Snow White

Snow White by Charles Santore

Snow White by Charles Santore

Snow White keeps on coming around! There are at least three movies about her out about now or very soon. Her story is perennial, and has been for hundreds of years all over the world. There are at least sixty versions, and according to Bruno Bettelheim some of the motifs are even to be found in the Greek myth of Tantalus, who for vanity’s sake, kills his son Pelops and serves him up to the gods for dinner!

The earliest known written version is Italian from 1634, The Young Slave, in Giambattista Basile’s Il Pentamerone. This story gives us an explanation of the time-span covering Snow White’s sudden growth from being a seven year old girl to being a grown woman ripe for marriage – her coffin grew with her as she lay comatose in it for years. Also, don’t forget, as in  dreams, time in fairy tales has a magical quality and does not obey the laws of physics.

Snow White is one of the darkest stories – “a chilling tale of murderous rivalry, adolescent sexual ripening, poisoned gifts, blood on snow, witchcraft, and ritual cannibalism.” – not intended for children, saysTerri Windling. On the other hand, I agree with InkGypsy in Once Upon a Blog when she says,

“I’d rather my kid pick up a book of fairy tales with all the gore intact than watch the nightly news. That’s far more frightening and has nothing to offer but fear, encouraging you to worry about things you have no control over and are largely being speculated about at best (break down any local news and you’ll find the factual content is actually quite light). One thing fairy tales do for children is take away uncertainty. They’re pretty clear about what happens to whom and why. To have these ‘definates’, these boundaries, is actually comforting for a child. Uncertainty makes for instability and adults cause enough of that even without meaning to”
— Gypsy Thornton

  And many people have re-written the story or written commentaries and poems on it from every different angle from Freudian and literary analysis to feminism and everything in between. I join them all, making no apology for the ending, as I too reclaim Snow White from Walt Disney. One young woman writing in the Omaha World Herald, says of Snow White, “She gets under our skin and into our brains before we can really make sense of her, and then we never tire of trying to figure her out”.


Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, 1975

Rainbow Rowell, Omaha World Herald, 8 January 2012

Terri Windling –




Reflection Questions

These questions are for your own personal reflections on the story. Perhaps you don’t relate to the whole story, but parts of it do resonate with aspects of your experience. Those are the parts you can work with. And if you find a question disturbing, do seek out a wise and trusted friend or therapist to talk it over with.

I would encourage you as you reflect on these questions to have your favourite creativity materials or a visual journal nearby. Be open to any images that may come to you and concretize your reflections in some sort of art-making.

  • In the movie, Mirror, Mirror, the wicked queen uses the mirror as a kind of alter-ego, or second self. Who or what do you consult when you want to know what’s going on with you?
  • What do you do with your jealous or envious feelings?
  • What do you do with your fantasies of revenge?
  • Projection is part of human nature; how do you recognize your projections and work to take them back? For instance, can you hear yourself making adverse comments in the car or to something on tv?
  • Have you experienced a ‘time in the forest’? What was it like and what did you learn there?
  • As a woman, how much are your narcissistic vulnerabilities seduced by advertising, especially for beauty products?
  • And finally, as Jack Zipes writes in Why Fairy Tales Stick, “the morality of [contemporary interpretation of] the tale has less to do with the punishment [of the stepmother] than with posing the dilemma that most women feel even today. How do you fulfill natural inclinations and attract a partner (either for reproduction or sexual gratification) without killing off the competition that may undermine your self-interest?”