Three prominent colours exist in the story of Snow White; white, red and black. They are captured even in Snow White’s appearance. She has skin “white as snow, and red as blood and her hair [is] as black as ebony.” (Bell, 109) These colours are also represented in the three methods that the Queen uses for her murder attempts in the Grimm’s tale. She initially uses white lace, then a black poisoned hair comb and finally a red poisoned apple (the only method portrayed in the film). Each of these colours has significant symbolic implications and represents a time of life. White, representing birth, is for purity, virginity, and innocence. Red, representing life, symbolizes action, fire, charity, spiritual awakening, joy of life and love and the Holy Spirit. Black, symbolizing death, connotes the absolute and eternity. In a sense, all three colours both complement each other and are in direct contradiction.
The poison apple that the evil Queen offers Snow White is inarguably the most prominent religious symbol in the Disney film. It is a very close parallel to the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve is tempted by the forbidden fruit and is corrupted by her acceptance of this fruit. Just as in the Bible, Snow White is tempted by the poison apple and ultimately suffers for it. Though in the Bible it is not clear what type of fruit it actually is, it is generally portrayed as an apple. The word apple itself means sin, and comes from the latin, “malum”, which means evil. Just as Eve was warned against accepting the fruit, Snow White knows she should not be talking to- much less accepting gifts from strangers. Her weakness for the apple results in a “sleeping death”, where as for Eve, her acceptance of the fruit results in a spiritual death. Some Christian theorists have also suggested that the apple could be meant to represent new age spirituality, which can be appealing and attractive on the outside, falsly “[promising] peace and enlightenment” in a way which Christians do not believe it can be achieved.
Resurrection is also represented in the story of Snow White as she is often thought of as a Jesus-like figure. She falls into a “sleeping death” after eating the poison apple, but is resurrected at true love’s kiss.
The hand washing sequence that takes place with the dwarfs is often thought to represent a sort of baptism. The dwarfs have been reborn with Snow White in their lives. They will struggle to become better individuals because of this. Baptism itself is a symbol for resurrection as it is a rebirth of sorts.
The magic mirror in the movie is another important symbol. After the King’s death, it replaces him as the primary male voice in the Queen’s life. The mirror, though always telling the truth (it cannot lie), in a sense causes the Queen’s jealousy and insecurity. Though the face of the mirror is drawn as a mask- neither feminine nor masculine, the voice is clearly male. In many ways, the mirror becomes Satan, as the viewer is blatantly shown the fires of hell on its surface. The role of the mirror warns against the dangers and evils of narcissism. It represents how we see ourselves as well as how others see us.
THE NUMBER SEVEN
The number seven is very prominent in the story of Snow White. It appears in the film most obviously as the number of dwarfs, however the dwarfs also live over seven mountains from the castle. In the Grimm story, Snow White is seven years old when she leaves the castle and goes to stay with the dwarfs. In an Italian version of Snow White, “the Young Slave”, the young girl’s mother places her in seven glass coffins after her death. The number seven is also a very prominent number in Christianity. It represents the Biblical sum of perfection in that God created the world in seven days. In the Book of Revelations, there are seven angels, seven churches, seven trumpets, seven crowns, seven mountains, seven stars and seven kings. Jesus also spoke seven utterances from the cross. However, the number is also prevalent in the seven deadly sins- all of which (except for sloth) are represented by the Queen in this tale (see below).
~Pride/ Vanity- Represented in the Queen’s obsession with beauty.
~Lust/ Extravagace- Represented in the Queen’s wealth while her step-daughter toils as well as her lust after being the MOST beautiful.
~Gluttony- Though this is not shown in the Disney film (for obvious reasons), in the original story the Queen eats what she thinks is Snow White’s heart.
~Greed- Represented by the Queen wanting virtually everything from Snow White.
~Sloth- Represented by the dwarfs in their upkeep of their home before Snow White’s arrival.
~Wrath- Represented by the Queen in that she will stop at nothing to destroy her step-daughter.
~Envy-Represented by the Queen’s rampant jealousy of the young girl.
Animals are traditionally very important in Christianity, as the Bible stresses God’s skilful creation of ALL creatures. Mark stresses in the Bible that it is important to “preach the gospel to the whole creation.” As part of God’s creation, the birds and the beasts must also be sacred. The scriptures end with all the animals worshiping Jesus. This loyal devotion to Jesus is mirrored in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The animals adore the heroine. They comfort her when she is lost and afraid in the forest, lead her to the dwarfs house and even help her clean the cottage. Later in the film, they alert the dwarfs to the danger that their beloved mistress is in. Even in the Grimm’s version of the tale, when she is lost in the woods, the “wild beasts [run] past her, but [do] her no harm.” (Grimm, 215) It seems that the creatures of the forest are infinitely devoted to her, remaining permanently at her side while she lies dead in the coffin. There is certainly an issue of patriarchy in the film, with Snow White seeming to be at the beckon call of the dwarfs in terms of domestic responsibilities, but the film has also been accused to being androcentric. Essentially, nature is also presented as being ready to serve the people, and especially the men, in the story.
Individual creatures that are portrayed in the movie also have pertinent symbolic meaning. The stag- present in the forest- represents purity, devotion and safety in God’s care, as well as being a common representation of Christ himself. The sparrow is prominent in the cottage scene, and symbolizes God’s concern for the most insignificant things. In the Grimm story, when Snow White appears to be dead, three birds visit her coffin; the dove (which we also see in the cottage and perched on the wishing well in the opening sequence) is a common symbol for the Holy Spirit, as well as for peace, the raven, which represents divine providence and the owl, which represents mourning.