Fairy tales have more substance to them than Disney would have you believe; despite the common perception of fairy tales as cute little stories that always end with a “happily ever after,” in reality, fairy tales are a bit more complex. One such way this complexity is evident is in the way that fairy tales have evolved and transformed over time, being shaped by issues such as culture or morality. The television series Once Upon a Time is perhaps one of the most drastic reflections of how fairy tales have changed, because it has taken almost every commonly known fairy tale and weaved them all together into a single story. Each week, viewers are treated to experience their favorite stories from childhood (for example, Rumplestiltskin, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood) and see how the characters interact with each other and how their stories have been twisted to fit in with this universe.
Of particular interest is Snow White’s portrayal in this series and how different it is from the original. The classic story was, surprisingly, not entirely butchered by Disney (not to say, of course, that I don’t completely adore all of Disney’s fairy tale adaptations). In the Grimm version of the tale, Snow White is persecuted by her stepmother who, inspired by wicked vapidity, becomes jealous that this young girl has surpassed her in beauty and orders a huntsman to kill her. He neglects to do so, bringing back the heart of a boar instead, and Snow White goes along her merry way. In the events that follow, Snow White meets the dwarves, the queen discovers she is still alive, the queen poisons Snow White into a state unconscious, then Prince Charming comes along and awakens her and they live happily ever after. In this version, Snow White tends to take a traditionally passive role; although she is the center of the story, the tale revolves around everyone else. She is saved by the huntsman who cannot find the heart to kill her; she is taken in by the dwarves who provide her with a new home; and, lastly, she is rescued by a dashing prince whose kiss wakes her from her enchanted slumber.
In Once Upon a Time, Snow White is portrayed in a decidedly more active role; instead of waiting around for everyone to help her, she takes responsibility of her own destiny. In fact, for a significant portion of the series thus far, Snow White is truly independent as her prince is actually married to another woman. She makes some mistakes and gets involved with him despite his marital status, but comes to realize the immoral nature of the relationship and stands up for herself by telling the prince off for mistreating her, as well as his wife. In a more recent episode (with the prince and Snow White having reconciled), Snow White goes off to rescue their daughter, leaving Prince Charming alone and not of much use. Rather than letting men save her or help her, Snow White springs into action and stands up for herself.
If you have never seen this show, I realize that this blog post may not make much sense; Once Upon a Time has a pretty complex plot that I am not really capable of explaining in such a short post. However, I do believe that the portrayal of Snow White as more independent and capable (rather than as a damsel in distress) reflects how fairy tales evolve in relation to their time period and would recommend everyone take the time to watch it sometime and re-experience their favorite fairy tales.
By Ashley Huggins