Welcome to day three of Winter Faerytale Week! For this post, I have decided to discuss the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with a focus on the deeper meaning of Snow White as a character. I thought that this would serve as a good companion piece to yesterday’s post on the Wicked Queen.
Snow White is the titular figure within her fairytale and she is often thought of as being a truly pure and sweet soul who did nothing wrong, other than having beauty that was greater than the Queen’s but was forced from her home under the threat of death. Indeed, she did not do anything to antagonize the Queen in the majority of versions of this tale, and this is certainly true of the most commonly known Grimm’s version. In some more modern retellings, like Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, this dynamic is tilted with Snow White being the evil one all along! With that being noted, I will be focusing on the more traditional view of Snow White as a character, but with a focus on deepening how she can be perceived.
Snow White is innocent of wrongdoing in relation to the Queen, but she has something that the Queen does not possess any longer. Snow is in the first bloom of youth and beauty and this puts her in opposition to the aging Queen. She is the motherless girl, in most versions having lost her real mother when she died in childbirth. When her father re-married she got a stepmother who felt nothing but jealousy for the young girl, who was the apple of her father’s eye, pun intended. After her father’s death, she was more than treated poorly by her stepmother (like in Cinderella). Snow White was very nearly murdered by the Huntsman before he spared her life and she found refuge in the woods with the Dwarves. Of course, this does not last, as the Queen finds out that she is still alive and attempts to kill the girl, actually, she tried three times in the Grimm telling with only the final poisoned apple succeeding in putting the girl into a deathlike sleep. In the Grimm version, when the apple is dislodged as a result of the coffin having been jostled by the Prince’s men she awoke. Then we have the more modern versions with True Love’s Kiss, but either way, the Queen is thwarted. In the Grimm’s version, the Wicked Queen actually attended Snow’s wedding and the Prince put her in burning hot iron shoes and forced her to literally dance until she died!
Now that I have done an overview of the basic tale I will be focusing on the personality of Snow White herself. Snow White is, as mentioned, a pure and sweet young girl. She is loving and caring and it is this inner light that she has shone forth that allows people like the Huntsman and the Dwarves to see her inner truth and offer her help! She does not take help from the Dwarves without offering her own in return. This is how she becomes something between a mother and a sister to them, caring for them and the home as they work in the mines. In Lucy Cavendish’s book Magickal Faerytales she wrote a truly beautiful retelling of the classic tale. She also notes in her origins section that she chose to focus on the seasonal element with a Demeter and Persephone parallel, which I thoroughly enjoyed. To me, the idea of having Snow White born in an eternal Winter that her birth helped to end, showing her innate goodness and inner Magick, was a great choice. It also shows that she can be perceived as a Persephone-like figure, who is both the bringer of the Springtime and also a deeply introspective Underworld figure. Her sleep can be seen as a time to learn more about the world, a time of a caterpillar being in a chrysalis awaiting the perfect moment when it will be born into the truest version of itself. In this way, Snow White is a story of coming of age as much as it is of love or the importance of being kind!
I hope that you have enjoyed this slightly rambling post about Snow White and her importance as a faerytale figure. What do you think of Snow White as a character? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a gorgeous Snow White artwork. I found the image on https://www.moderneden.com/products/snow-white.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by The Brothers Grimm
- Magickal Faerytales: An Enchanted Collection of Retold Tales by Lucy Cavendish
- Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman’s Life by Joan Gould
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1939)
- Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
- Once Upon a Time (2011)