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Once upon a time, Snow White lived in Bavaria

THE real Snow White has been unmasked at last. After 17 years of research by fabulist study group, Lohr in Bavaria says that the fairytale heroine of the Brothers Grimm lived there.

Karlheinz Bartels, a pharmacist and chairman of the fabulists, believes they have constructed a compelling case showing that Snow White was Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal. Little wonder that the fairytale brothers decided on a more user-friendly name.

"We are satisfied that what the Grimm Brothers wrote about was really a documentary of sorts about our region," Dr Bartels said. "This all began as a bit of a joke in the local pub 17 years ago. But a lot of energy and research has gone into it since."

Local archives revealed that in the 18th century the landowner, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal, lived in the family's magnificent castle. The town hall records the birth of his daughter on June 15, 1729.

Maria Sophia von Erthal grew up in the castle, which is now a museum. One of its rooms contains a "talking" mirror - an acoustic toy - made in Lohr, renowned for its looking glasses.

The mirror in the museum harks back to the soliloquies of the wicked stepmother: "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

Prince Philipp is believed to have presented it to his second wife, Claudia Elisabeth von Erthal.

"Presumably the hard reality of life for Maria Sophia under this woman was recast as a fairy story by the Brothers Grimm," Dr Bartels said.

A pair of 200-year-old children's shoes was found in the castle and are now displayed as Snow White's.

What about the dwarves? Bieber, to the west, provides the answers. Back then it was the centre of a booming mining industry set among seven mountains. The mine tunnels were accessible only to the smallest miners, who often wore bright hoods.

The glass coffin may have come from the region's numerous glassworks, and the poisoned apple, was possibly laced with atropine, a poison derived from deadly nightshade which grows locally in abundance.

(The Times, London)