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Friday, September 7, 2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

One of the first literary references that came to mind when Belalu was diagnosed with dwarfism is, of course, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

We have both in our house, though I  didn't even realize we had the book until I saw it on E's shelf the other day. A neighbor gave us a ton of books from his kids last year, many for older chidren and this was from that stack. We haven't read it yet, so at this time neither of my children are familiar with the story. I will read it to them, though, eventually.

When I consider how they will react to the characters' depiction, honestly, I'm more concerned about the figure of Snow White than the seven dwarfs. These seven white-bearded little men with one-dimensional personalities who work in a mine and keep house as if they were children have little in common with my daughter. Yes, they conform to Germanic mythology's mountain-dwelling, mining dwarfs. Yes, they each personify a particular human weaknesses or foible. However, their childlike bickering and inability to care for themselves strike me as more insulting to men in general rather than little people specifically.

As a young girl, Belalu is more likely to identify with Snow White than the other characters. They even have similar coloring- dark hair and eyes, pale skin... But I hope that is where the identification ends. Snow White is a simpering, gullible BORing young woman whose best traits are being "the fairest in the land" and a good housekeeper to a bunch of ungrateful bachelors. Her life continuously depends on the kindness and charity of the men she stumbles upon, from the hunter who let her escape death, the dwarfs who house her (in exchange for maid service), to the prince who rescues her and takes her away to live happily ever after in a castle. (I hope there she at least has some help with the domestic upkeep.)

If I were to be afraid of her taking away a negative message or influence from this book, it would definitely be in the title character. However, I don't think my attempts to limit her exposure to Snow White or any of the other fairy tale princesses will do her any favors. Rather, I plan on talking to both of my children about the books we read and movies we watch, so they can think critically about the material rather than accept it at face value.

PS While searching the web for images for this post, I came across this one from Disney World. I thought it was interesting that the dwarfs are as tall as Snow White, and it made me wonder what was behind the decision to go with AH rather than LP actors.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, oh,oh, I love this topic... When Fi was first diagnosed, I got offended when my other kids got given a snowhite puzzle by someone who knew her diagnosis. Of course I didn't say anything, but I am sure I had no face control in place. I am over that now, I even helped do the darn puzzle the other day. Mainly because I know that I will never ever refer to Fi as a dwarf, not my thing. I use the phrase dwarfism quite easily with medical professionals, even the neurologist was shocked. He would never use that term, he would stick to ACH and HCH, I quite like that.
    I didn't know about this until last year, but in the UK there is a tradition of doing Christmas pantos and one of the common themes is Snowhite and guess what 7 real LPs... That's just enough to make me sick to my stomach. So the big attraction of the show is LPs dressed up as the 7 dwarfs... This anglo-saxony Victorian fascination with dwarfs is wrong on so many levels.
    Regarding cartoons and TV... I can't agree more, we haven't owned a TV for about 12-13 years now and we have very few DVDs which we tend to watch together and discuss as we go along. I think we will ahve a lot to chat about in Madi...