By Zachery Van Norman - @TheZachVan
Snow White is easily one of the most famous fairy tale characters in existence and a tale in which color plays a central role. The common variant of the story, brought to us by the Brothers Grimm, begins with a queen sewing by a windowsill during winter. She pricks her finger and blood falls on the snow upon the wood frame; admiring the colors, the queen wishes for a child with skin white as snow, hair black as ebony, and lips red as blood. The queen's desire is the first indication that the color red is of vital importance to the story, and she later gives birth to a daughter of desired description before dying shortly thereafter. The king marries another but also dies, and the new queen becomes jealous of Snow White's emerging beauty and plots for her huntsman to kill the princess. She demands Snow's red heart as proof of her death; the girl escapes to a cottage of seven dwarfs and is eventually poisoned by the queen's red apple, dooming her to a cursed sleep before a princely escort awakens her. As my friend Woodrow Martin explains in her article “Mix & Match,” this version of the tale changes the role of the queen, for she was originally Snow White's mother and not the stepmother.
The Snow White story has other alterations in different versions throughout the world: another Grimm telling has a count and countess riding past mounds of white snow, ditches full of red blood and a flock of black ravens before finding a girl of matching hue description. The Italian version changes the queen's proof of Snow's death from her heart to her blood-soaked shirt, while the Spanish adaptation has the queen demanding a bottle of Snow's blood corked with the girl's own toe. While the story varies from region to region, the common vein of blood runs throughout.
Of course no discussion of Snow White is complete without mentioning the famous 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This Snow White begins as a scullery maid, but her clothes later include a nod to the three colors in the common version of the fairy tale: her hair is black and tied with a red ribbon, she has “lips red as the rose,” and while her skin is not the color of snow, she wears a white collar around her neck. Her sleeves also have red accents, as if to emphasize her physical strength while toiling as a scullery maid; the ribbon in her hair could be interpreted as a simple crown for a simple princess, a subtle symbol for the color red's meaning of power. The metaphors continue as the film progresses: mirroring the queen of Grimm notoriety, Disney's Evil Queen is set on obtaining Snow's heart as her victory trophy, and uses a red apple to bring the princess under sleeping death.
The Power Of Red A Look at Color on Once Upon A Time
by Zachery Van Norman - @thezachvan
The color red has long been meaningful in fairy tales and medieval literature. Many of the stories we see each week feature characters for which red is an integral component, like Snow White and Red Riding Hood. The creators of Once Upon A Time are clearly aware of the symbolism of the color red in fairy tales and are using it to their full advantage with each episode. In fact, it begins with the very first moments of the show, and immediately becomes a crucial piece to understanding the scope and direction of the overall story. The color red has a different meaning for each character, but it unites them in a way that symbolizes what the show is all about.
We join the tale of OUAT to see a man riding a horse on a road that crosses a lake. This is Prince Charming, splendored in a red coat and cloak as he rides his steed to save his princess. Arriving in the forest too late to prevent her death, the broken prince bends to her lips to bid her goodbye. But no, she is not dead! True love's kiss breaks the curse upon her, and the prince smiles in triumph as he holds his lady love and repeats their vow to each other.
I Will Always Find You
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.
Mix and Match
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
One of the most exciting aspects of Once Upon a Time is the way that the show takes the fairy tale characters that we are familiar with and puts a modern twist on them. Hence it was rather shocking to discover the ultimate twist while researching the Grimm Brothers: the Evil Queen is actually Snow White’s mother! The original story, based on the oral version that had been passed on over the years, had the Queen who so famously wished for a daughter, actually growing jealous of her. So even though Once has the claim-to-fame of twisting fairy tales for a modern age, it was the Grimms themselves who are responsible for the ultimate switch-a-roo. When they published their work in 1812, many were reading the tales for the first time, and, finding that the stories were popular with children, they chose to tone it down in the second edition to change the evil birth- mother to the stepmother. That is how the evil stepmother was created. So why not add another twist as was presented in “The Queen is Dead” and have a Snow White who finally has decided “Enough is Enough! I have had it with these mother-censored good decisions on these mother-censored Lands,” and go Medieval on Cora?
Why not indeed?
The Grimms originally recorded the tale “Sneewittchen” from oral interviews given with those of lower to middle classes who recited in the Low German dialect what they recalled from childhood, or from the hours spinning and telling the tales to each other to pass the time. The narrative generally went as the brothers recorded it:
Once upon a time in the middle of winter, when snowflakes the size of feathers were
falling from the sky, a queen was sitting and sewing by a window with an ebony frame.
While she was sewing, she looked out at the snow and pricked her dinger with a needle.
Three drops of blood fell onto the snow. The red looked so beautiful against the white
snow that she thought: “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red, as blood, and
as black as the wood of the window frame?" (Tatar)
Fairy Tale scholars Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have analyzed that the queen is a woman “confined” (Tatar, 249). A person thus trapped usually seeks an escape, often in a superficial solution. In this case it was in a beautiful baby with desired features. Also notable is the tri-fold formula of the blood drops: divine, supernatural, perfect. There is something mystical and pure therefore in the wish upon which Snow’s conception occurs. The Queen’s later jealousy gives a new meaning to be careful what you wish for. “All ‘magic’ comes with a price” and the price was granting her wish. For her child became all that she wished for and hence her rival.
Three: The Family of the Fairest of Them All and Her Charming
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
October 14, 2012
It has been a little less than a year since I first saw Prince Charming in the most-awesome-prince-clothes ever, galloping on a brilliant horse to wake his true love, drop that dreamy single tear, and declare “I will always find you,” making my heart melt (and maybe Google the actor’s name, pledging to name my first-born after him, and perhaps buy a shot-glass with his silhouette on it). After that amazing first impression, I have since seen Charming fight off evil guards while holding a baby*sigh,* watched that single tear slide down his cheek numerous times *double sigh,* travelled with him as he went to hell and back with Snow, and proposed to her by a scenic lake *swoon.* This central couple, affectionately shipped as “Snowing,” also suffered a curse, and, as Mary Margaret, poor Snow had her heart torn in two, trampled on, and tossed into the trash (symbolically happily, unlike other unfortunate residents of Storybrooke). Yet she earned her happy ending at the end of Season One, embraced by her groom, as a spinning camera showed the completion of their story arc *squee!* Now I’m with my weekly Once Upon A Time viewing group, with a laptop to monitor the tweets, and checking on the Once Upon a Fan website, whose staff I joined as a writer, inspired by Once Upon A Time to delve back into non-fiction after a ten-year break. Next to me lies a half-finished Baby Emma Blanket, but I eventually give all attention to the screen as I follow the S2x3 adventures of Lancelot with Snow and Charming. I watch as Snow travels to meet Charming’s mother just in time to see her pierced by an arrow—goodness these writers sure are hard on their characters-- and seek magic waters to cure her. Ruth, Charming’s mother, drinks, but is not cured. What’s up with that? Ruth then expresses regrets that she will not see Snow and Charming’s wedding. Snow assures her that she will.
Snow asks if Lancelot can perform the wedding.
Next thing I know The Fairest of Them All is getting married under a perfect arch that must have been tucked away somewhere with a magical “instant-wedding-canopy” spell, and a chalice representing the Holy Grail is presented. This leads to the perplexing mystery of what else Lancelot has in his Knights of the Round Table Kit.
A Tale Of Two Reginas
By Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
The story of Snow White begins with a classic description of the heroine: “skin as white as snow and red as blood, [with] hair as black as ebony (Grimm, 51).” While young Snow’s adventures are the focus of the fairy tale, there is a fascinating character who wishes the child nothing but death: her very own step-mother who is, incidentally, queen of her land. There are two versions of this murderous regent that are presented here as subjects for analysis. One is from the Grimm narrative, and the other from the modern television show Once Upon a Time. While events happen differently in the two renditions, the symbolism remains the same. Both queens commit deadly trespasses which poison their souls and lead them to spiritual death.
In the Grimm version of Snow White, the Queen is first introduced after she marries Snow’s widowed father. She is described as being beautiful, but also proud and frivolous. It is not by coincidence that pride is the first vice listed. Hubris, disproportionate pride, is present in literature from the classics of Homer to the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. The latter stated “. . . . that pride denotes something opposed to right reason (Question 161, Article 1).” Hubris can further be defined as “. . . .a belief that he or she is somehow above the fates, or in control of destiny (Best).“ By people’s own will, usually manifested in the rejection of self-knowledge through truth, the remedy is eluded. As a result, the individuals continue miring themselves in other ill-gotten acts, which often escalate to murder. The cure is the opposite of pride: humility. If this virtue were embraced by the Queen, she would need to give up her desire to be more beautiful than Snow White. However, there is no indication that she sees this path as an option. When one considers that her other trait is frivolity, the Queen can only be the dangerous person that the story describes.
Equally alarming is Regina, Latin for Queen. She is first seen in Once Upon a Time when she barges into a wedding, head held high, and announces that she will take away everybody’s happiness. Her earnestness makes the scene all the more disturbing, for she is obviously not in control of her reason. While it is understandable to be upset because others receive the happiness for which one wishes, to actively seek the destruction of an entire world, and announce her intention with confidence, clearly reveals her psyche. This woman is insane.
The Marriage Of The Fairest Of Them All And Her Charming
by Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
I start On-Demand because I missed the first two episodes and want to catch up. As the show begins, a prince, in the most awesome prince-clothes ever, rides up to a glass coffin and kisses his bride—dead to all appearances, but wearing what looks like her wedding dress. A blast of air like a nuclear explosion bursts throughout the land when he kisses her. She gasps and opens her eyes. The Prince touches her face, and declares with conviction, “I will always find you.” Then the scene dissolves into a glorious wedding. These lovers, Snow White and Prince Charming, are dressed in their wedding clothes. He looks into her eyes and says, “I do.” The show hasn’t even been on for five minutes and I am already sighing, thinking about how all is well in the world. Marriage, after all, is the artistic symbol for eternal happiness and peace. This is confirmed by the joy of the wedding guests who clap enthusiastically. They are married! Time for the Happily Ever After. The newly-married pair leans in to seal the marriage with a kiss--the replacement for a consummation scene in family shows--when the momentum is halted. An evil queen interrupts and declares before the astonished congregation that she will take their happiness away, not caring who she hurts. The Prince throws a sword at her, but she disappears into black smoke. Then I am transported unceremoniously into a story about a sad woman in modern times who is alone on her birthday. Someone knocks. The melancholy woman opens the door and a boy announces that he is her son.
I pause. Not bad. Decent show. I get up to refill my drink, but something is just not right. It’s not the boy who is out alone at night. Not the lonely blond woman. What is it? I thought for a moment, and then abruptly realize it is the marriage scene. Was it the evil Queen? No, it was not her interruption. I'd seen that in more than one fairy tale. I take more ice out of the freezer, refill my soda, and then I get it.
The indelible nuptial kiss between Prince Charming and Snow White never happened.
Welcome to Season One of Once Upon A Time.
A few years ago, a younger girlfriend of mine lamented her newly acquired single status. She had been having a bad time in the relationship department and turned to me for comfort. Having said some of the usual post-relationship phrases and telling her that she was a strong, lovely woman and didn’t need a man to be happy, I discovered that by being married myself, none of my encouragement mattered to her. “It’s easy for you to say” is something I hear a lot when giving what I feel to be honest advice. To my friend and many other young women, finding The One, their own handsome prince, and getting married is one thing they want above all. I don’t have a problem with their hopes and dreams, but all of them couldn’t really explain why they had them except with a “that’s just what you’re supposed to do.” I’d like to set down right now that I have no problem with homemakers, stay-at-home-moms, or housewives; I’ve been a housewife too and I have an ocean of respect for these women. My irritation begins when it’s done because that’s what is expected because you are a woman, it’s your role. Fulfillment can and does happen without a ring on your finger and a baby in your arms.
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.