“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
As most people know, the answer is “Snow White.” The princess who is primarily famous for her good looks, her ability to put up with seven dwarves, and her dangerous naivete about old ladies and fruit that almost ended her life in a glass coffin.
I am a fairy tale maven. Not the Disney-fied versions, but the hard-core stories sourced directly from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. I enjoy the adult edge these authors brought to their works, the harsh morals, the deeper grounding in good and evil, truth and lies, beauty and ugliness.
However, Snow White has never been one of my favorites. Even in the Grimm version, she was far too passive. She was beautiful, so she was dangerous. She was hunted by the queen, so she pleaded for her life and ran away. She was hungry and alone, so she ended up playing housekeeper for seven dwarfs in return for protection. She was simple-minded and gullible for pretty things, so she was tricked, not once, but three times by the evil queen: first by a fancy corset, then by a comb, and finally by a shiny apple . At last, the fair maiden is dead, but once again, her beauty saves her, for she is found by a prince who is so entranced by the dead girl that he has his servants haul her away. The servants’ clumsiness acts as an unintentional Heimlich maneuver. Out comes the poisonous apple piece (which must be really gross after being lodged in Snow’s throat for all that time), and Snow White wakes up. Prince and princess get married, and the evil queen ends up having to dance her life away in red-hot iron shoes.
Clearly I’m not the biggest fan. However, I was intrigued when I discovered that there are currently three Snow White movies in the works. In addition, Snow White is a major character in the dystopian fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time.
Why the sudden interest in silly old Snow? Three movies seems to be an awful lot of fuss for a character primarily known for being pure and beautiful and (most likely) virginal. She is not in any way empowered or possessing of any special traits except her beauty. Well, she can clean, but since she wasn’t a professional maid, this says more about the dwarfs’ kindness/desperation than Snow’s incredible homemaking skills.
What is the modern-day appeal?
The answer takes us back into the history of Snow White, on through the series of literary renditions and interpretations over the years, and into the modern-day empowered adaptations. This answer will also take us through several posts, so I invite you to sit back and follow along as we have a look into the mirror at the Fairest of Them All: Snow White!
Taste of the Fantastical
In the spirit of fairy tales, here’s a plug for another fairy tale show that recently arrived on your friendly TV:
Combines old German fairy tale stories with your basic police procedural. I’m not a huge fan, because I think in trying to make the fairy tales appropriately gritty and harsh, the story leaches some of their magic and wonder. Even the Grimm fairy tales had some happy endings. Plus, the police side of the story isn’t especially unique or inventive.
Still, it’s worth a look!