Snow White’s Wicked Queen

Welcome to day two of Winter Faerytale Week here on White Rose of Avalon.   Today also happens to be this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, so I have chosen a classic Winter Faerytale villain as my topic.   The Wicked Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is amongst the vilest of fairytale characters.

In the classic Grimm’s telling of the tale, this Wicked Queen desires to kill Snow White because the young woman surpasses her in beauty.   The fact that she would desire to kill another person based solely on her desire to be the fairest in the land is a truly sad expression of ultimate vanity.    This is likely why many modern retellings choose to deepen the character and give her motivations other than vanity.   

We see this in the television show Once Upon a Time where the Evil Queen Regina chose to take revenge on Snow White not just because of jealousy.    The audience learned that Snow White had inadvertently caused the death of Regina’s first love by revealing her feelings to the Evil Queen’s mother, who then went on to murder the young man Regina loved.   While Regina’s spiraling out of control and using dark magic to exact ultimate revenge on many people went far beyond the wickedness of the original tale, she had a more well-rounded reason for her hatred.    Due to this deeper perspective on her character, we also are able to empathize with some of her actions and even go on to root for her to change her ways.   It makes her evolution from villain to hero a truly satisfying journey!

In the 1997 film Snow White: A Tale of Terror, we meet yet another version of the Wicked Queen who was not always wicked at all.    In this film, she begins as a young woman who truly wants to be a good stepmother to her new husband’s young daughter, especially since the girl never knew her mother.    She gets rejected time and again by her stepdaughter and eventually becomes the evil antagonist because of her own miscarriage of her son.   Learning she will never be a mother because she will not be able to conceive again after this trauma is what fully breaks her and makes her devolve from a loving woman to a Wicked Queen.   I have to commend Sigourney Weaver on the performance she gives as the Wicked Queen in this little-known, and underrated film!    I have said it before and will say it again, it is my favorite live-action Snow White film.    I must note that this film also serves to really show the Wintery nature of the tale, opening with a horrifying Winterscape showing the tragic birth of the Snow White character which is also the death of her mother.   It truly does live up to its subtitle of “A Tale of Terror” in that opening.

Neil Gaiman made Snow White the true villain in his retelling Snow, Glass, Apples, where the Wicked Queen was never a villain at all!    I truly enjoyed this inversion of who is the real villain.    It also shows us how perceptions can be skewed based on who is telling the story.    The whole premise of the version of the Snow White tale shows that history is truly written by the victors, who can in turn make themselves out to be the heroes while re-writing their nemesis as the villain!

While the Wicked Queen is a very unsympathetic character in the original versions of the tale, she becomes something more than a vainglorious Queen who is set on killing anyone more lovely than she is in newer retellings.   I want to also briefly mention that Lucy Cavendish gives a more nuanced version of the Wicked Queen, while still keeping her as a villain, in her retelling in the book Magickal Faerytales, further proving my opinion on modern versions of this character.   I hope this post has given you a bit of a more complex perspective on this faerytale villain.   Do you see the Wicked Queen as ever being possibly sympathetic, or is she just a vile villain in your opinion?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a drawing of the Evil Queen.   I found the image on

Further Reading/Watching

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by The Brothers Grimm
  • Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
  • Magickal Faerytales: An Enchanted Collection of Retold Tales by Lucy Cavendish
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
  • Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
  • Once Upon a Time (2011)