Today as we were driving to school I was subjected to a CBeebies Podcast which I had foolishly downloaded by accident and was then forced to listen to, trapped like a prisoner behind the wheel of my own car while Four imperiously held the remote control like a tiny Tsarina. The disgustingly enthusiastic and cheerful presenter was reading the story of Snow White to a group of enthralled radio-audience children as well as the live ones in my vehicle and they chimed in all the oohs, boos and hisses at the appropriate moments. It’s been a while since I heard this story. I remember being carried out of the cinema at about age 5 completely gibbering with terror at the Wicked Stepmother in the Disney version, and I also had an illustrated book of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales I didn’t much like either. Not very keen on the dwarves, you see, and even then there was something that struck me as decidedly off about the whole story. Now that I’m a fully grown woman I dislike it even more, and find that my perspective and sympathies have shifted considerably..
Once upon a time, as a queen sits sewing at her window, she pricks her finger on her needle and a drop of blood falls on the snow that had fallen on her ebony window frame. She sighs and says to herself, “Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony”. Soon after the queen gives birth to a baby. They name her Princess Snow White. Then she dies.
Presently, the king takes a new wife, who is beautiful but vain. The queen possesses a magic mirror that answers any question. She asks it:
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?”
The mirror always replies
“You, my queen, are fairest of all.”
But when Snow White reaches the age of seven, she becomes as beautiful as the day, and when the queen queries her mirror, it responds:
“Queen, you are full fair, ’tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you.”
Ok, hold on here.
First of all, what up with the King? He marries some sexy, creepy lady and that’s the last we hear of him? I’m not sure I’m prepared to let him off so lightly. Crime #1: Poor parenting skills. Crime #2 failure to reassure insecure second wife of her place in his heart and her intrinsic human value so she is left alone to stare obsessively into a mirror worrying about her appearance. Tut tut, King. You have not done your familial duty!
Secondly, we’re making beauty comparisons between a grown woman and a SEVEN year old?! Anyone else find that a little bizarre? Or disturbing?
Thirdly, we’re only into the first paragraph of the story and it’s all about beauty. Beauty. Beauty. Beauty. That’s all that there is. No cleverness, (not for the heroine, anyway), no redeeming social value, no talent, just beauty. We’re still reading this story to little girls in 2009. Are we going to put Snow White in a bikini on the internet next? (maybe it’s been done, I should Google this, really)
The queen becomes jealous, and orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods to be killed and demands that he return with her heart as proof. The huntsman does as he is bid, but after raising his knife, he finds himself unable to kill her. Instead, he lets her go, telling her to flee and hide, and brings the queen the heart of a young deer, which is then prepared by the cook and eaten by the queen.
Ok, so the queen is a demented psychotic killer – she needs to be the prettiest girl in the room at any cost. (I BLAME SOCIETY) .Her pathetic huntsman was actually going to do it, but he can’t. Boo hoo. He’s too much of a wuss to finish the job. So instead of helping the poor SEVEN YEAR OLD CHILD, he just lets her loose in the forest. Where there are wild boars, bears and wolves. Nice guy! Bet he went home proud of himself.
In the forest, Snow White discovers a tiny cottage belonging to seven dwarves, where she takes shelter and rests. The dwarves come home and discover her asleep on their bed. They tell her:
“If you will keep house for us, and cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay with us, and you shall not lack for anything.”
PERV ALERT! PERV ALERT! If you will stay here and be our indentured servant and do all the grunt work for seven disgusting bachelor miners we will make sure don’t get eaten by bears.
There is no direct mention of ‘extra’ required services but my creepo alarm went off even as a small girl and I have to say I’ve had an aversion to dwarves ever since (apologies to any readers who are vertically challenged, I do not mean to offend).
They warn her to take care and let no one in when they are away delving in the mountains.
Of course not. Isolation is key in kidnap cases – helps with Stockholm syndrome..
Meanwhile, the Queen asks her mirror once again
“Who’s the fairest of them all?”, and is horrified to learn that Snow White is alive and living with the dwarves.
The Queen visits the cottage while the dwarves are away working, and in the disguise of a farmer’s wife, offers a poisoned apple to Snow White. She eats the apple eagerly and immediately falls into a deep stupor. When the dwarves find her, they cannot revive her, and they place her in a glass coffin, assuming that she is dead.
See, I told you they were creepy! They keep her body in a glass coffin! Why??
Time passes, and a prince traveling through the land sees Snow White. He is enchanted by her beauty and instantly falls in love with her. He begs the dwarfs to let him have the coffin.
Clearly the entire kingdom is filled with necrophiliacs, pedophiles and child-murderers.
I scratch my head in wonder and advise extreme caution before agreeing to marry someone from the land that is now Germany. Oh wait..
The prince’s servants carry the coffin away. While doing so, they stumble on some bushes and the movement causes the piece of poisoned apple to dislodge from Snow White’s throat, awakening her. The prince then declares his love and soon a wedding is planned.
Can’t help wondering if he was slightly disappointed that she woke up.
And let’s not forget he was planning a wedding to a SEVEN YEAR OLD GIRL! EEUUWWW!
The vain Queen, still believing that Snow White is dead, once again asks her mirror who is the fairest in the land, and is confounded by the response;
“You, my queen, are fair; it is true. But the young queen is a thousand times fairer than you.”
She must have been gutted by this – no Botox back then, the young ones were coming up thick and fast and she’d eaten that disgusting, fattening heart for nothing!
Not knowing that the new queen was, in fact, her stepdaughter, she goes to the wedding to see the young bride, and her heart fills with the deepest of dread when she realizes the truth.
As punishment for her wicked ways, a pair of heated iron shoes are brought forth with tongs and placed before the Queen. She is then forced to step into the iron shoes and dance until she falls down dead.
So Snow White, at only seven turned out to be quite the vindictive little minx herself. Not that I think one should feel particularly warm towards someone who sent you into the woods to be killed, only then to be rescued and repeatedly gang raped by a bunch of midgets. But didn’t she suspect that the very thing that had beguiled her handsome prince – youth, beauty, comatose passivity, might one day not be there any more, and that she’d wake up and realize she’d been sold a false bill of goods? Then she might want to get her own poison apple out and shove it in a few choice orifices..
I kept trying to snatch back the remote from Four, and when that didn’t work I resorted to manually pausing the story and interjecting awkward questions to try to provoke a different point of view.
Me: Don’t you think there are better things to be than pretty?
Me: I think it is much more interesting to DO things than just look in mirrors and worry about what other people are thinking, right?”
Four: Mhhmm, shh
Me: Don’t you think that it sounded boring when Snow White had to do all the cooking and cleaning for the dwarves? That wasn’t fair, or fun, was it?
Four: k, mnh
Me: Why did the prince want to marry her without even talking to her? And why did she marry him? She didn’t even know him? He might have had bad breath!”
“JUST STOP TALKING! YOU’RE RUINING THE STORY!” she finally shouted at me.
Fantastic! I consider my mission discharged. Take that, Snow White, you big ninny! Next up, spoiling Cinderella and her stupid, tiny slippers. I, myself, have rather large feet..
BTW if anyone has one of those magic mirrors I would like to ask it a couple of more pertinent questions such as where is the car charger for my iPod, and also why were the first cuts in the stimulus package from ailing schools and not failing banks?
And you, lovely readers and fellow writers: