Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Snow White

Last week I took my kids to a little play put on by a local troupe of three actors. It was the play of Snow White. It was geared for little kids. The audience participation of the show included the kids chirping like birds to awaken Snow White, standing tall and stretching out their arms to emulate trees the trees of a forest in which Snow took shelter, and of course, six dwarfs were recruited from among the kids. (The seventh was one of the actors.)

As the story unfolded, I began to listen for something redeeming. I couldn't find much. Let me see if I can distill this story into a quasi- Movie-A-Minute format.

  • The Queen, who is really a wicked witch, deceives the king and marries him, becoming SW's stepmother
  • The Queen is full of vanity and is satisfied only when the mirror reveals the she is the fairest in the land
  • SW "comes of age" and now over takes the Queen in "fairness." (This on her 16th birthday)
  • Enraged, the queen orders her huntsman to take SW deep into the forest and have her killed. In fact, "bring her heart to me," she says. Reminds me of an Indiana Jones movie.
  • The huntsman, evidently conflicted, cannot kill her in the forest because she is so "pure, innocent, and lovely."
  • Disobeying his Queen's command, the best thing he can think of is for her to live in the forest. OK.
  • SW is eventually discovered by seven dwarfs, and decides to move in with them. (scandalous!)
  • SW continues being the maid she was in the palace, cleaning and preparing meals for her hard-working, growth-stunted roommies.
  • The Queen/Witch, when revealed that SW is still alive, comes up with a clever disguise and goes to the forest (evidently knowing just where SW lives) and tries to eliminate her by giving her a poisonous--yes, comb.
  • When SW combs her hair, she's out. What a comb.
  • Alas, once the dwarfs return, the comb falls out, and SW is back to cooking and cleaning. Good for the dwarfs.
  • Undeterred, the Queen disguises herself again and gives SW a poisonous apple.
  • The ever-gullible SW eats the apple and is down for the count. Not Dead, just in an apple-induced coma, evidently.
  • But wait! The prince comes by (out of no where, I might add) and decides that even though SW is not respondent, she must be kissed. After all, she is so fair, and so pure, and so innocent. This he can deduce by looking at her.
  • He kisses her, she is awakened, and on the basis of her beauty (even though she's only 16) he pledges his life-long devotion to her (they kiss again) and they live happily ever after.
  • The queen/witch is somehow dreadfully caught in the world of her "ugly old lady" disguise and can't for some reason shake free of that.
OK, so what have we learned? 1) the Queen is evil 2) The Queen is deceitful 3) the most important thing to the queen is her own looks 4) The huntsman is dumb 5) Snow White is naive 6) the prince only cares about getting the babe, 7) in the end everyone looks good except the evil queen who had it coming.

In all this what role does the mirror play?

So--my gripe? I cannot point to any redeeming aspect of any character. I cannot tell my kids, "this is why this story is so important, so true." or "You should be just like ______ in this story because they're so full of virtue."

Why has this story survived for the last couple centuries?