The Three Queens
Eva, Snow, and Emma’s parallels with Traditional Christian Narrative
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
Fans were thrilled when it was announced that an episode of Once Upon A Time would feature Snow’s mother. This opened up an entirely new character to explore. Of one thing I was certain, since Snow White’s mother had been established as dead it was likely that she would not be represented with the apple as her symbol. That is usually the provenance of the evil step-mother. I felt that I could put away my notes on the apple for a while. There is nothing I have against that rich symbol but I’ve already explored this theme so often that I was concerned my “Apple and Eve” symbolism was getting a little redundant. I’m surprised I have not gained the nickname “Crazy Apple Lady,” or even “Defendrix Mali.” Many possible scenarios went through my mind about how I may approach this new character and her famous daughter. I was determined that the only reason I would use the famous Garden of Eden story in this essay is if the writers went ahead and plain named the character “Eve.”
A few weeks later a press release hit the web for “The Queen is Dead.”
So how about those apples?
Back to the Garden of Eden we go! This myth describes the great fall of humanity and locks into Snow’s mother from her name to the color of her dress. The apple is the Forbidden Fruit, a symbol of knowledge and original innocence that Adam and Eve rejected when they chose to listen to the devil, symbolized by a serpent, and ate the fruit which represents the choosing of good over evil. Eating the apple, one could say, is analogous with “crossing the line,” the act from which no person may return, so prevalent in fairy tales. However, watching the episode “The Queen is Dead” it quickly became clear that this Eva is far from the stereotypical Eve, seductress and tempter of man. Rather from her words, to their tone, and the gentle musical score, Eva is an ethereal character, almost too good to be true, giving sage advice to her daughter and accepting painful death with an astonishing peace. A week later, in “The Miller’s Daughter,” the audience learned that Eva was not kind or empathetic in her younger years. Rather she was a woman of pride who was so petty and cruel that she went out of her way to humiliate Cora, a peasant, purely for amusement. Yet this superior attitude did not last long. Young Eva is disgraced when this same peasant wins the favor of the king for spinning gold and then endures the shame of having her intended propose to another woman in front of her. Not shown onscreen, but likely to have occurred, was Eva being packed off and sent home to her kingdom as a princess who was jilted over a peasant, an object of ridicule even. Likely, given her later persona, instead of turning to bitterness and revenge, Eva chose the better path, transforming her ways such that the woman we see in “The Queen Is Dead” is the New Eva, redeemed.
This term “New Eva,” or more commonly “New Eve,” is common knowledge for those who practice Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, but is not always familiar outside of religious teaching. And while any sort of dogmatic interpretation of Once Upon a Time I believe is far from the creator’s intent, the series-long story of the show and the parallels with the “Eve and New Eve” of Christian Salvation History fit too comfortably to be dismissed. This is a topic certainly worth examining and perhaps even may reveal a hint of what is to come. For it was not I who called the pious queen “Eva,” it was the creators.
In this traditional interpretation of the Gospel, the Woman Eve has fallen, but also has a happy ending. Her story is that of The Fall, where humanity, symbolized by the marriage and actions of the Man Adam and the Woman Eve, went from innocence to gaining knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge is not necessarily the best translation. Knowledge in the biblical sense is a complete taking of something upon oneself. It often means sexual relations, the most intimate of acts where mutual sharing is so real that it frequently becomes a person through procreation. Therefore, when Adam and Eve chose to taste the forbidden fruit, it was not from merely the desire to gain wisdom; rather they were making themselves intimate with the line that must never be crossed. As a result they incurred the curse of death, pain in toil, and the agony of childbirth, the anti-thesis of what they had before. Murder and mayhem results, as is shown by their offspring Cain and Abel. Talk about all magic coming with a price! But often overlooked is the promise made by God after the curse is pronounced that a man and a woman will defeat the serpent. This man is Jesus, the Savior in Christianity, and called the New Adam. His mother Mary is the New Eve. She is presented later in the Book of Revelation as the Woman Clothed with the Sun standing on the Moon, with a crown of twelve stars, and one to whom the dragon, another representation of the devil, makes war against. The dragon’s targets are also her offspring, those who follow Jesus. Hence the name Eve, “Mother of All The Living,” has a “bookend” meaning from creation until the end of time where, after a “final battle,” all as a family attend a wedding feast in the New and Heavenly world.
This can be shoe-horned into the arc of Once with Snow and Eva as an amalgamation of Mary. Eva the Redeemed is mother of the living since she gives birth and guidance to the queen who will become the mother of the savior, Emma. The prophecy made by Rumplestiltskin is similar to the promise God made to Adam and Eve in that Snow will be the mother of Emma hence striking a deadly blow to the curse which will befall the Enchanted Forest. Snow’s belief in this leads to the transporting of Emma to Earth thereby setting into action events that result in Emma breaking the curse. Therefore, the survivors of the Enchanted Forest owe their lives indirectly to Snow’s actions in the “Pilot.” She is also, like Eve, paradoxically the cause of the curse too, for she is the reason the curse was cast in the first place.
Giving the name Mary Margaret to Snow White in Storybrooke is also an interesting choice. Adam Horowitz confirmed on Twitter that the name Mary Margaret comes from Maria Sophia Margaretha Catharina von Erthal, a Bavarian noblewoman, who some believe was the inspiration for Snow White. Since popular culture, if not scholarship, claims this, it is perfectly appropriate and fitting to give the name to Snow’s cursed persona. But it also provides Snow with a connection to the biblical Mary. This is especially apparent when one considers that originally Mary Margaret was going to be a member of Storybrooke’s Sisters, women who model themselves after the Virgin Mary, the New Eve. Moreover, Jesus in the Bible is hailed as coming from the House of David, Charming’s true name.
Hence Once upon a Time, by introducing the “small” character of Snow’s mother, Eva, has given the fans a new roadmap to follow the overarching theme of the series. There are two Eves and a Savior, queens, or future queens all, and with the exception of Emma, playing deceptively simple roles that are at the center of the Once story. Using the Eve and New Eve model, perhaps the writers are confirming that they have not forgotten the Final Battle rhetoric that pervaded Rumplestiltskin’s prophecy, fulfilled, albeit in ways that the characters could not possibly have imagined. There is no reason to doubt that this model will be followed to its conclusion, already moving forward since Season Two has revealed that the core characters are family both by blood and adoption. This logically leads to the assumption that the series will end with the final defeating of evil and great rejoicing among this family as they celebrate a magnificent feast and celebrate the triumph of the savior.
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.