Bloody desires, talking mirrors, and poisoned fruit: it's all here in 'Snow White', one of the most popular and recognizable fairy tales in Western literature. But what is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs really about? Is there morality? And what is the origin of the fairy tale? A closer analysis of the Snow White story reveals a horrible and creepy story that Disney had to remediate in order to be appropriate for a family audience.
Snow White, later popularly called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is the work of the Brothers Grimm, who wrote many famous fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm gained fame after the publication of their first collection of old folk tales, Children's and Household Tales. Not only did they research and collect folk tales, but at the request of the Prussian king, they also began to write a German dictionary on which they worked for the rest of their lives.
Snow White is just one of the stories that make up the collection of selected works. In addition, they wrote many interesting stories, including the one we are dealing with here. The story of 'Snow White' was first made popular in print by the Brothers Grimm in the early 19th century: the story of 'Schneewittchen' appears in their volumes of classic fairy tales. In Grimm's version, as in all retellings of the nineteenth-century Snow White story, the seven dwarves have no name.
But the 1937 Disney movie was not the first version to give them individual names. This happened in a 1912 Broadway play called Dwarves Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee. Disney's film then coined the names with which we forever associate the seven dwarfs (by the way, they are written 'dwarfs' and not 'dwarves': Tolkien was largely responsible for the latter spelling, although he claimed to be, strictly speaking, plural of 'dwarf' 'should probably be dwerrows).
How should we analyze the story of Snow White? Like many other classic fairy tales, such as Goldilocks or Rumpelstiltskin, the story haunts number three: there are three drops of blood dripping from the Queen's hand, there are three Queens (Snow White's mother, her evil stepmother, and finally Snow White herself), the evil stepmother has to come up with three plans to kill the girl, and the dwarves mourn Snow White's death for three days before thinking of burying her.
As the significance of the number in Goldilocks, three attempts by an evil stepmother to kill her rival can be considered an example of a 'real' balance in classic narratives: the first establishes a point of action.
This can be seen in countless fantastic trilogies created after The Lord of the Rings: the first volume identifies the quest or danger, the second sees danger double, and the third volume sees the triumph of good over evil (or law).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a classic fairy tale about envy, love, and sincere friendship. The main character of the fairy tale is the beautiful Snow White, who lost her mother as a child. Her father married a beautiful but evil woman who was jealous of Snow White. The evil Queen had a magic mirror that told her every day that she was the most beautiful in the world, but one day she did not get the answer she expected.
Since the Queen could not bear that there was someone more beautiful than her, she ordered the hunter to take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her, but he could not do that. Snow White found refuge with her new friends, but her peace did not last long because the Queen's malice constantly threatened her. The Queen is a real example of a negative character that we can often see in the stories of other authors.
Like every other fairy tale, this one has a moral story. Throughout the story, Snow White's beauty and pure heart stand out, because of which she finally managed to overcome injustice. Snow White is the personification of innocence and kindness, which will always be rewarded in the end. Since there is no malice in her at all, it is easy to fool her because she is a bit naive.
Like the Little Red Riding Hood story, it may be partly to teach children that the world is big and bad and that the kids must not blindly believe what strangers tell them (proving the innocent Snow White's willingness to believe what her evil stepmother tells her); from another angle, it is about finding peace and happiness even in a more humble environment (as a Queen daughter, Snow White is a princess who actually thinks she is happy to live among the miners in their cottage, although she leaves this world when she regains her lofty social status by marriage for the prince).
Perhaps such interpretations are meaningless because fairy tales are not designed primarily to teach children clear morals but to stimulate their imagination and introduce them to the way stories function emotionally and structurally, aliving universal human truths through character and narrative. There is evil in the world, but there is also good; death is a part of life, but also marriage and love; being beautiful is not a picnic that may seem less attractive to people; envy and jealousy ultimately eat away at the person who feels them, and are therefore self-destructive.
And vanity - that magic mirror a clear symbol of (literal) self-respect of the evil stepmother - will lead to unhappiness, because you will be destined to always compare yourself with others. It's possible that the moral value of Snow White lies as much in the fate of the wicked Queen as it does in the younger heroine.
In short, the fairy tale about Snow White is a classic that contains many of the most recognizable features of the genre: the wicked stepmother; love interest in the form of a prince; sampling three; forest environment; generous helpers (hunter, dwarves); and a happy ending. Not all fairy tales end happily, but this one ends.
Ken Priebe concluded that the fairy tale contains a lot of religious elements and Jung's archetype of the hidden collective unconscious. Snow White is presented as a completely innocent being, an adult with a heart and the innocence of a child. When the mirror persuades the evil stepmother to kill Snow White just because she is more beautiful than her, parallels are drawn with the Devil and his jealousy of God. The ending with a poisonous apple that leads to temptation and kills Snow White only reinforces the impression of Adam and Eve. But it can be revived by love as Jesus Christ promised that his followers and good people would be resurrected after death.
The dwarves, on the other hand, introduce a comic element and represent Christ's disciples who change and know love. Until recently, they only worked like robots in their mine and mechanically did the work, but meeting Snow White they discovered a greater meaning in life. Snow White kept her innocent love and soul for others, while others lost it growing up.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also got an animated version, a famous and acclaimed 1937 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and directed by David Dodd Hand. It is the 1st animated film from the Disney studio. It is a film adaptation of the fairy tale of the same name by the Brothers Grimm, which tells the story of a young Snow White who escaped from her evil stepmother and found refuge with seven dwarves. "Snow White" is the first feature-length animated film from the United States and, adjusted for inflation, is the 10th most commercial film of the 20th century (the first was "Gone with the Wind").
Since Snow White is a 19th-century German fairy tale, at the end of the original translation we can see some translator's notes which interestingly bring another reflection on the story. The translator who left notes was D. L. Ashliman.
Although the Snow White story itself was written in "High German", the heroine's name Snow White would be Schneeweißchen or Schneeweisschen. So, there are some dissimilarities between the 1812 edition and other, later versions:
At the beginning of the 1819 edition, the Grimm brothers added the statement that Snow White's mother died after the childbirth as well as that her father remarried, but if we look at the first 1812 edition, which is closest to its oral sources, the antagonist is Snow White's mother, not her stepmother.
In the 1819 edition, the prince's servant accidentally fell while carrying the coffin and the poisoned apple is dislodged, while in the first edition authors are writing about how a servant, angry for having to carry the coffin, struck the sleeping princess which dislodged the apple from her throat.
Genre: fairy tale
Setting: once upon a time in an unknown kingdom, wood
Point of view and Narrator: the point of view is third-person, but it is to believe that it is between the seven dwarves, although dwarves couldn't know what was happening in the castle. The exact identity of the narrator is unknown; while some sections are left without narration.
Tone and Mood: The authors represented a critical and ironic tone throughout the story, but remained cheerful, happy, and suspense mood to entertain the children
Style: allegorical, using metaphors
Protagonist and Antagonist: The main protagonist and heroine is Snow White, while the main antagonist is the evil Queen.
Major Conflict: The major conflict in the story is that Snow White's stepmother wants to kill her because she's prettier than her.
Rising Action: The Queen finds out that Snow White has not been killed so she decides to kill Snow White herself.
Climax: The Queen ties Snow White's belt so tight that she can not breathe and falls unconscious.
Ending: Snow White was saved by the prince after which she married him, invited her evil stepmother to the wedding, and made her wear shoes so she danced until she dropped dead.
Symbols and Metaphors
Symbols and Metaphors: white color, red lips, dwarves, the number 7, the number 3, mirror, apple
White color - In fairy tales, white color usually represents honesty and pureness
Red lips - The phrase from the story "lips as red as blood", is an Arabic expression that is often used in poetry. It means that when someone has lips as red as blood, the person is "healthy" rather than having pale or "blue" lips.
The number 7 - the number seven is often seen in fairy tales, especially those written by the Grimm brothers. It has several meanings, 7 is the number of ancient wonders, seven planets, seven sins, seven virtues, seven senses, etc., so seven dwarfs could be a metaphor for basically anything. Also, they don't need to be necessarily dwarves, they could be "small" or "little" in some sense, so perhaps they represent seven virtues or what Snow White needed to get to "know" all of her senses.
The number 3 - as we mentioned in the analysis there are three drops of blood dripping from the Queen's hand, there are three Queens (Snow White's mother, her evil stepmother, and finally Snow White herself), the evil stepmother has to come up with three plans to kill the girl, and the dwarves mourn Snow White's death for three days before thinking of burying her. Three attempts by an evil stepmother to kill her rival can be considered an example of a 'real' balance in classic narratives: the first establishes a point of action.
Mirror - In fairy tales, a mirror is a metaphor for many things, for vanity, truth but also for "wisdom". The Queen used her magic mirror to "compare" herself to others (vanity). She was frightened by Snow White because she chose to judge herself only by her beauty, and not education, talents, or anything else. In this case, the mirror brought out the worst from the Queen.
Apple - Apple is usually used as a metaphor for a person, as in the expression "A bad apple", meaning a bad person. To take a bite can also be an allegory, so taking a bite of an apple doesn't have to be understood literally. For example, if someone says "he took a bite" it can mean that someone believes something that was said, when a salesman tries to sell something broken, makes a pitch and a buyer shows interest, a salesman could say "he took a bite. In the case of this fairy tale, Snow White "took a bite" of a poisoned apple, so the apple could be a metaphor.