’ll have them salted and boiled, then feasts upon them with epicurean pleasure, convinced that they’re Snow White’s. The root of her pleasure rests on two facts: she has obliterated her daughter, her rival, but also, crucially, this anthropophagic act preserves the essence of ritual cannibalism – the ancient belief that eating the enemies’ flesh was a source of spiritual and physical strength. By eating Snow White, she believes she will embody her characteristics. The choice of organs is relevant: lungs represent the breath, the spirit; and the liver is a symbol of purification, as it cleanses the blood. In The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Maria Tatar points out that different versions include different “gifts”: the most remembered one is the heart; but in Spain, it’s “a bottle of blood stoppered with the girl’s toe”, whereas in Italy, the huntsman must return with “her intestines and her blood-soaked shirt” or her eyes and a bottle of her blood.