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Contrasting Portrayals of the Female Role in Two Versions of the Snow White Tale

Updated on July 18, 2014

This article discusses the ways in which two versions of Snow White, The Grimm's version and the Merseyside Fairy Story Collective version, portray the female role with the fictional Snow White character.

The version of Snow White written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm shares many similarities with that of the Merseyside Fairytale Collective. These two renditions of the Snow White tale contain several of the same characters, such as Snow White, the Queen and the dwarfs. However, the roles of the characters are relatively different between the two versions. A fundamental difference between these two translations is the ways in which female roles are represented. The Grimm’s version of Snow White, in which beauty is the preferred attribute, illustrates females as unassertive and helpless, whereas the Merseyside Fairytale Collective essentially contradicts these roles and depicts confident individuals who direct their own potential by means of employing both physical and mental effort.

Beauty as a preferred characteristic is a fundamental theme in the Grimm’s Snow White and is manifest throughout the tale. For instance, the Queen persistently asks her mirror, “who is the fairest in the land?” This statement suggests that of all traits, the one that the Queen favors most is fairness, or beauty. The willingness of the Queen to kill Snow White for being, “a thousand times more fair” is another example of the emphasis on beauty in the Grimm’s version. Conversely, the emphasis in the Merseyside Fairy Tale Collective was on effort, persistence, and ultimately liberation. The Queen in this version asks the mirror, “who is the happiest in the land?” There is no mention in this version of the Queen’s beauty or whether she was jealous of a younger, more beautiful girl. Rather, the Queen in this version favored power. The Queen stated to Snow White, “you could be princess,” which illustrates her admiration for Snow White’s display of gumption each time the Queen had “summoned Snow White to the throne,” during which Snow White had continuously refused to succumb to the Queens desires for her. It also implies that Snow White is worthy of eventually succeeding her as the Queen because of the admirable traits which she embodies. In contrast to the Grimm’s version, this version positively emphasizes bravery and devotion. Clearly the important characteristics that are conveyed in the two versions of Snow White are significantly different.

The ways in which assertiveness and aptitude are demonstrated and rewarded in the Grimm’s version of Snow White are also quite different from that of the Merseyside Fairy Tale Collective. The Snow White character in the Grimm’s version, for example, was spared from the huntsman because, due to “her beauty the huntsman took pity on her…” and, though disobeying the Queen, he let her go free. As well, Snow White fortuitously survived three attempts by the Queen to kill her, while persistently succumbing to the “pretty” temptations she was offered, and completely failed to learn a lesson from it. Having exerted no effort, Snow White was nevertheless rewarded at the end of the story when the prince states, “I can’t go on living unless I look at Snow White,” and proceeds to take her to his kingdom to be married. Contrasting the Grimm’s Snow White character, the Snow White character in the Merseyside Fairy Tale Collective is rewarded in the end by gaining her freedom, and ultimately liberating the citizens of the land from the “cruel and powerful Queen of the mountains.” The Snow White character in this version is not assisted through her ventures. The character is portrayed as assertive, independent, and successful in her attempts whether it be creating beautiful jewelry or conceiving a ploy to escape the castle and the Queen’s guards.

Undoubtedly there are fundamental differences in the ways in which the Snow White character and other characters are portrayed in each of these two versions.

The differences may be due to the authors’ intended portrayal of traits that were ideal during the period each was written, as well as the rewards or outcomes that motivated women at the time. The Grimm’s version portrays Snow White as passive, unassertive, adored for her beauty alone, and rewarded by having the chance to marry a prince The Merseyside Fairy Tale Collective, on the other hand, portrays a more modern feminine ideal in which females are viewed as capable of taking care of themselves and not at the mercy of males or, in the case of the Grimm’s tale of Snow White, a prince. As opposed to the Snow White character in the Grimm’s version, the Snow White character in the Merseyside version accepts no contributions and triumphs due to her own exertions. Granted there are visible similarities between the two versions, there are, however, distinguishable contrasts due primarily to the different representations of the character’s roles. Personal values would surely have an effect on determining which version of Snow White one would prefer.


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    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Interesting review and comparision. Although I prefer the classic tale I fell in love with as a child.

    • nmdonders profile image

      Nira Perkins 5 years ago

      Thank you for the encouraging comments. There was an emphasis on Snow White in a lot of my college writing and I tried to use the story as often as I could. I think it's really interesting that there are two separate Snow White movies out right now.

      I appreciate you stopping by!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Excellent, mmdonders! Comparison and contrast was a big subject in college composition, and as I was reading this wonderfully written article, I was ticking off certain key elements in my head.

      Yes, I've been wondering why there appears to be this rejuvenation of Grimm's Fairy Tales lately, especially of the Snow White theme, and my curiosity has been even more piqued after reading your Hub. Thank you very much for a job well done!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting Hub!! I am a huge fan of the Grimm Brothers, not only them, as well as their family, all sacrificed soooooo much for the sake of their family (especially after their father died) Although their fairy tales are so tragic, their family too has many tales.

      Thanks for sharing!!