chapter  18
8 Pages

The Queen's Looking Glass

As the legend of Lilith shows, and as psychoanalysts from Freud and lung onward have observed, myths and fairy tales often both state and enforce culture's sentences with greater accuracy than more sophisticated literary texts. If Lilith's story summarizes the genesis of the female monster in a single useful parable, the Grimm tale of 'Little Snow White' dramatizes the essential but equivocal relationship between the angel-woman and the monster-woman, a relationship that is also implicit in Aurora Leigh's bewildered speculations about her dead mother. 'Little Snow White', which Walt Disney entitled 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves', should really be called Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother, for the central action of the tale - indeed, its only real action - arises from the relationship between these two women: the one fair, young, pale, the other just as fair, but older, fiercer; the one a daughter, the other a mother; the one sweet, ignorant, passive, the other both artful and active: the one a sort of angel, the other an undeniable witch.