Beauty is at the center of the fairy tale, sometimes it puts Snow White in danger (envy of the stepmother), sometimes it protects her (affection of the dwarfs) and finally it saves her (love of the king’s son). Her mother had wished for a beautiful child, red as blood, white as snow and black as ebony, pure colors harmoniously combined. How sad that this mother dies after giving birth, but as almost always in fairy tales and stories, good mothers die early or have already died. I’ve often thought about this and wondered…
Beauty cannot protect Snowwhite against envy and resentment, which arise in men, especially in women, because they can‘t stand the natural, undeserved beauty of other women – why is it given to one and withhold to the other, why is fate this unfair? You can face up to bad luck, but not to injustice.
Beauty is magic and mysterious; it refers to a higher harmony that we cannot fathom. It feels good to look at it, we admire it sometimes, but why, what is beauty? Does it have to do with perfection, with a good measure, with harmony? There are many theories about beauty.
Who can say, he doesn’t want to be beautiful. How hard is it for women, who cannot find themselves beautiful and sometimes even hate themselves. If you could at least find something, only one part of your body beautiful, it is comforting, and if only someone would say, from time to time, that you look pretty, it is very soothing.
But if a woman wants to be the most beautiful of all, like the stepmother of Snow White, then it is grossly exaggerated, that is pathological narcissistic. For her, not an object shall be beautiful and touch the heart, not the joy of it is the desired, pleasurable goal, but she herself and her own superiority.
This is destructive, haughty, and addicted, there is no end, it does not satisfy. What we now call the beauty craze, is shown distorted in the fairytale by the figure of the bad stepmother. She can’t take second place, it must be the gold medal, she wants to be loved by everyone, like some stars today, and she must retain that status as „the fairest of them all“ at all costs.
Beauty changes and fades over time, and the luster of youth, which makes Snow White shine, arouses envy in the stepmother. Why this hatred and the desire to kill her? Because Snow White is loved, because she gets affection and attention, because she is beautiful and attracts looks like hearts. For the stepmother, beauty as unfathomable, natural harmony, given without any own doing, can only exist, if she remains number one, superior and unrivaled in her royal dignity. The grace of the adolescent girl is a thorn in her side. She wants to be superior, and it’s all about herself, her reflection in the mirror, her narcissism, which must not be offended, otherwise immeasurable rage will arise that wants to destroy, rage of being insulted and slighted.
Beauty without a human counterpart? Why is there no one for whom she, the stepmother, wants to be beautiful, whom she wants to please? Who cares, out there in the wide country, that she’s the prettiest? Where is her husband, the king, who could confirm her, what she urgently needs – and which woman does not know that?
So, she asks her mirror, which magically, as if from a metaphysical world, knows more than a human being. This stepmother, who is not identified with herself as a person but with her external image, believes the mirror. For her, only this one criterion counts, her own external beauty, inside she is empty. She has to be number one, otherwise it’s not enough, otherwise it’s of no value. She bears no competition, her great and bloated self, her puffed up me stretches across the kingdom. She is not willing to limit herself and let other women exist alongside her. Others might find her interesting, likeable, warm, generous, or lovable, but she can’t imagine that.
On the one hand, we know that wanting to be the only one, especially when we’re in love. On the other hand, the stepmother’s cruelty is hardly comprehensible, she even eats the stepdaughter’s lungs and liver (without knowing that she is actually eating that of a hind), as if she has to be sure of completely destroying Snow White as a competitor and at the same time, she needs something for herself to internalize, that is perverted love and thus its opposite.
Beauty is untouchable. It evokes the conflict between mother and daughter, one thriving as a woman, the other fading and frustrated by a lack of validation as a woman. This fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm splits the mother figure into a deceased good mother and a pursuing evil stepmother and allows the benign envy that sometimes arises in some mothers to degenerate into hatred and death wishes. And just to make it repulsive enough, lungs and liver are required as proof of murder. The commissioned hunter has pity, lets Snow White live, it wanders through the forest, finds a dwarf house, eats, drinks and goes to sleep. How will she learn to cope with life?
Beauty makes the dwarves lenient, those who are beautiful enjoy advantages, and Snow White is allowed to stay. She is safe and secure in the world of the dwarves. The dwarfs, little asexual men, cannot be dangerous to her. Snow White looks for the right seventh bed, she has a good deal with the seven dwarfs, in return for board and lodging she has to keep the house in order. She seems content and can grow up in peace.
Snow White is trusting, in the further course also towards the traveling trader, in which the masked evil stepmother is hidden. She loses consciousness three times as a result, after accepting a lace, a comb, and an apple from her. She falls into a deep sleep three times and is as good as dead. The dwarves are able to revive her twice. But a third time she falls for her stepmother, she hasn’t been able to develop a healthy distrust so far, she’s still too young, she doesn’t know any envy herself and doesn’t expect it from others either, everything has gone well so far…
Beauty wants to be shown. Snow White is a woman! And thus, vulnerable to offers to adorn oneself with a belt and a comb. The dwarfs warn Snow White about the evil stepmother, but she can’t take care of herself and falls for the masquerade, she is seductive – and the stepmother knows that.
It is the apple that apparently leads to success in the stepmother’s murderous intentions, and which has symbolized desire since Adam and Eve. A dwarf, neither a man nor a child, can no longer help. After this third (actually fourth) murder attempt, Snow White goes through a moratorium, a death-like state in which a self-development can take place hidden inside, cut off from the world.
A king’s son must come who falls in love with her, Snow White must first be carried away, only to be brought back to life by a bump, a rumble. A glass coffin is built for her, the king, the dwarfs and even the animals in the forest want to continue to contemplate and enjoy her beauty. One senses the mourners‘ hope that Snow White may not be lost. What could bring her back to life?
Actually logical: she has to spit out the poisoned part of the apple from the evil stepmother and free herself from what she swallowed before because of seduction, naivety, and her own desire against her better knowledge.
The stepmother doesn’t like to believe that Snow White is alive, she comes to the wedding, she is curious and doesn’t expect a punishment, she as queen. However, she has to dance herself to death on hot coals – is that fair?