Snow White became a part of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales in 1812 and was made into a classic, feature length film by the Walt Disney company in 1937. Exactly 200 years later, Mirror, Mirror comes out this weekend (starring Julia Roberts) and Snow White and the Huntsman comes out June 1; as audiences watch the new adaptations (one a comedy, one a drama) the 1937 Walt Disney version is the one most will mentally reference as the film progresses to spot changes and similarities, inwardly considering Walt Disney's to be the original; what might seem to be changes to the story could, in fact, be citations of the original story which Disney himself changed to create his world that we all know so well.Little Snow White, the original Grimm Brothers' tale, can be read here for free; it's only a couple of pages and quite interesting. As we review Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I will be referencing significant changes Disney made to the story (I had originally intended to also post on the 1997 film Snow White: A Tale Of Terror which has some interesting aspects to it, and I will mention it from time to time, but not specifically post on it; it is available for instant viewing on Netflix).
The Great Depression was in full-swing, and there was unprecedented unemployment and food lines; like Snow White, most Americans were hoping for that thrill of true love that would get the heartbeat going again and lead the country out of the dark times. But an economic and historical analysis doesn't explain why the film is so timeless; we might argue it's the great artistry of the illustrations, but with advances in computer animation nearly every day, wouldn't that make Snow White seem old and worthless? (Not that I would ever argue that).
|The face of the Magic Mirror. Is it really a face? We know the eyes are the window of the soul, so for a mirror that can "see" so much, his eyes are hollow, he has no eyes are all, bearing a closer resemblance to a mask, rather than a face, and this mask with no eyes is what the queen sees when she looks into her magic mirror, whereas when Snow White looks into the well, she sees not only her face, but her heart's desire and the face of the prince, her true love. The colors comprising the mask of the Magic Mirror is the exact opposite of Joseph's coat of many colors (each color symbolizing a different virtue in his soul) and reveals his vices and the queen's. At the top, closest to the brain, is blue again, the color of depression; then the eyes are outline in yellow/gold and purple. Both colors are meant to denote royalty, but the queen has made herself the pinnacle of royalty instead of God, hence she sees herself as being above all others, including God. That the nose is also purple and outlined in gold means that she has "a nose for trouble" and this is why she consults the Magic Mirror everyday to find if there is one fairer than she, she wants to find trouble before trouble finds her. The cheeks, wherein our state of the soul can be determined (by how we blush or smile or grow pale), are green, and where green is usually the color of hope and rebirth, in this case they refer to that which is rotting and dying. The purple mouth I will discuss below. The yellow/gold chin invokes the saying "take it on the chin," and yellow is being referred to here as the color of cowardice (such as a yellow-streak), so instead of being able to take insults lightly, the queen takes everything in a cowardly way, and responds as a bully.|
Her night she spends at the cottage of the seven dwarfs she prays at her bedside, and then she prays again (making her wish known to God) before biting into the poisoned apple (which is what saves her from the poison of the apple). When we pray, it's important that we don't think we are dropping our prayers into an empty well, rather, that the Spirit who is Holy not only hears our prayers, but was the one who prompted us to make the prayer to begin with. Perhaps the strangest line in this song, "I'm hoping, and I'm dreaming of, the nice things, he'll say," is also the most damning, literally, because the Magic Mirror tells the queen nice things, i.e., the things she wants to hear, but Snow White is longing for the nice things that are the truth.
|When you truly see yourself, you truly see God with you.|
Taker her into the forest where she can pick wild flowers, the queen tells him, and there you will kill her! The picking of ht wild flowers symbolizes of course the pleasures of the world, the appetites, because the forest and what happens there, is the fall from grace. The reason it's a "huntsman" doing it is because of the way the devil "hunts for our souls" (as the Lenten entreaty says, "The Lord will save us from the hunter's snare"). The queen is fully enslaved to the Magic Mirror, and the queen believes the Huntsman to be as enslaved to her, so it''s not that she trusts him (because that would be a virtue) it's that she trusts in her power to frighten him into doing her bidding.
|The emblems on the back of the queen's throne speaks volumes about what she values. There are the peacock feathers surrounding the throne--the opposite of an aureola, a halo signifying holiness--and symbolizing instead pride and vanity. (The peacock feathers encircling the queen are used on the costume of Julia Roberts' in Mirror, Mirror). It's the two serpents that are really important, because of the serpent in the Garden of Eden causing the Original Sin, it has always been associated with Satan, and that's from whom the queen gets her power. Her throne is made of wood, rather strange for such a vain queen, yet it illustrates for us again how she is usurping Christ's royalty for her own: the throne of Christ is the wood of the cross, but the queen wants nothing to do with that.|
I think for two reasons. One, it shows the real bestiality of the queen, because back then, the lungs and liver of an animal were regularly eaten as food so it displays what the queen thought of Snow White (and all people in general, animals, not people); but of course, in thinking of others as animals, it shows what an animal she is. Secondly, the spiritual significance: the lungs permit us to take in "the breath of life" (the kiss the prince will give to Snow White at the end of Disney's version) and the liver is vital for detoxification and cleansing, as well as metabolism, so we can get rid of toxins within us (sin and our appetites to sin) nor can we digest food, that is, the Food of God, the Bread of Life and the Word of God by which we are called to live. So, the queen is not only wanting to kill Snow White physically, but kill her spiritually as well.
The queen is allowed to exist up to this point because--unwittingly--she is the means of Snow White's perfection. Snow White hasn't done anything wrong, she has tried to become spiritually perfect, and the more a soul tries to become spiritually perfect the more God wants to help them along their way. What Snow White is being healed of are the wounds from Original Sin and the senses (St. John of the Cross calls it the "purification of the senses") and how they can lead the soul astray from God (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz will also have to go through "the dark forest" before she can conquer the Wicked Witch).
|Original theatrical poster for Disney's first, feature-length film.|
venial sin and imperfections. She exhibits the traits of each of the dwarfs at some point (she's bashful with the prince; she stutters like Doc with the huntsman, she's sleepy at the cottage; she's happy without realizing the sadness of the world [more on this below] and then she's pessimistic [Grumpy] without remembering the happiness of the world [so there's a lack of balance to her moods, she lacks the serenity and peace the saints possess]). This part of Snow White's spiritual progression is what St. John of the Cross refers to as the purgation of the spirit and is intended to bring the soul into perfect, loving union with God Himself. How does Snow White accomplish this with the dwarfs?
As we said, they are projections of Snow White and the traits she must overcome within herself so she can battle the queen and enter into the final stage of spiritual perfection. That the dwarfs are miners seals the deal because the mine is another representation of the contemplative life, inner-reflection, the jewels we find when we "mine our selves and identities" instead of seeking after passing treasure in the world (like the queen).
names on the beds, she laughs at what funny names they are, but the name is the identity, and as we know, the dwarfs fulfill those names perfectly; since they are projections of Snow White, she's getting at good look at who she herself really is (but is not intended to be by God). "I'm a little sleepy myself," she says, admitting her own resemblance, and she falls asleep. This isn't being sleepy over doing housework, this is being sleepy "of the spiritual life," and because beds are likened to coffins (the temporary coffin we go to each night before the eternal coffin) this sleep foreshadows the deeper sleep in the glass coffin towards the end.
Bashful holds up the goldenrod to Sneezy and Sneezy sneezes all over the place; this indicates the dwarfs, turning upside-down everything that has been done for us by God and how we "sneeze" it all out. We aren't looking at the freedom we now have as a result of whatever it was being taken out of our lives, or cleaned, we look at what we have lost, as Lot's Wife looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When they discuss Snow White staying with them, it's the gooseberry pie that wins them over (their appetites) not that she needs help. This is how we know they are children: absent from them are the serious mortal sins of adulthood (like the queen's) but absent from them, too, is the advanced holiness to which we are all called.
|We can compare this book to the book in the opening of the film; whereas the white and gold denoted the royal wisdom, the alchemy signs and dust and dirt upon the book let us know this is forbidden knowledge, at the same time that we all ready know the queen has traded in her "queenly raiment" (of the soul) for the peddler's cloak and cackle, because this is really the exact same thing as The Picture Of Dorian Gray: all her sins and crimes have amassed to finally "unveil" her and she her how she truly is.|
|Instead of using the window to look in upon herself, she uses it to aid her destructive plans; the green of the potion is not life-giving (as green usually is) rather, it is rotten (the color of mold).|
|As the queen herself says, "What lies on the skin is, the symbol of what lies beneath."|
|Walt Disney made this film in 1937; it's possible that a Clark Gable film from 1933 called The White Sister influenced this scene between Snow White and Dopey, where he pretends to be a prince. If you will notice, the beams form a cross in the upper, right-hand corner, because Snow White's true love is her True Lover, Christ, and she's still longing to be with him; an earthly lover would be as ridiculous to Snow White as Dopey dressed up trying to "measure up" to Christ's standard.|
This is the kind of question long nights of philosophy society meetings are made of, but my own answer is no; Snow White can only be accountable for her own actions and she cannot presume to know and thereby judge what is in someone else's heart, thereby, even though it brings harm to her, God brings a greater good from it than the evil that was done. We all have free will, to bring glory to God and eternal salvation to ourselves, or to take us along the path of damnation, and given that every single word, thought and act we made will be judged and either benefit us or condemn us, it's best to always uphold every virtue in every circumstance.
|Just looking at her makes the case to embark on the difficulties of the spiritual journey so you don't end up like her.|