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Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2016, 61, 4, 497514

The realization of absolute beauty: an

interpretation of the fairytale Snow White

Nanae Takenaka, Osaka, Japan

Abstract: This paper interprets the fairytale Snow White (Bruder Grimm 1857) in terms
of the realization of absolute beauty. Jungs understanding that in myths and fairytales,
as in dreams, the soul speaks about itself (Jung 1945, para. 400), underpins such an
approach. From this perspective a fantasy image is not about us, not about our
unconsciousness, but is essentially about itself. The idea of absolute beauty rst arises
in the Queens mind as a wish. Despite the Queens strong desire to be named as the
most beautiful person in the world, her mirror reects that it is actually her daughter
Snow White who is the fairest. Snow White might be regarded in the language of
Giegerich as her internal other. Effectively they are separated into the Real that
conceives the idea of absolute beauty and the Ideal that embodies it. The exchange
that takes place between the two mediated by mirror and window generates the
corpse of surpassing beauty that never decays but lies inaccessible behind the glass
cofn. However the loving and penetrating gaze of the Prince, representing
masculinity, succeeds in reanimating Snow White. Thus the Prince as the Other that is
completely external and unknown to both the Queen and Snow White, specically to
their femininity, facilitates the realization of absolute beauty as the Ideal in the Real.
Keywords: Snow White, beauty, Real, Ideal, Other, mirror, absolute, fairytales

Introduction: interpretation of fairytales

I will offer an interpretation of Snow White (Brder Grimm 1857/1996) that
highlights the souls movement inherent in the fairytale, rather than the
presupposed psychological development e.g. the individuation process of
any one specic gure. This perspective treats the narrative as expressive of
the drive towards self-realization of the idea of absolute beauty. This more
purely psychological interpretation requires us to shift our focus from ego to
soul. How a response from the perspective of soul is conducted will become
apparent as I put forward my interpretation in this paper.
As the fairytale Snow White is so well known across the world and has many
variations, the story on which my interpretation is based is as follows.1
The version below is an adaptation by the author from the original German, in which the
colouring of the apple is specied.

0021-8774/2016/6104/497 2016, The Society of Analytical Psychology

Published by Wiley Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
DOI: 10.1111/1468-5922.12237
498 Nanae Takenaka

A Queen wished for a beautiful child who was as white as snow, had cheeks as
red as blood and hair as black as the wooden frame of the window beside her.
After a while her wish came true; she gave birth to a beautiful girl she named
Snow White. Soon after that, the Queen passed away. The kings second wife
was a woman who was proud of her beauty. When her mirror of truth told her
that Snow Whites beauty surpassed her own, she found Snow White
unacceptable. She gave a hunter the order to kill the girl and bring her lung and
liver back. However, the girl was so beautiful that the hunter could not do as
she commanded. Snow White escaped into the forest, where she was given
refuge by seven dwarfs.

The Queen learned from her mirror that Snow White was still alive in the forest.
Bitterly jealous of the girl, the Queen tried to kill her but was prevented each time
by the dwarfs. At last the Queen, disguised as an old peddler woman, succeeded in
tempting Snow White to bite a poisoned apple. To reassure Snow White, the Queen
bit the same apple: the white side without poison for the Queen and the poisoned
red side for Snow White. This time the dwarfs could not revive her. Instead, they
placed her body in a glass cofn in which she remained as beautiful as she had ever

One day the Prince found the cofn. It did not take long before he fell in love with Snow
White. When his retainers carried the cofn to his fathers castle, they stumbled over a
bush. As the cofn was shaken, the bite of poisoned apple fell from Snow Whites
throat. She woke up. At the wedding of the Prince and Snow White the wicked
Queen was forced by glowing shoes to dance until she died.

To psychologically interpret fairytales the rst question should be directed

toward the characters in the relevant material. The main gures in our
fairytale are the Queen2 and her daughter. The story unfolds mainly by
depicting the interaction between them. The childs father is, in this
fairytale, completely absent, which gives the impression that the fairytale is
concerned primarily with femininity. The discussion of the feminine in
fairytales by von Franz (1972) illustrates those processes by which a girl
develops her femininity by overcoming a negative mother complex. It may
be possible to apply this interpretation to our fairytale where a daughter
and her wicked (step) mother are in conict. But we could adopt a rather
different approach, perhaps beginning with the consideration of why the
gures in our fairytale belong to a royal family, instead of an ordinary one.
This might well indicate that the story is concerned with an unordinary
human issue. Our fairytale, and indeed fairytales in general, tend to be
about absolutes, something purely sacred or crude, high or low, rich or
poor, beautiful or ugly. They are relatively free from the morals and ethics
with which our daily consciousness tends to be preoccupied. When an

As often happens, in the original manuscript of Grimms Fairy Tales from 1808 the problematic
stepmother does not yet exist. Instead, the Queen is the real mother of Snow White (Bolt, J. &
Polivka, G. (2012) Anmerkungen zu den Kinder und Hausmrchen der Brder Grimm, Bremen:
DOGMA, pp. 45064). So it might be that the step aspect of the mother need not concern us here.
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 499

interpretation treats one character as the central concern in the relevant story,
the other protagonists tend very often to be assigned roles that help the
psychological development of this central one. When a fairytale is
interpreted in such a way it implicitly assumes that the core issue is for the
central gure to resolve their psychological tasks and to attain their totality.
For these reasons I would adopt the term personalistic to describe such an
orientation. But given that the fairytale is, in depth, driven by the soul
whose logic seems always mysterious to our rational mind, the main gure
of the narrated story cannot always coincide with the main concern of the
soul. Only when we pay evenly-suspended attention (Freud 1912, p. 111)
to each image in the story can we listen to the soul speaking for itself in its
own words. In this sense I would not agree with Schectmans interpretation
of Snow White which regards the story as that of a womans bitter battle
against time, against the aging and decline that come with middle age
(Schectman 1993, p. xvii). Schectmans interpretation is drawn, as she
herself says, from the Stepmothers point of view; I would argue that a
more psychological interpretation has to be conducted from the souls point
of view. By this I mean that psychological interpretation needs to listen to
what the soul speaks behind the explicitly narrated plot of the fairytale. The
resistance against time or aging would be felt not by the soul but only by
our daily consciousness. Accordingly, my interpretation of the fairytale does
not focus particularly on the daughter or the mother. The mother is not
regarded as a stepping-stone for her daughters development, nor is the
daughter for the mother.
The infelicity of focusing upon only one specic character in the fairytale can
be explained in another way: namely, that such an approach can seize only one
half of the archetypal power active in the fairytale. From the perspective of
analytical psychology the mysterium coniunctio of the opposites holds great
importance. Allow me to consider this in terms of anima and animus, those
most essential of archetypes. Jung often stated that anima is an inner female
image held by men but his fuller conception of the anima was intended to be
more universal, as can be seen for example in his explanation of anima as the
archetype of life in a syzygial relation to the animus as the archetype of
meaning (Jung 1934, para. 66). Hillman reconsidered this viewpoint and,
after quoting Jungs comment that it [the anima] is always the a priori element
in his moods, reactions, impulses and whatever else is spontaneous in psychic
life (ibid., para. 57), claimed that the anima here is not a projection but is the
projector (Hillman 1985, p. 67). This perspective is important in that it
succeeds in releasing anima from a personalistic perspective into the sphere of
soul, where it more authentically belongs. Taking into account Hillmans
discussion, though criticizing it for focusing exclusively upon anima, Giegerich
developed his theory that regards animus as the animas own Other.
According to his understanding whilst anima has the function of generating
images and connections, animuss role is to cut off, to kill the images. Animus
500 Nanae Takenaka

is conceived as the pure negation (Giegerich 1994/2008, p. 112). This explains

Jungs proposition that animus is the archetype of meaning, for a specic
meaning can only be given after denying all other possibilities that the image
otherwise could have generated. Thus these two opposite functions, anima and
animus, maintain their syzygial movement which Jung describes, quoting
Goethes words from Faust, as formation, transformation/the eternal Minds
eternal recreation (Jung 1945, para. 400). It seems to me that what the
personalistic interpretation tends to miss is this eternal interplay of anima
and animus. In this fairytale not only the concrete images generated by
anima but also the denying powers driven by animus are active. For the
interpretation of a fairytale in a manner which allows the soul to speak
about itself it is thus important to appreciate this interplay of anima and
animus, which is at the heart of the souls dynamics.

The symbolism of mirrors

Before discussing the story further I will briey investigate the symbolism of
mirrors in general, including the surface of water, because the mirror of the
Queen plays a prominent role in our fairytale as the mirror of truth. The
mirror motif is one that often appears in mythologies. When considered as an
attribute of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty in Greek mythology, the mirror
can be said to stir our imagination, especially in an aesthetic sense. Narcissus,
another gure from Greek mythology, was placed under a spell to fall in love
with the beauty of his own image reected on the waters surface and pine for
it until he died. This implies the miraculous power a mirror can hold and the
narcissistically-closed self-regard it can lead humankind into.
From another perspective mirrors can represent intelligence. An example of
this is the myth of Perseus and Medusa, again from Greek mythology. Perseus
had a mirror-shield that enabled him to see Medusa through a reected image
and to cut off her head without looking into her eyes, thus avoiding being
turned into stone. When a shield, originally a tool for guarding oneself from
physical attack, is used to look at something indirectly, it suggests that intellect
is at work. This attribute of intellect might indeed be implied by the shield
having been originally given to Perseus by Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
Mirror reection also plays an important role in Japanese mythology. The
mirror Yata-no-Kagami is worshiped as the place where Amaterasu, the
supreme goddess of Sun, is believed to dwell. The mirror associated with
Amaterasu suggests that light (Amaterasu) is indispensable for us to look into
a mirror and that mirrors also enhance or amplify light. The legend of
Amaterasu and the mirror is as follows: she hid herself in a cave with a rock
across the entrance because she was angry at the rude acts of her brother,
Susano-o. As a result of the disappearance of the Sun goddess the world lost
light. After all of the gods efforts to encourage Amaterasu out of the cave
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 501

were in vain, a goddess initiated a funny dance in front of the gods. Amaterasu
wondered at the laughter of the gods outside her cave. She pushed the rock
door slightly to peep out. The other gods quickly held a mirror in front of her
face. As she was tempted to get a better look at the gure in the mirror,
Amaterasu nally came out of the cave and the world regained light. In this
story the mirror plays the role of drawing out something that was hidden into
light. More particularly the use of the mirror has helped allow the revelation
of light or the truth.
Psychologically it is also important to note that mirrors have long been a
human tool. Without anyone to look into it, even the idea of a mirror cannot
exist; it needs a receptor of its reection. Anyone who listens to the word but
does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and,
after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks
like (James n.d., 1: 2324). To give but a glance is not the right way to use a
mirror. The equivalent to the word mirror is speculum in Latin and the Latin
word spec means to look at. Our subjective act of looking into a mirror lays
the basis of mirror symbolism. If we think of infants at the mirror stage (Lacan
1937), it is apparent that to rst nd oneself in an external object is an intense
experience. Through the image of oneself on a mirrors surface we touch
something unknown within ourselves. It gives us the idea of who I am but at
the same time, as there is separation between here and there, our condence in
here, namely in our own subjectivity could be threatened. In this sense it can
be understood that in Egyptian hieroglyphs a mirror is often represented by
the combination of the Egyptian emblem of life with that of a metal, or with
that of a mirror itself (Budge 1920, p. 126). The subjective act of looking into
a mirror builds a connection between the consciousness looking in and the
mirror image that is being looked at. A relationship emerges between the
subject in front of the mirror and the object in it. This dynamism the mirror
evokes is important for the following interpretation. If one remains just
spellbound by the image on the surface, you are conned within an infertile,
narcissistic self-relation. However, if the mirror is used with human
intelligence, it can draw out something previously concealed. There is
etymological conrmation for this association in the word speculation which
clearly has its origin, as noted above, in the Latin word spec (mirror).

The interpretation of Snow White

I shall now dip into the fairytale Snow White. As I mentioned earlier my
interpretation focuses on how absolute beauty is treated in the fairytale. It
includes consideration and discussion of:

The bifurcation of the Queen into mother and daughter.

The movement from window to mirror.
502 Nanae Takenaka

The collision between the Real (Queen) and the Ideal (Snow White).
The encounter of the isolated Ideal with its own Other.

Mother and daughter: essential opposition

Our fairytale begins with a Queen and the idea of a beautiful child springing into
her mind. In due course her wish comes true and we have a mother and daughter
pair. Our rst question is who is the Queen and her daughter, Snow White? As I
mentioned before, I would not adopt the stance of focusing on a specic
character as the main feature of the interpretation and following through its
psychological development. So in the case of our fairytale I would prefer to
direct attention to beauty itself as the dominant concern of the story rather
than to the girl to whom beauty belongs. Our fairytale does not present any
characteristics of the girl other than her overwhelming beauty; its interest is
specically concentrated on this point. This indicates that the theme of
femininity in our fairytale is mediated through an aesthetic of images. The
beauty, or more precisely the innocent and pure beauty of the girl, is Snow
White. After being persecuted by the Queen there is no question that Snow
White nds herself quite alone in the forest. However, she is independent and
does not cry for her parents. This un-ordinary independence implies her
archetypal character. She is not real, does not belong to our (Queens)
ordinary world. She is beyond that, she is the Ideal.3 This pure ideal beauty
evokes the furious hatred of the mother who lives in the empirical reality
where people might well have feelings of envy, jealousy, anxiety, hate and so
on. Standing in clear contrast to Snow White as the Ideal we can name the
Queen as the Real. Due to her strong desire to be acknowledged as the most
beautiful in the world she is what we might call the personication of ego in
our fairytale. The ego inates and demands to go beyond its own empirical
world into the world of the Ideal, towards the pure idea of absolute beauty.
The conict between the Queen and Snow White is thus translated into that
between the Real and the Ideal or, in the terms of analytical psychology, the
empirical and the archetypal.
Despite the contrast between the Queen and Snow White, the fact that Snow
White is the daughter of the Queen should not be dismissed. First of all, the
fact that the Queens mirror of the truth reects Snow White suggests that the
girl is the self-reecting image of the Queen. No matter how surprising or
unpleasant, what appears in a mirror can be nothing but the reection of the
one who is looking into it. The Queen could have ignored the mirror but she

The Ideal is capitalized here in order to distinguish it from our usual use of the word. The Ideal
here does not indicate an unrealistic idea of something perfect that people entertain or are forced
to aspire to. On the contrary, it enjoys the full reality of itself. The Ideal here means that it is too
real for our daily, mundane consciousness to experience it as it is.
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 503

did not. On the contrary she even ends up demanding Snow Whites lung and
liver; her passion is not directed at just getting rid of the girl but at becoming
as one with her. The Queens attack makes a clear contrast to, for example,
Heras persecution of other goddesses in Greek mythology: our fairytale does
not have such an external trigger as Zeuss affairs. Instead the idea of absolute
beauty that causes the conict emerges from within the Queen herself.
Moreover Snow Whites acceptance of what the disguised Queen offers is
remarkable. She is too easily trapped by her enemy although she had the
dwarfs who sincerely wanted to protect her. Considering that the Queens plot
would not have succeeded without Snow Whites thoughtless acceptance of
the poisoned apple, it can be said that the thoughtless-ness of Snow White is
essential for the realization of absolute beauty. It would be the ego perspective
that judges her behaviour as thoughtless and as the indication of further
psychological development to be achieved. If one sees it from the perspective
of soul, it can be said that she is appropriately deceived by the Queen. Snow
Whites acceptance of the Queens offers is not her failure but the necessary
element for the Real to approach the Ideal. It is characteristic of the conict
between the Queen and Snow White that they seem to be strongly attracted by
each other. They are the two alike and only similars can be opposites
(Hillman 1979, p. 84). We observe that, through being mediated by the idea of
absolute beauty, the Real and the Ideal can develop their interplay.
The above scenario could, however, be interpreted in another way: the Queen
as the ego personality is driven by the anima that believes in the beautiful and
the good (Jung 1934, para. 60). The irrationality of the Queens jealousy and
her stubbornness can be understood as manifestations of the strong energy
anima evokes in her. Similarly anima demands through the Queen that it be
accorded the highest value and the approval as the absolute. Anima as a
projector implants in the Queen the idea of being the most beautiful in the
world and projects the image of Snow White in front of her. The Queen is
nothing but the one who is captured by anima and in a sense passively urged
to act out. Snow White and the Queen are presented as the mother and
daughter because they are both facets of the images driven by the anima that
rushes towards the realization of absolute beauty.

From window to mirror

In the beginning the Queen sits beside a window wishing to have a baby. The
implication of the window is that though the Queen is here inside, her mind is
elsewhere, outside the window where she would be holding a beautiful baby
in her arms. A window divides two sides; inside and outside, here and there,
reality and a hopeful future. The window here introduces the act of looking
out into our story. The movement from here to there is then realized when
the wished-for child is born. The Queen with a wish divides herself into a
504 Nanae Takenaka

mother and child pair. We have left this side of the window and the world we
then enter into is that of the mirror. The mirror of truth, through which the
Queen must regard her daughter, is now standing between them. In
comparison with her vision through the window, the mirror disappoints her
wish to be afrmed as the most beautiful.
Here I would like to recall Hillmans paper (1989) entitled From mirror to
window: curing psychoanalysis of its narcissism. In that paper Hillman
applies the idea of narcissism, so signicant in the development of
psychoanalysis, back to analysis itself. His criticism is that psychoanalysis
insists on putting the object libido into the narcissistic cell of personality
(Hillman 1989, p. 69), whereas it should be allowed to demand its way out
and take up its role in the wider world. Thus he attempts to turn
psychological attention from the mirror of self-reection to the world
through the window (ibid.). He says let us go straight through the window
into the world (p. 71). Interestingly this is the very opposite movement to
what we observe in our fairytale. Our Queen goes through the window and
then into the world of the mirror.
Taking into consideration the mirror symbolism previously discussed, it
might be said that using the mirror metaphor to exclusively indicate
narcissistic self-relation considers only half of the mirror symbolism. The
intelligence or wisdom aspect of its symbolism seems to be ignored. We have
seen that mirrors do not only conne us within self-relation but may bring us
new truth if we are able to work with them. While one can look through a
window, we cannot do the same with a mirror; the image is reected back to
the subject. Yet it is not necessarily a straightforward coming back, as the
case of our fairytale shows. The Queen is unable to remain narcissistically
captured by the image of herself in a mirror, just as we all may feel
disharmony between ourselves and our mirror image. The Queens annoyance
suggests that the mirror brings the possibility of further development beyond
narcissistic xation. Giegerich (1998, pp. 19397) points out that the
movement out through the window does not open up a new perspective or
status but only offers a literal outside on the same old level. The wishful
future that was once looked upon outside the window still belongs to this
side, because it is a creation of the consciousness inside the window. The
replacement of the window by the mirror is an indication that a radical
change of consciousness has taken place. This then allows the eyes to come
back to oneself. This is the consciousness triggered by the mirror that has
learned to reect upon itself, to speculate. What she sees there is now no
longer a wishful thought but a truth. The consciousness in our fairytale sees
against its expectation someone more beautiful than she is. Without hesitation
the Queen cannot accept the reection as it is and decides to try and capture
the image. She attempts to gain access through the mirror to where Snow
White lives, that is to say into the sphere of the reective truth. The Queen
getting into the mirror will be discussed later.
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 505

The collision between the Queen and the daughter: the Real and the Ideal

The question raised by the Queen, whom we have regarded as the empirical
ego, is worthy of note because it demonstrates that the one looking into the
mirror has become concerned with an un-empirical idea. The idea of the
most beautiful is about an absolute, an ideal aspiration which cannot be
based only on ones mundane experience. Given that she is now gripped by
this un-empirical interest she deserves to be the owner of the mirror that
holds the potential to reect the truth.
The Queens annoyance evoked by the discrepancy between her wish and the
truth reected in the mirror reveals that the Queen has fallen into the condition
of disunion with oneself (Jung 1911, para. 427). This is to say she asks the
question because she wants to know the truth even though she cannot accept
the truth. What is disturbing is not the answer from the mirror itself but the
fact that the Queen asks the question when she already has her own answer;
the ego holds so inexibly to its desired answer that it cannot be open to
another option, it cannot let the truth come into itself. While the Queen asks
a question concerning the absolute that is by denition unempirical, her
empirical reality remains in the sphere of the wishful thought of being the
fairest. But as we have seen, wishful thoughts belong to the world of the
window which the Queen should have already left behind. She has not caught
up with the fact that she has already reached the sphere of the mirror
although she herself threw out a question that required speculative thought.
She, the consciousness of the Queen, remains unaware of what her own
question is actually about, which is why she was astonished when she
perceived Snow White in the mirror.
This failing to catch up with the change that has already occurred in oneself
turns the wishful thought into an absolute insistence. The Queen insists upon
being the fairest. As is the case with neurosis she is divided into two, namely
between that which she wants to believe is true and that which she is
confronted with as the truth. Considering the degree of identity between
Snow White and the Queen discussed above we might not have presumed the
answer from the mirror would sound so shocking. Snow White is her
daughter, her own property, her internal-other which rightly appears in the
mirror in front of her. However, the Queen is not capable of seeing the
reection in that way: because her empirical reality recognizes Snow White as
a literal other, the answer from the mirror strikes the Queen as utterly unfair.
She feels insulted.
But it is of course true that she would feel betrayed by the mirror if she had
expected to stay in a narcissistically-closed self-relation and was merely
anticipating reassuring conrmation from the mirror. But her mirror is no
ordinary one, it is the mirror of truth. With no care for what the Queen may
feel, the truth appears repeatedly in the mirror. The mirror may seem ruthless
but of course ruthless is a term that describes how people actually behave
506 Nanae Takenaka

and experience the events of life. The truth itself is neither ruthless nor merciful.
Whether it is favourable or not for the ego, truth is truth. It is objective, the
absolute. The Queen, the ego, fails to see the discrepancy between its
subjective demand and the objective truth.

The Queens leap into the reected world

As she feels humiliated, the Queen can only reject the truth. However, her
rejection is not to be understood so simply. It does not mean a literal
rejection. She neither ignores the answer nor destroys the unfaithful mirror.
Instead she goes to great effort to get rid of the answer, Snow White. This
means albeit in a twisted way that she takes the answer from the mirror as
seriously as her own feelings. She is honest to both. Her rejection is nothing
but her acceptance of the truth reected in the mirror. That this is so is
conrmed by the fact that expelling Snow White into the forest does not in
itself cause such great harm to her. If Snow White were an ordinary child she
could have never survived there. However, because of her archetypal
character, expelling her into the forest suggests she has been rightly sent back
into her own sphere. The forest is a place where wild animals live and plants
grow according to their own nature but where a lot of dangers lie in wait for
humans. Symbolically the forest is an unknown, mysterious sphere of our
psyche, the realm of soul. Snow White the archetypal innocent beauty starts
to live there more actively; she manages to persuade the hunter to save her
life and nds the dwarfs who protect her. These are developments on the side
of the Ideal that the Queens scheming unexpectedly introduces.
Even after the Queen expels Snow White into the forest, the mirror of truth
does not stop reecting her and, driven by fury, the Queen decides to chase
Snow White in the forest herself. But in doing so she undoes the separation
that she herself had made by expelling Snow White into the forest in the rst
place. Because of the gap the Queen experiences between her expectation and
the image in the mirror, and further because of the actual leap she makes into
the sphere of the mirror, the relationship the Queen builds with the mirror
image cannot remain narcissistic. She is able to perceive the discrepancy and
acts out accordingly. What she is doing is overstepping her experiential,
this-world reality. The Real is moving toward the world of the Ideal. Due to
her own journeying into the forest and back the Queen becomes something
more than the ego personality that was merely clinging to its own wish. What
she embodies now is reective movement, which we might consider to have
been promised in our fairytale since the image of mirror rst appeared. Not
only does she own the mirror that reects truth, but she herself has now
become the reection which is determined to seek the truth. By thoughtlessly
accepting the goods from the disguised Queen, as mentioned above, Snow
White also takes part in this development.
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 507

The reunion of the opposites: biting an apple

This going and returning movement is brought to an end by the poisoned apple.
The disguised Queen lures Snow White into biting an apple; the red part for
Snow White and the white part for the Queen. We remember that these two
colours have much to do with the birth of Snow White. In addition the
innocence of Snow White can be associated with the colour white and the
passion of the Queen with red. This biting an apple from both sides, each with
a different colour, might show that they exchange their natures. The red aspect
(i.e. aggression, passion, blood, the sun, the awareness of ones own beauty,
the commitment to her own faith) is poured into Snow White who is
symbolized by the colour white. The differentiation between the Queen and
Snow White is dissolving in this apple. The Queen, the Real, is touched by the
other-worldly beauty, the Ideal. On the other side Snow Whites beauty cannot
remain as innocent and pure as before because her whiteness now contains
red. Two becomes one. They are touched by their own internal other. The
drastic change taking place here results in the death-like deep sleep for Snow
White, and, for the Queen, the mirrors statement that the Queen is now the
most beautiful in the land. We might ask whether the mirror changes the
answer. No. The truth does not change. It might mean rather that the Queen is
now Snow White and vice versa. It testies to the overcoming of the clear
discrepancy between this side and the other side, the Real and the Ideal. The
subject looking in the mirror and the object being looked at are now reunited.

The corpse in a glass cofn

The corpse in a glass cofn embodies puried absolute beauty: its isolation from
the mundane reality. Accordingly although Snow White cannot remain as
innocent as before after biting the apple, this does not mean that her beauty has
been stained or ruined. In fact our fairytale insists that despite her death Snow
White does stay as beautiful as before. The corpse, against nature, never decays.
A corpse does not move, feel or think. Still, we can regard it as more than a
mere lifeless object such as a stone or an articial product because of the fact
that it was once alive. In some cultures gravestones are regarded as having the
important function of keeping the soul in the grave with the corpse; otherwise
the soul is thought to drift. We may also be reminded of Egyptian paintings in
which the soul is portrayed as a human-headed bird leaving the dead. In our
imagination a corpse is often accompanied by the soul although it is in itself
an object which lacks a soul. A corpse is an actual substance that can
contradictorily embody its opposite, namely nothingness, emptiness or death.
The image of a corpse contains the opposites within itself. The contradiction
inherent in corpses plays a prominent role in our interpretation. Snow White
as a living person has been terminated and only her body is left which remains
508 Nanae Takenaka

as fresh and beautiful as it ever was. The unnatural corpse that does not decline
or decay indicates that by being killed Snow White has become truly the ideal
beauty that is isolated from any this-worldly, real matters. Thus it can be said
that being touched by the Queen (the Real) puries the Ideal and initiates the
process of the maturation of absolute beauty that was formerly embodied
simply by the innocent girl. Now being protected in the insulating cofn, it is
de-humanized, cut off completely from this-worldly reality. Snow White as the
never-decaying body, representing the contradictory nature of a corpse, has
gained eternity; the Ideal has been lifted high up into the state of the abstract
idea of absolute beauty.
It is in the glass cofn that the process of the isolation continues. It is
noteworthy that the medium through which Snow White or absolute beauty
according to our storys concern shows herself has been again changed from
the mirror into the glass cofn. So we have observed changes of medium, rst
from window to mirror and then from mirror to glass cofn. It is of particular
interest that the transformation that takes place in our fairytale the
realization of absolute beauty is manifest through these mediums rather than
through any concrete gures.
In alchemy the vas (a bowl-shaped, often transparent container) is one of the
most important components. Alchemists devoted themselves wholeheartedly to
observing the transformation of materials in this container. It had to be
hermetically sealed so that the elusive spirit of Mercurius could not escape
from inside. This seems to parallel the enclosure that is achieved in our
fairytale by the glass cofn. The transparency of the cofn, also a crucial
characteristic of the alchemical vas enabling alchemists to observe the
unfolding process inside, is also important here; the glass cofn allows
everyone to see into (spec) the body of Snow White, which is exactly what
the dwarfs intend. Whilst a mirror reects the image exclusively back to the
one who stands in front of it, the image in the glass cofn is open for
everyone, from all sides. The looking, or the act of spec, is no longer an
exclusive privilege of the Queen who is obsessed by the idea of absolute beauty
and who alone possesses the mirror (speculum): it has become more widely
available. The truth absolute beauty is enclosed in the cofn but at the
same time it has been released into the public domain. Although it still stands
alone in the forest, it is becoming more and more accessible.

The emergence of the Other and the shaking of the cofn: the Ideals becoming
grounded in the Real
On the one hand a corpse cannot be nothing, as I said above, but on the other, it
is also true that without being recognized a corpse itself cannot become
anything. A corpse is soulless, no matter how fresh and beautiful it may be
kept. It might need to be made clear that corpses that hold contradiction
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 509

within themselves only exist when we think of them, negate the bare fact that
they are the sum of dead organs. Only with our appreciation can corpses stop
being lifeless matter and become alive.4 This is the current status of absolute
beauty in our fairytale. The absolute beauty as the corpse lays claims to its
realization in the act of someones appreciation of itself. Snow White in a glass
cofn is thus waiting to be looked at by others. These others that are evoked
here cannot be understood as the internal other anymore, looking with the
reective eyes of the mirror. The other meant here is the external one that
comes from the outside world as something new: the Other. Furthermore this
looking cannot be just a casual glance. It has to be intense and concentrated
enough to effect the dramatic transformation from dead to alive. Just as the
Queens own passionate desire resulted in Snow Whites death, so now here an
equally powerful investment in this act of seeing is required. In the wake of the
two the Queen and Snow White being reunited in one beautiful corpse we
need the eyes of the third to behold them, to penetrate through the glass.
At this point we see the emergence of an image of the Prince. His youth
indicates that he is still developing and is open for a new union. Our Prince
might be the manifestation of the image that seeks its complement. And as we
have a Prince instead of just any young man, it is indicated that the deep sleep
and the breaking thereof needs to take place at the level of the absolute, for the
Prince is the representative of a sphere distinct from ordinary life. In so far as
the Prince and Snow White both have in common this attribute of
absoluteness, the Prince can be regarded as the embodied image of masculinity,
the syzygial partner of the femininity in our fairytale. Although we previously
had a hunter and seven dwarfs, they were not balanced with the absoluteness
that Snow Whites beauty entails and that the Queen seeks for. The Other
that has hitherto been waited turns out to be the Prince. Only he can fall in
love with Snow White and animate the corpse, the abstract idea of absolute
Whilst carrying Snow White in the cofn to the castle, the men of the Prince
stumble over a bush and the shaking that momentarily ensued causes Snow
White to open her eyes. This is the moment when absolute beauty is thawed
out of its frozen condition. Snow White, as the abstract idea of absolute
beauty cut off from the real world, now gets out of the protecting cofn and
enters into this-worldly reality as esh and blood. The absolute beauty
becomes the Ideal in the Real. Given the nature of narrative this event is
depicted as rst involving the falling in love of the Prince and then this
shaking, but it may be better to think of these as the description of one single
event. That is to say the Princes appreciative perception penetrates the glass
and touches Snow White. In other words the encounter with the Other breaks
the self-contained, insulated status quo, and thus initiates the contact between

For detailed discussion about corpses and their becoming events of soul, see Giegerich, W. (2012).
What is Soul? New Orleans: Spring Journal Books, pp. 49-56.
510 Nanae Takenaka

feminine beauty and masculinity. It may even require an act of some violence to
pull the ethereal, though resolutely defended, treasure back down to the earth.
So it is the Princes gaze that allows the isolated Ideal to become grounded and
fulll its innermost reality. Because Snow White as the Ideal experiences this
full realization she is now ready to become a queen.
The encounter which took place between the Queen and Snow White (two
aspects of the femininity) brought about the purication of the Ideal and led
to the enclosure of absolute beauty within the sealed glass, insulated from the
Real. But the fairytale shows us how the dynamism inherent in the idea of
absolute beauty must yet develop further. The Prince, the Other to them both,
represents the masculinity that had to come from completely outside. Only
through contact with the Other could absolute beauty reach its goal, the Ideal
in the Real, which is represented by the royal wedding celebrated by the
whole country.

The fairytale ends with the Queens forced dance at the wedding ceremony of
the young Queen. Lastly I would like to consider what this might indicate.
The moment that the Queen hears the mirror of truth proclaim that the
young Queen is the fairest in the world, she receives a terrible fright. She does
not have any idea who the young Queen is and thus the old Queen faces
confusion and confrontation with the unknown. The truth reected in the
mirror penetrates to the heart of the Queen and she feels terror. As the Prince,
the Other, effects the dramatic change in Snow White from dead to alive, the
bare truth nally attacks the Queen and tells her that she has already become
redundant. The presumption that the Queens dance is a punishment for her
evil deed does not really suit a purely psychological interpretation because it
draws on the assumptions of the ethics of our everyday world. The
interpretation of this fairytale that I have presented has made it clear that the
wicked Queen need not necessarily be regarded as doing wrong, so much as
just caught up in working through of a process of rening absolute beauty.
My suggestion therefore is that the forced, autonomous dance should be
regarded as an uroboric image of the working itself out of our fairytale. The
Queen has always had a very clear wish to be named by the mirror as the
most beautiful. At the end, however, she is forced to perform a dance that has
no shape or direction, only steps. Her wish or will is completely ineffectual, of
no importance anymore. The subjectivity, the agency of the dance rests not in
the dancer but in the dance itself. We have seen that the fury of the Queen
should not be reduced merely to a feeling of personal inferiority. Rather,
being invited by the window and then by the mirror, she has taken her part in
the autonomous movement towards self-realization of the idea of absolute
beauty. The dance symbolizes this.
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 511

Grimm, B. (1857/1996). Kinder- und Hausmrchen, ed. H.J. Uther. Mnchen: E.
Budge, E.A.W. (1920). An Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary. London: J. Murray.
Freud, S. (1912). Analysis of a phobia of a ve-year-old boy. SE 12.
Giegerich, W. (1994/2008). The animus as negation and as the souls own other: the
souls threefold stance toward its experience of its other. In Collected English
Papers, Vol. III. New Orleans: Spring Journal Books.
(1998). Souls Logical Life. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Hillman, J. (1979). The Dream and the Underworld. New York: Harper Perennial.
Giegerich, W. (1985). Anima an Anatomy of a Personied Notion. Texas: Spring
(1989). From mirror to window: curing psychoanalysis of its narcissism. Spring,
49, 6275.
James. (n.d.). In Holy Bible (Book of James, New Testament), New International
Version (NIV) (2011). Colorado Springs: Biblica.
Jung, C.G. (1911). A criticism of Bleulers theory of schizophrenic negativism. CW 3.
(1934). Archetypes of the collective unconscious. CW 9i.
(1945). The phenomenology of the spirit in fairytales. CW 9i.
Lacan, J. (1937). The mirror stage. In Ecrits: the First Complete Edition in English,
trans. Bruce Fink (2007). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Schectman, J. (1993). The Stepmother in Fairytales, Bereavement and the Feminine
Shadow. Boston: Sigo Press.
von Franz, M.L. (1972). The Feminine in Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala Publications.


Cet article interprte le conte de fes Blanche Neige du point de vue de la prise de
conscience de la beaut absolue. La comprhension jungienne que dans les mythes et
les contes de fes, comme dans les rves, lme parle delle-mme (Jung 1945, para.
400) taye une telle approche. Dans cette perspective, une image fantasmatique ne
parle pas de nous, ne parle pas de notre inconscience, mais parle essentiellement delle-
mme. Lide de la beaut absolue arrive tout dabord dans lesprit de la Reine comme
un souhait. Malgr le dsir intense de la Reine dtre reconnue comme la plus belle au
monde, son miroir lui renvoie que cest en fait sa lle Blanche Neige qui est la plus
belle. Blanche Neige peut tre considre, dans le langage de Giegerich, non pas
comme lAutre qui serait compltement extrieur et inconnu de la Reine, mais comme
son autre interne. En fait elles sont spares entre la Relle, qui conoit lide de la
beaut absolue et lIdale, qui lincarne. Lchange qui a lieu entre elles avec la
mdiation par le miroir et la fentre gnre le corps dune beaut ingalable et qui ne
se dgrade pas, mais reste allong et inaccessible dans le cercueil de verre. Cependant
le regard pntrant et aimant du Prince, qui reprsente la masculinit, parvient
ranimer Blanche Neige. Ainsi le Prince reprsentant lAutre facilite le retour de lIdal
mort au Rel, et permet la beaut absolue de se raliser.

Mots cls: Blanche Neige, beaut, Rel, Idal, Autre, miroir, absolu, contes de fes
512 Nanae Takenaka

Dieser Beitrag interpretiert das Mrchen Schneewittchen unter dem Aspekt der
Erkenntnis von absoluter Schnheit. Jungs Erkenntnis, da in Mythen und Mrchen,
wie auch in Trumen die Seele ber sich selbst spricht (Jung 1945, 400),
untermauert einen solchen Ansatz. Aus dieser Perspektive bezieht sich ein
Phantasiebild nicht auf uns, nicht auf unser Unbewutes, sondern im wesentlichen auf
sich selbst. Die Idee der absoluten Schnheit entsteht zuerst in der Vorstellung der
Knigin als ein Wunsch. Entgegen dem drngenden Wunsch der Knigin, als die
Schnste im ganzen Land genannt zu werden, antwortet der Spiegel, da es tatschlich
ihre Tochter Schneewittchen ist, die die Schnste ist. Schneewittchen drfte, in der
Sprache Giegerichs, nicht als die Andere, die vllig auenstehend und der Knigin
unbekannt sein soll gesehen werden, sondern als deren innere Andere. Im Effekt
werden sie in einem Wirklichen getrennt, das die Idee der absoluten Schnheit und das
Ideal, das sie verkrpert, umgreift. Der Austausch, der zwischen beiden vermittelt
durch Spiegel und Fenster stattndet, erzeugt die unbertrefich schne Leiche, die
niemals vergeht, aber unerreichbar im Glassarg liegt. Doch die Liebe und der
durchdringende Blick des Prinzen, welcher das Mnnliche reprsentiert, erreichen die
Wiedererweckung Schneewittchens. So untersttzt der Prinz als der Andere die
Rckkehr des toten Ideals ins Sein und ermglicht der absoluten Schnheit, sich ihrer
selbst gewahr zu werden.

Schlsselwrter: Schneewittchen, Schnheit, das Wirkliche, Ideal, Anderer, Spiegel,

absolut, Mrchen

Questo articolo interpreta la favola Bianca Neve in termini di realizzazione della bellezza
assoluta. La comprensione da parte di Jung che in miti e favole, cosi come nei sogni
lanima parla di se (Jung 1945, para 400), sottolinea un tale approccio. Da questa
prospettiva unimmagine di fantasia non riguarda noi o il nostro inconscio, ma
riguarda essenzialmente la stessa anima. Lidea della assoluta bellezza compare prima
di tutto nella mente della Regina come un desiderio. Nonostante il forte desiderio della
regina di essere nominata come la persona piu bella del mondo, il suo specchio le
riette che in realta sua glia Bianca Neve e la piu bella. Bianca Neve puo essere
considerata nel linguaggio di Giegerich non come Alterita che dovrebbe essere
completamente estranea e sconosciuta alla Regina ma come la sua alterita interiore. In
effetti sono separati in un Reale che concepisce lidea di una bellezza assoluta e lideale
che la esprime. Lo scambio che avviene tra i due mediato dallo specchio e dal
cristallo genera il corpo che oltrepassa la bellezza che non decade mai, ma giace
inacessibile dietro la bara di cristallo. Cio nonostante lo sguardo amorevole e
penetrante del Principe che rappresenta la mascolinita riesce con successo a rianimare
Bianca Neve. Per questo il Principe come Alterita facilita il ritorno del deceduto Ideale
nel Reale e consente allassoluta bellezza di realizzare se stessa.

Parole chiave: Bianca Neve, bellezza Reale, Ideale, Alterita, specchio, assoluto, favole

B o cae eppepec oea caa o eocee c o pe

ocece acoo paco. ocoe oae oo, o ax
An interpretation of the fairytale Snow White 513

oex caax, a coex, a oop o cee ( 1945, apa 400)

opee ao oxo. C oo papca aa opa e ec opao o
ac, o ae eccoaeo, o o c o cee cao. e acoo paco
epe oae e opoe a eae. Hecop a c a
opoe pacee cex pe, ee epae oop e, o a ee o
eocea. eoce oo paccapa, oc o epxa, e a
p, ooc e eec opoee, o a ee pe
p. Paeec, o paee a peaoe, coepaee cee e o
acoo pacoe, eaoe, ooaee ee. Baoece e
ocpeco epaa oa opoae epoe eo epeoeo paco, e
oacoe paoe eaee eococ xpcao po. Oao
poe pa a poo cococe opae
epoo eaoo Peaoe ooe acoo pacoe ocoa ce
peopc .

: eocea, pacoa. Peaoe, eaoe, po, epao, aco,

oee ca

El ensayo interpreta el cuento Blancanieves en trminos de la realizacin de la belleza

absoluta. Dicho abordaje se fundamenta en la comprensin de Jung cuando seala que
en mitos y en cuentos de hadas, as como en los sueos, el alma habla sobre s misma
(Jung 1945, para. 400). Desde esta perspectiva la imagen de una fantasa no es sobre
nosotros, tampoco sobre nuestro inconsciente, sino que es esencialmente sobre s
misma. La idea de belleza absoluta emerge inicialmente en la mente de la Reina como
deseo. A pesar del fuerte deseo de la Reina de ser reconocida como la persona ms
bella del mundo, su espejo reeja que actualmente es su hija Blancanieves, quien es la
ms bella. Blancanieves puede entenderse, en el lenguaje de Giegerich, no como el
Otro que debera ser completamente externo y desconocido para la Reina, sino como
su Otro interno. Efectivamente ellas son separadas en el Real que concibe la idea de la
belleza absoluta y el Ideal que lo encarna. El intercambio que tiene lugar entre ambas
mediado por el espejo y la ventana crea el cuerpo de una belleza suprema que
nunca decae, pero yace de manera inaccesible detrs del atad de vidrio. Sin embargo,
la mirada amorosa y penetrante del Prncipe, representando el principio masculino,
triunfa en reanimar a Blancanieves. As, el Prncipe como Otro facilita el retorno del
Ideal muerto al Real, y posibilita que la belleza absoluta se realice a s misma.

Palabras clave: Blancanieves, belleza, Real, Ideal, Otro, espejo, absoluta, cuentos de

514 Nanae Takenaka

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