Mirror, miror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all ?
The other day, I was reading the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for my daughter.In case you have forgotten, Snow White’s step mother — the evil queen asks the mirror, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all ? “. The mirror replies “Snow White”. The evil queen gets pissed off and tries to kill her — by banishing her to jungle, where the seven dwarfs give protection. Being unsuccessful in her first attempt, she tries again with poisoned apple and so on.
When you read kids’ stories as an adult, you notice things you haven’t done before. One question that struck me is “if the queen knew magic, why couldn’t she cast a spell on herself, and become the most beautiful woman in the kingdom? Why can’t she will herself to be the ‘fairest of them all’ ?”.
May be because with black magic, she can only do bad things. She can’t create beauty. She can’t conjure innocence with evil. That led to more awkward questions — why is Snow ‘White’ good ? Why does the evil queen use ‘black’ magic? I guess it’s a kids’ tale and Snow Grey doesn’t sound nearly as exciting, though represents grey zones of reality better.
Why is being the ‘fairest of them all’ so important to the queen? Isn’t she already the queen with magical powers? There’s an Emily Dickinson poem, ‘Success is counted sweetest, by those who never succeed’. Perhaps the queen isn’t just evil, but insecure. May be she would have been a loyal customer to Fair and Lovely had it existed in her age. Or gone to some beauty parlour or cosmetologist. I wondered if “evil” people are ever depicted as vulnerable.
Snow White eventually marries a Prince, who saves her. The seven dwarfs had taken care of her — but they just weren’t her looks-match. Even in fairy tales, it turns out you need to be a prince to get a princess. Fairy tales can swerve from reality, but only a little.
Just as I was lost in these thoughts, I realised that my daughter had slept off.