Snow White is the title of an old European fairy tale. The most popular version was the one assembled by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. In today’s world, Walt Disney’s version is the most familiar.
To many there is a puzzling religious savor to the story – red blood, sacrifice, a coffin of glass, a peewee priesthood and, in the end, an almost suicidal death. To the feminists the story represents more male propaganda designed to keep women in their place: good little girls are innocent and domestic, while bad little girls are villainous (a very male quality which, in unladylike fashion, they have adopted) and dynamic.
To me, it is a simple tale of narcissism’s tendency to self-destruct. And I see a great similarity between Snow White and the biblical story of Jezebel.
Once upon a time, while engaged in the intricate work of needlecraft, probably embroidery, point lace, or stitching, an anonymous Queen of some anonymous kingdom pricked her finger with her needle. She pricked herself because as she flourished her needle she was looking out her open window at the pure white freshly fallen snow. Lost in its hypnotic mirage, she poked herself.
A single tear of bright red blood dripped from her finger onto the white snow fluffed on the windowsill. Gazing at the contrasting colors she whispered, almost as a prayer, “Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony.”
Shortly thereafter, her wish or her prayer was answered. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who had skin as white as snow, lips red as blood and hair black as ebony.
Remembering the moment of her wish, the Queen named her daughter Snow White.
Shortly after Snow White was born, the Queen died – inexplicably. And shortly after her death – much too soon – the King took a new Queen. The new Queen was stunningly beautiful, and her narcissism equaled her beauty. The new Queen had a magic mirror, which knew everything and always told the truth. Every day the Queen posed the same question to her magic mirror: “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of all?”
The mirror’s answer never changed: “It is you.” And this answer, of course, caused the new Queen to shiver with joy, pleasing her no end. For the first seven years of Snow White’s life, the mirror continued to answer – everyday, and sometimes two or three times a day – “it is you.”
But when Snow White celebrated her seventh birthday – the day she became a maiden – the answer changed. The Queen went to her mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?”
The mirror answered: “Queen, you are full fair, it is true, but Snow White fairer is than you.”
The Queen was shocked. Jealousy pressed her like a vice. Then she blazed with white-hot anger. After a moment’s thought, her anger turned ice-cold and grim. She summoned one of the King’s huntsmen, one she knew she could trust because he feared her.
“Take Snow White into the woods and kill her,” she instructed the huntsman. And being very good at being evil, she added, “And bring me her heart that I may know the deed is truly done.”
Obeying, the huntsman took Snow White deep into the King’s forest. As they walked along the path below the green canopies of the huge trees, the huntsman, who had never met anyone who wasn’t out to get something for nothing, realized that Snow White was good and kind and pure. When they reached the spot he had chosen to do the dirty deed, his conscience mutinied, and he couldn’t do it. Instead, he confessed his sin to her, and told her to run for her life – far, far away. And never return!
Snow White fled deeper into the forest.
Then the huntsman killed a young deer, cut out its heart, and carried it to the Queen as proof of Snow White’s death.
Snow White ran through the forest for hours. Finally, at the very heart of the woodland she stumbled upon a grove, and in the center of the grove was a cottage. The cottage was the home of seven dwarves. The dwarves took her in, allowed her to rest, and then offered to let her remain with them. Snow White gladly accepted.
The next day, back at the castle, the Queen faced her magic mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?”
“Queen, you are full fair, it is true, but Snow White fairer is than you,” replied the magic mirror.
Horrified, the Queen leaped back from the magic mirror. The answer was unwanted, and unexpected. After a few moments, the Queen composed herself. Knowing that the magic mirror knew everything and always told the truth, she questioned it and learned that Snow White was living in the heart of the forest with the dwarves.
Aflame with a fervent new heat of jealous hatred, the Queen decided she herself would have to kill Snow White. Masquerading as a common peddler, the Queen ventured into the forest. When she arrived at the cottage Snow White was there alone, as the dwarves had gone off to work in their diamond mine. The Queen displayed her wares to Snow White, who was attracted to some exquisite stay-laces.
“Why not try them on?” asked the Queen.
Snow White nodded, and the evil Queen stood behind her, lacing her up. She pulled the laces so tight that Snow White couldn’t breathe. And she fainted.
Examining the fallen maiden, the Queen thought she was dead. With a spiteful smirk, the Queen left, and made her way back to the King’s castle.
When the dwarves came home, they discovered Snow White prostrate on the floor of the cottage. She wasn’t dead, but almost. The Queen, irrational because of her envy of Snow White’s perfect beauty, had been wrong. The dwarves loosened the laces so she could breathe properly. Soon she fully recovered.
Back at the castle, the Queen hurried to her magic mirror and asked the same old question: who is the fairest of all? To her dismay, the mirror once again told her that Snow White was the fairest.
Snow White was still alive!