This unexpected discovery in the Worcestershire County museum collection enables us to retrace Snow White’s actual steps to the house of the Seven Dwarfs.
It’s slightly surprising to see that she was so close to the other Disney Princesses Belle and Rapunzel without realising. Who knew those dangerous and mysterious woods were so small?
This picture, An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, was drawn and published in 1917 by Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954), an English mural painter, stained-glass artist, illustrator and wood engraver. Sleigh became part of the Bromsgrove Guild in 1897 and he was a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists between 1923 and 1928.
The real story of the map is stranger than any April Fools joke: as a young man, Sleigh suffered a serious illness, due to a growth in his middle ear, which though repeatedly treated, became badly infected, eventually leading to the recommendation that his teeth be removed. Following this procedure, he lapsed into unconsciousness. With his life in the balance, he endured a trepanning operation into his brain and, although he recovered, for the rest of his life he began to suffer vividly-coloured visions. The visions always took place in a palette of red and green, clearly translated into this drawing.
In the same year as the publication of the Mappe of Fairyland, two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths created the first of the hoax Cottingley fairy photographs. Rather embarrassingly for him, they were endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in an article on fairies published in the 1920 Christmas issue of the Strand Magazine.