For the sequence in which the Huntsman fails to do away with Snow White and tells her to flee into the forest, the Huntsman was first conceived as a ruthless and dangerous killer, who looked forward to his job such that his face would light up when the Queen gave him new instructions. A large amount of dialogue would have been required to explain why he could not carry out his task and what Snow White then had to do. However, it was felt that this version of the story contained too delicate acting from the characters involved, presenting difficulties for the animators. After more story meetings, Walt Disney suggested that the scene involve Snow White helping a lost, frightened baby bird, to emphasize her innocence and thus create a stronger situation. How the Huntsman should drop the knife and whether Snow White should notice the knife before or after it is dropped, generated a large amount of discussion and Walt Disney suggested that the Huntsman be kept in shadow to create a more dramatic situation. A story meeting held on June 27, 1936, mentions several elements of the scene that are present in the final film, including the Huntsman's voice echoing after Snow White as she flees: the Huntsman says, "The Queen! The Queen! Go, go, go and never return to the castle for the sake of not only yourself, but for those who love you! Don't return!"
After being told by the Magic Mirror that Snow White is the fairest of all, the vain Queen summons the Huntsman to her castle and orders him to take the princess to a secluded area deep in the forest, and kill her. The Huntsman objects but says he will obey when the Queen silences the Huntsman and reminds him of the penalty for failure. He is given a box in which to put Snow White's heart, as proof to the Queen that her stepdaughter is dead.
The Huntsman takes the princess to a secluded glade in the forest, where she picks wildflowers. As she notices a baby bird and helps it to find its parents, the huntsman, after checking to see that the two are alone, begins to quietly advance on her, wielding his dagger. Just as the baby bird has flown away, Snow White sees a shadow on the rock in front of her and, turning around to see the advancing, dagger-wielding huntsman, shrieks in terror. The Huntsman hesitates, however, and finally drops the dagger from his trembling hand, realizing he cannot murder someone as pure as Snow White. Kneeling before the princess (and awkwardly wiping his tears of shame on her dress), he warns her of the Queen's jealousy and urges her to run away and never come back, to which she flees into a deeper part of the forest, eventually coming to the residence of the seven dwarfs.
The Queen is later seen with the heart box returned. She once again consults the Magic Mirror, who informs her that Snow White still lives and that the heart in the box in the Queen's hands is that of a pig. Realizing the Huntsman tricked her, the Queen furiously descends into her laboratory and resolves to do away with her stepdaughter herself. It can be assumed that the penalty for the Huntsman's evident failure to complete his task would have been death; however, the Queen was so fixated on destroying Snow White that she never ordered (or carried out) his execution. It can also be assumed that the Huntsman fled before the execution could be carried out.
The Huntsman is a crucial character in the series and is played by Jamie Dornan. He was raised by wolves and lives in the Enchanted Forest with a white wolf as his sole companion. He is immensely compassionate towards animals, believing they have the purest hearts and mourns any he must kill to survive. When several tavern patrons mock his beliefs and assault him, he easily overpowers them while expressing his disgust for human nature, attracting the Queen's attention via the Magic Mirror as somebody merciless enough to retrieve Snow White's heart. While initially hesitant of the Queen's request, the Huntsman bargains with her to outlaw the hunting of wolves within her kingdom and accepts. When the Huntsman escorts Snow White into the woods, she flees after sensing his intentions but soon realizes she cannot outrun him there. She accepts her fate and the Huntsman agrees to hand an impromptu letter to the Queen along with her heart, but the sympathetic letter overwhelms him and he encourages her to escape. The Queen, unmoved and frustrated by the letter, is further enraged upon realizing the Huntsman has handed her a stag's heart. The Queen tears out the Huntsman's heart, using dark magic to make him an unwilling soldier and servant of her intimate desires. Much later, the Huntsman assists Prince Charming out of the Queen's castle due to their shared adoration for Snow White. Soon after, the Queen initiates the Dark Curse and transports all fairytale inhabitants to the town of Storybrooke in our world, where the Huntsman assumes the identity of Graham Humbert, the town sheriff.
With the Queen now Mayor of Storybrooke, Graham retains an unquestioning obedience to her will and lust. Emma Swan's arrival begins weakening the Dark Curse, which eventually leads Graham to defy the Mayor's orders to arrest her. After Graham enlists Emma as his Deputy, she catches him exiting the Mayor's bedroom window and expresses her loss of faith in him. The next day, he spontaneously kisses Emma in a desperate attempt to feel some form of compassion, but it sparks a sudden and confusing flashback of his former life as the Huntsman. Graham returns to the Mayor for attempted love and comfort, where a dream containing the white wolf furthers his confusion. Upon leaving the house, Graham is confronted by the white wolf and later pursues it into the surrounding forest. The wolf recognizes Graham but reacts cautiously because he is somehow different, until Graham whistles and it approaches him in a friendly manner. When Graham makes contact with the wolf, he has strange visions of Snow White and his supposed murdering of her, and the wolf departs again. Graham visits Mary Margaret because she resembles the woman in his dream, wondering if they could have met in a previous life.
Graham learns of Henry's fascination with a storybook and after hearing Henry's theory of the Queen possessing the Huntsman's heart, Emma confronts Graham and attempts to console him, but is interrupted by the presence of the white wolf. They pursue the wolf into the Storybrooke cemetery and Graham recognizes the Queen's insignia from his dream above a tomb door, believing his heart is inside. Emma reluctantly helps Graham search the tomb, but they are caught by the Mayor delivering flowers to its supposed occupant, her father. After a violent altercation with the Mayor, Graham, and Emma return to the police station as the Mayor descends below the tomb into a secret chamber containing her vault of hearts from the fairytale world. Emma and Graham share a kiss that completely lifts the effects of the Dark Curse on him, restoring his memory as the Huntsman. Before he can make the revelation to Emma, the Mayor crushes the duplicate heart and kills him instantly.
It's revealed that the huntsman is the First King's great-uncle's servant. He later appears to tell the queen that Snow White almost killed herself since she was riding his horse. It's also revealed that, when the Magic Mirror told the Queen the pig-heart trick, the Queen killed him with her belt while he was leading his horse out of the stable.
- The Huntsman does not appear in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep with Terra substituting the Huntsman's role in the story during his visit to the Dwarf Woodlands. However, Terra does not bring back a pig's heart to the Queen and instead defies her directly by commenting on her vanity and jealousy.
- In the Disney edition of Trivial Pursuit, one question centers on the Huntsman:
- Q: "Whose heart instead of Snow White's did the Huntsman place in the Queen's box in order to fool her?"
- A: "A wild boar's."
- In the French dub, it is a deer's heart that the Huntsman brings back instead of a pig's.
- In the original Snow White fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the Queen ate the heart given to her by the Huntsman.
- In My Side of the Story: Snow White/The Queen, the Huntsman is named Brad.
- Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, "The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation"