What Snow White Teaches About the Pursuit of Beauty

Photo by Tom Simpson on Flickr.

We’ve all known the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs since childhood, but have we learned its lessons?

The story starts with Snow White, a pretty princess named for her stark white skin that contrasts sharply with her charcoal dark locks. Snow White’s stepmother, the Queen, is an exceedingly beautiful lady, who becomes the child’s sole guardian when her husband dies. Jealous of Snow White’s good looks, the Queen condemns her charge to a maid’s life in the castle, while she herself daily checks a magic mirror to anxiously assure herself of her unsurpassed beauty.

On one fateful day, however, the magic mirror reports that Snow White has finally surpassed the Queen’s beauty, dethroning her as the land’s pinnacle of beauty. Enraged, she condemns Snow White to death, but the princess escapes thanks to the goodwill of her executioner. When the Queen discovers the deception, she transforms herself into an ugly witch, finds Snow White deep in the forest, and attempts to kill her with a poisoned apple. When Snow White falls unconscious on the ground after biting the deadly fruit, the Queen exclaims in victory: “Now I am once more the most beautiful in the land!”

Snow White’s stepmother, the Queen, is a beautiful woman, perhaps in her late 30s, who is very much aware of her own beauty. She knows she is exceedingly beautiful and relishes this knowledge. However, she is no longer 25, and realizes her beauty must necessarily fade, if it is not already fading.

The presence of a pretty young girl, for whom the peak of her physical charm is still ahead of her, only heightens the Queen’s sense of insecurity. She is wedded to the idea that she is and must remain beautiful. Therefore, she takes drastic measures to keep up the dream. The great irony of the story is that in the end, the Queen proclaims herself once more the most beautiful woman in the land, while standing over the body of her beautiful stepchild .

The Queen’s obsessive need to preserve her own beauty has severely blinded her to reality. Her pursuit of beauty has rendered her far more ugly than the mere process of ageing would have.

Unfortunately, many men and women today are so in the grasp of our culture’s glorification of youth and the physical beauty it accompanies that they too check their mirror daily, asking anxiously whether they are still beautiful. Fortunately, for most, this is as far as the resemblance with Snow White’s Queen goes.

Others, however, like the Queen, take drastic measures to preserve their beauty, in order to remain the most beautiful of their social circles.

Plastic surgery is endemic among women here in Lebanon, and it frankly is not making them more attractive. It is not even preserving their beauty. On the contrary. Like the Queen, many are slowly turning themselves into ugly witches with every new shot of botox. While they progressively become less and less able to feel their lips and to display the normal range of facial expressions, their perception of reality increasingly diverges into the delusional. Each intervention truly seems a further step towards Beauty. They truly believe that they are as beautiful as they were ten or twenty years ago, if not more so.

Why engage in a battle that is lost in advance? Why hold on so strongly to something that one is guaranteed to lose? Why buy into the myth that the physical appearance of men and women in their twenties is the only valid standard of Beauty?

Age happens to all. Instead of fighting, it is far better to make our peace with it.

Why not learn to appreciate the different manifestations of Beauty that characterize each season of life? Why not rather engage in a battle that one can in fact win?

The wise of all ages have pointed out that the beauty of character far outshines that of outer appearance, if one is only willing to look. And in the cultivation of a beautiful character, age imposes no limits. The longer we live, the more beautiful we can become!

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Tim Brys ن

Multi-disciplinary researcher. Love: God, friends, enemies. Europe 🇧🇪 and the Middle East 🇱🇧. I also write in Dutch.