The subject of beauty in fairytales is one that is present in many folk tales. The word beauty even appears on titles of fairytales like Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty.
In Snow White the Wicked Queen is a prime example of vanity in a woman who is aging. The Queen is forever looking into a mirror and asking whether she is the most beautiful in all the land. When her young (step) daughter grows into womanhood, she is thrown into a torrent of rage. The Queen ordered the young princess dead. The woodsman could not slay the innocent girl, and she was given a safe haven with the seven dwarves. After the Wicked Queen used her magic to attempt to poison Snow White many times, the princess was in a deep sleep. A Prince fell in love with her, and ordered his men to bring her glass coffin to the palace. They dropped it dislodging the poison apple, and she was wakened! She lived happily with the Prince forever more!
In Beauty and the Beast the beautiful Belle exchanged places with her father. She took up residence in the Beast’s castle, and he fell in love with her. Over several weeks he convinced her to give him a chance. Eventually as she softened to him, she began to realize that beneath his beastly appearance lay a truly loving and lovable man. Her belief in his goodness proved to be the thing to break the curse he had placed upon him, and he became a handsome prince! They lived happily ever after!
In Sleeping Beauty the young princess is cursed to fall into a sleep lasting one hundred years upon her sixteenth birthday. She grows up under the strictest of protection in order to ensure her safety. Of course, the curse cannot be thwarted, and she ends up falling into a deep sleep. Her entire kingdom ends up slumbering with her, and it is as if time stands still. After one hundred long years a Prince worthy of her love finds her castle. In most tellings he was only able to find her kingdom because he was worthy of her love. Of course he kissed her, and True Love’s Kiss woke her from her century of slumber! They lived happily ever after!
In all of these examples you can see that beauty is a powerful thing. The power of beauty, and the way in which it can take over people’s lives is shown in fairytales. The Wicked Queen of Snow White is a prime example of a woman who became utterly obsessed with her own beauty. Vanity is a dangerous thing, and that is what Snow White is telling us in the form of the Wicked Queen. Beauty can also be a form a redemption, when a beautiful woman sees through the beastly surface to the man beneath, like in Beauty and the Beast.
I hope that you enjoyed my analysis of beauty as used in fairytales. Let me know your thoughts about beauty in these stories in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne-Jones. I found the image on commons.wikimedia.org.
- The Grimms Fairytales by the Grimm Brothers
- Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tale About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World Edited by Maria Tatar
- The Blue Fairy Book Edited by Andrew Lang
- Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic Fairy Tales (Barnes and Noble Leather-bound Classics)